British Dance Bands

 

British Dance BandsBritish Dance Bands  

The American story of Big Band Swing has been told many times but in England things were very different. In England there were dance bands.

English 'Music Hall' had a tradition of its own and 'ballroom dancing' had ongoing popularity in England ... there was a depth to tripping the light fantastic ... which endured to the 21st Century with the phenomenal popularity of 'Strictly Come Dancing'.

From the 1920 musicians made a living in dance bands playing the popular songs of the day ... dancing was king and the Brits were never into Ragtime & the Cakewalk, here was 'Ballroom Dancing' and folk went to the glittering ballrooms in the smart hotels, restaurants and clubs ... for social fun & friendships ... by 1930 there were 20,000 dance bands in England ... and most commercial dance bands had a 'hot' inclination imported from across the pond. There was a yen for jazz after the hoards of American GIs brought their music with them as they confronted The Kaiser in The Great War. The follow up was the sensational ODJB visit in 1919, then Paul Whiteman in 1923, and Ellington and Armstrong in 1933 ... and the rare delights of extrovert syncopation on 78 rpm shellac.

The particular British Dance Band music was born in the elegant hostelries in London ... Jack Jackson at the Dorchester Hotel, Sid Lipton just down Park Lane at the Grosvenor House, Brian Lawrance at the Lansdowne House in Berkeley Square, Harry Roy at the Café Anglais, pianist Charlie Kunz at the Casani Club in Regent Street, Joe Loss at the Astoria Ballroom in Charing Cross Road and Lew Stone and Mantovani at the Monseigneur Restaurant in Piccadilly ...

The BBC and Lord Reith were against such vulgar decadence of 'Negroid type' music; Louis & Duke were out, and the 'new' intimate crooning was banned ... and even the word 'hot' was verboden the music was to be bright and swinging but no jazz. However from 1922 BBC started to broadcast music ... not singing ... Lord Reith had decided the girls & boys wanted to dance and he tried unsuccessfully to define their music for them. The BBC unwittingly became the route to the ears of the nation and folk loved the Americanisation of their Dance Music and the rhythms of the crooners.

All the big name British Dance Bands mostly played the American songs the Afro-American way ...The beat was lifted, staccato horns and rhythm sections delivered bouncy, punchy, rhythmic melodies from American songs which swung as 'hot jazz' and 'crooning' captured emotions. Wonderful orchestrations kept the swing moving with the dancers as band sections called & responded with melodic trajectories ... a social musical conversation with themselves and the excited dancers.

Such were the sounds that emerged eventually from national radio from 1922 and reached the virgin ears of youth. Before there had been the tame family gatherings around the parlour piano and the occasional outing to Music Hall if you were urban and lucky ... now the Twenties roared from the radio as Dance Music was broadcast every night from the posh venues into every home ... marred slightly by the arrogance of the BBC and the stupid disputes between the Unions and unwarranted restrictive practices and restraints on the musicians trade.   

Jack HyltonJack Hylton (1892-1965) first recorded in 1921 and achieved commercial and popular success in the Paul Whiteman mould. Born in Great Lever, Bolton, the son of a mill worker and publican ... 'The Commercial', Stalybridge. His first foray into performing was on piano in Rhyl as a 13 year old. He was band leading at 17 and moved to pianist at the '400 Club' Bond Street and then joined up and became Musical Director in the Army. Tommy Handley was his mate in WWI and they tried a double act, 'Two Entertainers & a Piano', long before the ITMA days. 'Jackson Hylton' concentrated on music and he started transcribing Paul Whiteman records and in 1921 HMV recorded the Queen's Hall Dance Orchestra (seven piece) with Hylton arrangements and six weeks later, the Jack Hylton's Jazz Band and then as Jack Hylton and his Orchestra. By 1929 his records were selling millions, including 'Shepard of the Hills', 'Me and Jane in a Plane' and 'Amy Wonderful Amy'. 1931 Hylton left HMV for Decca. He was a musician, singer and a showman and always employed the best musicians. 

He recorded prolifically from 1921; Queens Dance Orchestra, Jack Hylton & his Orchestra, Ariel Dance Orchestra, Embassy Dance Orchestra, Grosvenor Dance Orchestra, Jack Hylton's Brighter London Band, Jack Hylton's Jazz Band, Jack Hylton's Kit Cat Band. He experimented with strings in 1926.

