R.E.L. Featherstonhaugh

10/10/1909 - 12/7/1976

Record updated

Famous English jazz saxophonist Buddy Featherstonhaugh took time out for a brief international motor racing career in the 1930s, driving Maseratis for Whitney Straights team and others, and also appearing in ERA and Alfa Romeo cars.

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Born in Paris but educated in England, Rupert Edward Lee Featherstonhaugh did extensive recording and performing prior to World War II, then had lengthy inactive period immediately afterward. He worked with vocalist Pat O'Malley in 1927. He played for Spike Hughes from 1930 to 1932, recording two versions of "Buddy's Wednesday Outing," which was written for him by Hughes. He toured Britain in 1932 with pianist Billy Mason in a band backing Louis Armstrong, then recorded with his band The Cosmopolitans in 1933. Fletcher Allen was among his sidemen. Featherstonhaugh later recorded with Valaida Snow and Benny Carter. He led a group in the Royal Air Force that included Vic Lewis, Don McAffer and Jack Parnell; it eventually recorded as The BBC Radio Rhythm Club Sextet from 1943 to 1945. Featherstonhaugh toured Iceland in 1946, then was out of action until he resurfaced in 1956, heading a bop quintet and playing baritone sax with Leon Calvert and Roy Sidewell. Keny Wheeler and Bobby Wellins were later group members. Featherstonhaugh made a final tour of the Middle East in 1957 before he retired from jazz.

He was thus already well-known in that field when he joined Straight for a few 1934 races and won the Dieppe Grand Prix at his second start. He couldn’t repeat that effort in 1935, but raced in France and Ireland as well as at Brooklands. He drove old 2½-litre and 3-litre Maseratis in these events, but for the 1935 Donington Grand Prix had a year-old 8CM Maserati, which unfortunately did not last the distance.

He had also raced a little MG in 1935, and for 1936 shared the wheel of Jock Manby-Colegrave’s ERA for a couple of British long-distance races, taking a fifth and sixth. In 1938 he negotiated a ride in Hans Rüesch’s 8C-35 Alfa Romeo but was unable to make the placings at Crystal Palace in April, and then crashed in practice for the BRDC Empire Trophy Race at Donington Park the following weekend.

Then it was back to his music, and a wartime contract with the BBC, after which he continued playing in other bands until his 1957 farewell tour. He seems to have made just one postwar motorsport appearance, setting fastest sportscar car time in the 1946 Brighton Speed Trials at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo.

David McKinney