Scarborough & District Civic Society 

Max Jaffa OBE

Location: Argyll Lodge, High Street Scalby.

Plaque unveiled on 13th   May 2015.

Max Jaffa was born in London’s West End on 28th   December 1911, the son of Israel Jaffe, an immigrant from Latvia on the Baltic coast and his London-born Russian wife, Millie Makoff.   When asked why he became a musician his answer was that, at the age of six his father came into his bedroom, woke him up and said: ‘You’re going to be a violinist!’  He became a student at the Guildhall School of Music and eventually won the principal’s prize awarded to the student ‘most likely to distinguish himself in the musical profession’.  At the age of nineteen, Max Jaffa was appointed leader of the Scottish Symphony Orchestra.  In his formative years he performed in the lounges and grill rooms of various West End hotels and before long he was playing at exclusive parties with American band leader, Jack Harris.  In the Second World War he trained as a bomber pilot and spent years ferrying planes from factories to air stations.  There is an intriguing account of these years in his autobiography, ‘A Life on the Fiddle’, published in 1991.

After the war he joined the Mantovani Orchestra, eventually becoming its leader and in 1948 started a long association with the cellist Reginald Kilbey and the pianist Jack Byfield, playing together as the Max Jaffa Trio until Byfield’s death in 1976.  The trio toured the country, making their first television appearance in 1954. In 1959 he married the singer, Jean Grayston and in 1960 began his performances at the Spa in Scarborough. His wife had been instrumental in getting him to come to Scarborough in the first place. ‘I was a bit of an insular Southerner.  I first thought of Yorkshire as flat hats and hills.  My wife was annoyed at this and insisted I come and see the beautiful countryside, now I love the area. The public have been so loyal to me.  Scarborough itself is a wonderful place.’  The Max Jaffa performances were consistently successful; in 1967 the eighth season opened with a full house with every seat booked in advance.   In 1982 Max Jaffa was awarded the OBE for services to music and received the Freedom of the Borough of Scarborough in 1986.    He never missed a performance, apart from when his friend, pianist Jack Byfield, died and he went to his funeral. 

‘We gave concerts every morning and night, seven days a week in a seventeen-week season, for twenty-seven years without missing a day.’  He died at his home in London in 1991; in July 1993 a memorial plaque to Max Jaffa, of verde viana marble, was unveiled outside the Music Room at Scarborough Spa.