Billy Ternant (1899-1977) was arranging for him from 1927 to the end in 1940.

Jack Jackson joined the same year. Jack Hylton recorded Johnny Green's 'Body & Soul' before it was copyrighted in 1930. The musicians were keener on jazz than Hylton himself. 'Grieving for You' was The Rhythmagicians a small group jazz.

 Big symphonic charts and Jack Hylton made it big all over Europe. Crisp and polished throughout the 1020s and 30s. Success made him rich, he earned a  lot and spent a lot, and he brought Duke to England in 1933. In 1935 he had an extended stay in the US and reformed the British band in 1936 with a more 'modern' sound. He used some Fletcher Henderson arrangements and Coleman Hawkins played as a guest sax in 1939.

Who's Who' of British music Hyltom had the pick of them all. Billy Ternent, Jack Jackson, Spike Hughes, Rudi Starita, Poggy Pogson, Tommy McQuator, Sid Philips, Lew Stone. Cyril Stapleton, Monia Liter, Bruce Trent, Stanley Holloway, Sam Browne, Sam Costa, George Formby.

Hylton disbanded in 1940 during the War and became an impresario ... 'Jack Hylton Presents'.

Tommy Trinder, Ernie Wise, Gracie Fields, The Crazy Gang, Shirley Bassey, Diana Dors, Pat Kirkwood were all helped along the way ... and blind pianist Alec Templeton.

Hylton was also associated with Arthur Askey, 'Bandwagon', and Tommy Handley, 'ITMA'.

'A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich and You' 1925, 'Tiger Rag', Life Begins at Oxford Circus and Painting the Clouds with Sunshine.

Oh Listen to the Band ... 'Jack's Back'

Lou Levy (1893-1957) recorded the 'Pennies from Heaven' version of Says My Heart in 19??.

CharlestonCharlie Kunz (1896-1958) an American from Pennsylvania, born into a 'classical' tradition with piano instruction at 6 years old and a dance band leader at 19. In 1922 'Trocadero Club' London and he stayed for life.

There was an explosion of British ballroom dancing in the early 1930s and Charlie Kunz played at 'The Casani Club' from 1933-37. Here at Imperial House, Regents Street, dance instructor Santos Casani established excellent music for his pupils. My Mum's ambition was to try out her Charleston swivels on the top of a taxi driving down Kingsway!

Vera Lynn, aged 18, sang from The Casani Club in 1935 and was very easy on the ear ... Dame Vera was loved long before she became the Sweetheart of the Forces.

Charlie's tune was 'Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie' ... and he also played  Sleepy Time Gal ... it seemed he thieved his relaxed rhythmic lilt from our piano player.

Bert AmbroseBert Ambrose (1897-1971) born into abject poverty in the East End, the son of a rag & bone merchant. Jewish families always taught their kids a trade, and Bert Ambrose learned the fiddle. He was no virtuoso and he didn't compose nor arrange but he was a genius at musical direction, a strict organiser of talent.

At 15 he went to America with his Aunt. He first played professionally in New York; Reisenweber's restaurant and the Palais Royal on Broadway. He returned to London in 1920 and had considerable success at The Embassy Club in New Bond Street but the pay was lousy and he went back to New York for real money in 1922. The Prince of Wales himself was involved in entreaties for 'Ammie' to return to the Embassy Club ... he accepted and played there until 1927. Three saxes, two brass and a rhythm section, playing only choruses. The Embassy Rhythm Eight was a fabulous 'group within a group'.

He then moved to The May Fair Hotel when it opened in 1927 where broadcasting was encouraged for the ambitious. Lew Stone was arranging. Ambrose stayed for eight years.

He started recording for Columbia in 1923 and in 1928 Ambrose was recording for HMV with Lew Stone arrangements. The band was possibly the finest British Dance Band, with arrangers Sid Philips & Lew Stone, and stars Ted Heath, Sidney Lipton, George Melachrino, Stanley Black, Danny Polo, George Chisholm and Tommy McQuator ... and Vera Lynn ... and Ann Shelton also featured. Immaculate musicianship and rhythmic sophistication. He pleased the dancers and made sure you could hear the feet on the floors. Unsurpassed. Ammie made a lot and gambled more.

'Body & Soul' Sam Browne 1930 ... first performance and world fame.

