top of page



Born Clementina Diana Campbell in Southall, Middlesex (1927) Dame Cleo Laine (left) joined John Dankworth’s small group the ‘Dankworth Seven’ in 1954 later working with his orchestra until 1958, the year of their marriage. From then on in addition to singing,  Cleo pursued a parallel career as actress, starring in ‘Flesh to a Tiger’(1958) ‘Valmouth’ (1959) ‘A Time to Laugh’ (1962) and other productions before her record-breaking role as Julie LaVerne in ‘Showboat’ which ran in London for a record 910 performances in 1971. Meantime she continued to record, scoring a top-ten hit with ‘You’ll Answer to Me’ in 1961 (and also ‘Southend’ in 1963!).


A year later her album ‘Shakespeare and All That Jazz’ (with Dankworth) achieved massive critical praise (it contains her own favourite recording; Sonnet 18:’Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day’) and in 1970 she and John founded the Stables Theatre at Wavendon in the garden of their home ‘The Old Rectory’ (today it has grown into the Laine-Dankworth Theatre down the hill). Very soon after, in 1972, Cleo’s international activities began with a successful tour of Australia and a year later a concert by she and John at New York’s Lincoln Centre hit the headlines prompting the first of many appearances at Carnegie Hall and thereafter coast-to-coast tours of the USA and Canada.


A live recording of her 1983 concert at Carnegie Hall won Cleo her  first Grammy award and for over twenty more years she would continue to tour with John as well as collaborating on-record and off with James Galway, Nigel Kennedy, Julian Lloyd-Webber, John Williams and (notably) Ray Charles in a formidable recording of Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’ which remains another of her favourites. Amid all this activity she continued her acting career in the USA in Stephen Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music’, ‘Colette’ (written by John), ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ (on Broadway (1985) and Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’ (Los Angeles, 1990), and also appeared with Frank Sinatra for a week of concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1992.


In 1994 her autobiography ‘Cleo’ was published, followed by ‘You can Sing if you Want to’ (1997) and that year she was appointed Dame Commander in the New Year’s Honours List. In 2006 John was appointed knight bachelor – becoming British jazz’s first Knight in the process – but his death, four years later on February 6th 2010 was announced by Cleo at the end of a concert planned to star the two of them at Wavendon Stables. She has continued to perform semi-regularly however and in 2019 her portrait by Duncan Shoosmith (on our wall) won first prize in Sky TV’s ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ competition.

Dame Cleo has been an avid supporter and patron of The Jazz Centre UK since we opened in 2016.



“Quite simply the best singer in the world”
(Derek Jewell, Sunday Times)
“The first truly international British jazz star, a supreme talent, and - like John - one of the nicest and most ego-free people you could meet anywhere”
(Digby Fairweather, Founder/Lifelong Patron, The Jazz Centre UK)
Cleo 1.jpg



When we can we hold further exhibitions and live events to celebrate the Dankworth Dynasty. In June 2019 we organised a whole afternoon of events dedicated to Dame Cleo Laine. Jacqui Dankworth and Charlie Wood performed a 2 hour concert for ticket holders leading up to the great public unveiling of the Dame Cleo Laine portrait painted by Duncan Shoosmith for the Sky Art's TV Show 'Portrait Artist of the Year'. 

Click the images to the right to see highlights from the day or click the banner below to find out more about the Dame Cleo Laine portrait on display at The Jazz Centre UK.

Dame Cleo Laine Painting Eyes


bottom of page