'Home James and Don't Spare the Horses' and Clouds will Soon Roll By 1932 & You've got Me Crying Again 1933  with the Elsie Carlisle.

'The Continental' demanded respect with impeccable taste.

Mid late 1930s peak with Elsie Carlisle, Evelyn Dall, Jack Cooper, Sam Browne, Denny Dennis and Vera Lynn.

Ammie lost musicians to the RAF on the outbreak of war ... they formed The Squadronaires.

He survived the war at The Mayfair and recorded prolifically, but he didn't survive Rock 'n' Roll ... although Kathy Kirby put up a fight. He did lead a band at the Nightingale Restaurant, but Ronnie Scott and John Dankworth belonged to another era.

His tune, When Day is Done.

Henry HallHenry Hall (1898-1989) born in Peckham, 'just a grocer's son with a bit of an ear for music'. He had a go on cornet with The Salvation Army, joined up during the War and played in a military band. After the war he did a turn with a concertina, an act as 'The Variety Three' and played piano for silent movies. He studied at Trinity College of Music.

Henry absorbed the dance rhythms as a pianist and his break came at The Gleneagles Hotel leading his dance band. In 1922 he was spotted depping at the Midland Hotel Manchester and offered a job, and in 1924 he took his band (a sextet) to the prestigious Gleneagles Hotel ... and the opening night was broadcast on the new fangled 'wireless'.

In 1932 following a BBC broadcast at Gleneagles, Lord Reith invited him to replace Jack Payne as leader of the BBC Dance Orchestra (13 members). His music was sweeter. He famously recorded 'Teddy Bear's Picnic' with xylophone and 'Have you Ever been Lonely'. In 1932 and he employed a young oboe player. Cyril Stapleton (played classical violin in a dance band!) and Anona Winn (What's My Line?), Elsie & Doris Waters and Flanagan & Allen had a go ... was this the start of 'Guest Nights'?

Henry Hall was no Flash Harry ... but he played good music and won the hearts of millions.

In 1933 after a visit to America the music changed somewhat ... Hands Across the Table was a perennial favourite.

Benny Carter was arranging for him in 1936 'I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket'. In the same year he had a hit with 'The Music Goes Round and Round' ... and Hands Across the Table 1934 with Dan Donovan (saxophonist & band leader) was a perennial favourite.

In 1937, as Jack Payne before, Henry Hall left the BBC and took his band on tour in variety shows. During the War he returned to the BBC to continue the phenomenally successful 'Guest Nights' ... and Music While You Work, Eric Coates, 'Calling All Workers' ...

Henry Hall’s Guest Night was a British institution ... 'This is Henry Hall speaking, and tonight is my Guest Night’ ... the show ran on and off for the best part of 20 years.

1933-60 'In Town Tonight' ... 'Once more we stop the mighty roar of London traffic' ... 'Knightsbridge March' by Eric Coates.  'This is Show Business' with Vic Oliver did likewise.

Henry Hall started his programs with 'It's Just the Time for Dancing' and his signature tune was Here's to the Next Time by Henry Hall with Val Rosing vocal and the xylophone.

In 1970 Henry Hall was awarded an OBE for services to music.

Lew Stone OrchestrationLew Stone (1898-69) born Louis Steinberg, in the East End in 1898, of Jewish refugees. He enjoyed piano lessons but enjoyed cricket and football more. Music was rekindled after he saw 'Hello Ragtime' and was introduced to jazz. He tried the London Lyrics Band, the Aeolinans in Newcastle, the Cosmo Club, the Savoy Havana Band and opened an office in Denmark Street (Tin Pan Alley). He scored for Carroll Gibbons & the Savoy Orpheans and others including Ray Starita and Debroy Somers.

As a player, composer, arranger and musical director Lew Stone was acknowledged as the best. He gained a reputation as he supplied scores to Bert Ambrose before being recruited by Roy Fox. He shaped the styles of 3 great bands, Ambrose from 1927, Roy Fox from 1930 and his own Lew Stone & his Band from 1931 with Decca recordings.

By 1933 Lew Stone had ousted Roy Fox as bandleader at The Monseigneur Restaurant and got the Tuesday night 10.30pm spot on BBC. It was a fun band and went from strength to strength. Lew was popular and the musicians were with him ... Nat Gonella, Jack Jackson, Bill Harty, Al Bowlly.

Al Bowlly was singing Stone's arrangements with considerable panache. Lew Stone and Ray Noble competed for Al Bowlly's precious time. Jack Jackson tried to recruit Al in 1933. Bowlly sang with Lew Stone from Oct 25th 1932 and Lew became Al's mentor & guide. Lew Stone 'made' Al Bowlly. They recorded 100 titles together from 1932-8. The peak of their careers - a feeling for rhythm with hot lines, often better than the original composer, always practisin', always fun.

Lew was also musical director for British & Dominion Films and 26 films from 1931-5. He also helped with Jack Payne and 'Say It with Music', commissioning Ray Noble's 'Love is the Sweetest Thing'.

When Noble, Harty & Bowlly went to America in 1934 Lew toured and played at London's Hollywood Restaurant and then in 1936 the Café de Paris ... with Nat Gonella, Alfie Noaks, Monia Liter, Tiny Winters, Stanley Black ... & co. A peak with stage shows, films, band leading, arranging, recording ... with Arthur Tracy, Margaret Lockwood, Cicely Courtneidge ... Lew Stone & his Stonecrackers ... he continued during the war, opening at the Dorchester Hotel in 1940..

After the war a great success was as conductor for Berlin's 'Annie get Your Gun'. Then the Pigalle and radio ... 'Music while You Work' ... he was in the thick of it ... almost until he was 70.

Tasteful cockney brilliance. His book 'Harmony and Orchestration for the Modern Dance Band' was the bible for orchestrators in the 1930s.

Lew Stone The Glory of Love was in Dennis Potter's 'Pennies from Heaven' in 1978.

Debroy Somers (1899-1952) not an upper crust Englishman but an Irish 'Bill' from Dublin. Son of an army bandmaster he could play everything. In 1923 he brought 'class' to The Savoy Orpheans who made their first broadcast the same year. They recorded for Columbia, and as The Albany Dance Orchestra & The Romaine Orchestra for HMV. Al and Ray Starita, Carroll Gibbons and Ray Nobel were around ... with Sydney Kyte (1896-1981) as deputy conductor ... it was a nursery.

In 1925 he formed his own band Debroy Somers & his Orchestra and Carroll Gibbons took over the Orpheans. He became part of a pattern; from ballrooms to stage shows with recordings and broadcasts ... and the occasional film. The stage shows in 1925 emulated Paul Whiteman.

Perhaps everybody remembered 'The Ovaltinies'.

Billy Cotton

Oscar Rabin (1899-1958) the ODJB played the Hammersmith Palais but from 1935 to 1940, from behind his saxophone Rabin made it his home. 'Oscar Rabin and his Romany Band with Harry Davis'.

Billy Cotton (1899-1969) a cockney lad from Smith Square, played soccer for Brentford & Wimbledon, owned his own Gipsy Moth and raced cars at Brooklands. In WWI he was a drummer bugler and involved at Gallipoli and flew Bristol Fighters in 1918 in The Royal Flying Corps. 

In 1925 he formed the London Savannah Band with a contract at Brighton. A dance band that veered to vaudeville type entertainment. Southport, Rialto Liverpool in 1927, then to Astoria, London and Locarno Streatham with Nat Gonella playing 'Louis'. Syd Lipton also joined the gang and Clem Bernard turned the outfit into a strict tempo dance band.

In 1929 Billy Cotton played at Ciro's and started recording and broadcasting with Nat Gonella, Sid Buckman & Joe Ferris ... until they left to join Roy Fox at The Monseigneur Restaurant.  

 Billy Cotton lost more than his brass section. He was not a 'showman' at this time and after the success Nobel Sissle had had at Ciro's ... he lost the job.

1931 to the Alhambra, Leicester Square and a change to a 'show band', with song and dance men, 'Doin' the New Lowdown'. A black 'bone man, Ellis Jackson was a top tap dancer and from 1932-68, Alan Breeze joined the fun and became a major star, 'I've got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts'! Teddy Foster copied Nat Gonella and there was a marvelous fun spirit in the band ... Sam Browne, Elsie Carlise ... and in 1935 Vera Lynn but she didn't last?

Everyone else was playing American songs but Bill was on British music, 'Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner'.

After WWII he started a Sunday lunchtime radio show on BBC, 'The Billy Cotton Band Show', which ran from 1949 to 1968, 'Wakey Wakey'! Lionel Bart contributed some comedy songs. From 1957 the show was also broadcast on BBC television. After the war most big bands disappeared ... Billy Cotton (ad Joe Loss) stayed the course.

 His son Sir Bill Cotton became the BBC's managing director of television.

After Ellington's visit in 1933 Billy Cotton recorded some notable Ellington compositions.

Billy Cotton's signature tune was Somebody Stole My Gal 1933.

Jack PayneJack Payne (1899-1969) born in Leamington Spa, son of a sheet music man. A grammar school lad who excelled in the Cadet Force and music. By 12 he was an accomplished pianist and at 18 he joined the Royal Flying Corps. During WWI he ran a dance bands for the troops in the Royal Flying Corps with the help of some American air mechanics.

After the war he cashed in on the popularity of ballroom dancing with a local band playing the Saturday night 'hops' and he managed a summer season at The Grand Hotel Folkstone. He moved to London in 1924 and where the house band at the luxourious Hotel Cecil were introduced to spirit of the jazz age ... he stayed for four exciting years ... the punters loved it. The Charleston arrived in 1925 and Jack started recording with his 7 piece. The BBC were still only grudgingly tolerant of dance music but there were a few slots, and although The Savoy secured their air time first, Jack Payne had his chance on Boxing Day 1925 'Uncle Jack Payne' ... on 'Children's Hour'!

Then in 1928 Jack was appointed the BBC Director of Dance Music and the leader of the BBC's first dance orchestra ... broadcasting every week day 5pm to 6pm. John Snagge '2LO Calling' ... Jack Payne's popularity soared and he did his own announcing 'Say It with Music' ... Billy Scott Coomber sang ... in 1931 Jack Jackson and Poggy Pogson joined the band ... and they both left in 1933 after a fit of Payne temper.  

In 1929 the band was featured in the first television broadcast.

He was embroiled in the BBC 'policy' of a duty to please the masses. Music had be good and entertain, nothing advanced & modern in the way of style, the last thing the BBC wanted was hot rhythms.

Jack Payne did well ... and, of course, hot rhythms couldn't be avoided, the dancers loved them. The band played everything from their ingrained memories ... bright and breezy.

On leaving the BBC in 1932, out went suave & polished Jack Payne and in came quietly spoken, gangly, Henry Hall ...

Payne recorded and employed Ray Noble as arranger, and he went on to enjoy success with Stage Band Shows, up against his rival Jack Hylton who put on similar shows.

A film 'Say It with Music' was produced in 1932 with Ray Noble contributing, 'Love is the Sweetest Thing'. By 1935 Jack was playing with 5 brass, 4 saxes and 4 rhythm section; smart, tricky arrangement allowing plenty of space for improvised hot solos ... effectively playing big band swing before anyone had heard of Benny Goodman!

In 1936 he retired to farming but the lure of swing was too much and in 1939 he formed a new band to record for Decca and briefly HMV.

In 1941 he returned to the BBC as Director of Dance Music and remained there until 1946 before establishing himself as a well loved disk jockey and presenter.

Jack Payne's signature tune in 1931 was Say it With Music by Irving Berlin.

Harry RoyHarry Roy (1900-71) born Lipman, Harry was a London lad from Stamford Hill. He began with the piano but learned clarinet & saxophone at 16, and ended up as a cabaret act all by himself the 'Little Hotcha Ma-Cha-Cha'. Music was in the family and Harry tried it all, he played with his elder brother Syd in a Dance Band; 'The Darnswells'. After service in The Royal Flying Corps, Harry was born again at the Mammersmith Palais in 1919 when he heard the ODJB with the sensational Larry Shields on clarinet.

 During the 1920s, with his piano playing brother Syd, Harry Roy performed in prestige venues such as the Alhambra and the London Coliseum, under several band names; the 'Original Lyrical Five', the 'Original Crichton Lyricals', the 'RKOleans' ... it was non stop variety and always fun fun.

A jazzy style with some impressive recordings to his name; 'Its Only a Paper Moon', 'Better Think Twice'.

By the early 1930s, Harry Roy was fronting a band under his own name at The Bat Club and Leicester Square Theatre, and broadcasting from the Café Anglais and the Mayfair Hotel. He followed Ambrose and his hokum contrasted alarmingly with sedate glamorous dance music in the hotel ballroom ... but the punters loved it. He became a prolific recorder and popular vocalist and song writer. Harry Roy was topping the bill at variety theatres all over Britain. This was show music and Harry was the showman.

A South American tour just before the War, Ivor Moreton and Dave Kay of the two pianos and practical joking, left the band and Stanley Black came in on piano ... and Ray Ellington, drums.

During the Second World War, Roy toured with his band and small group 'Harry Roy's Tiger Ragamuffins'.

He was at the Embassy Club in 1942, and entertained troops in the Middle East.

Then the Café Anglais and the Mayfair. In 1948, Roy travelled to the United States but was refused a work permit.

He worked on but big bands were out, nobody survived The Beatles.

Harry Roy wrote 'Leicester Square Rag'.

Most famous 'She had to go and Lose it at The Astor' and 'Bugle Call Rag'.

Victor SilvesterVictor Silvester (1900-78) strict tempo for dancing. A vicar's son from Wembley, a ballroom dancer and band leader. Regularly absconded from schools and joined the forces in 1916. After the war he turned down Sandhurst for music at Trinity College.

Silvester's passion turned to dancing and he won the first World Ballroom Dancing Championship in 1922. He wrote 'Modern Ballroom Dancing' in 1927 and established a chain of dance studios.

In 1935 he formed his own band for strict tempo for competition guidelines. Victor Silvester and his Ballroom Orchestra recorded their first record, 'You're Dancing on My Heart' (Al Bryan & George M Meyer) which sold 17,000 copies and became his signature tune. All his recordings conformed precisely to the beats per minute recommended ... this was strict tempo seriously strict!

His sound was always distinctive sound, an unusual line-up included, the usual rhythm section, plus alto saxophone (for 26 years, Edward Owen 'Poggy' Pogson, who had previously played with Jack Payne and Jack Hylton), there was a lead solo violin ... and two pianos, one soloing, the other maintained an improvised tinkling continuo, which Silvester called his 'lemonade' ... fizzy sweetness. Good solid beat with the melody predominant. He later added an accordion for tangos and 'Silver Strings' for 'Viennese Waltz'. He did write some tunes but some in the business complained about a non player leading a band. Joe Loss was a big strict tempo rival.

In 1940 Victor did form a Jive Band with Tommy McQuater and George Chisholm.

In 1941 the BBC 'Dancing Club' was launched. BBC World Service 'Record Requests' ran for 28 years. BBC TV 'Television Dancing Club' ran for 17years.

Victor's signature toon was 'You're Dancing on My Heart'. And closing with 'Don't Say Goodbye'.

Roy FoxRoy Fox (1901-82) born in Denver, Colorado. 'The Whispering Cornetist' of Salvation Army ilk. In 1925 he recorded with Art Hickman and he worked in Hollywood before Hollywood was Hollywood.

In 1930 he was invited to London to play at the newly opened Café de Paris and his unpretentious polished playing endeared him to the British public. He stayed on and on and, like Charlie Kunz and Carroll Gibbons, he liked the country so much that he settled down, married and died in the UK. 

He recorded for Decca and lead his an English studio band. He rescued Al Bowlly from busking in the London Streets, Al was down on his luck and joined the band ... and Al 'phrased' his songs nicely.

Lew Stone, Jack Jackson, Max Goldberg & Bill Harty joined the promising English band led by the American. In 1931 'Dolcis Shoe Shops' opened the new The Monseigneur Restaurant in Piccadilly and Roy Fox was invited in as Musical Director. Mantovani had a popular spot but Roy's Wednesday evening slot was broadcast by the BBC and his reputation grew.

During enforced absence with pleurisy in 1932 his band was 'taken over' by Lew Stone with talented Nat Gonella on trumpet.

When Fox returned in 1932 his hectic activity, which included the London Palladium, upset the Monseigneur management and he left. Lew Stone was offered the gig and most of the sidemen stayed with Lew. Trumpeter Sid Buckman went with Fox and a new band was booked at The Café Anglais ... with Jack Nathan doing the arrangements and a Royal Command Performance. Then to the Kit Kat Club in 1933 ... then the Café de Paris and on the road ... with little Mary Lee and Denny Dennis (the English Bing Crosby) vocals ... and The Cubs (with Harry Gold!)  

Nat Gonella 'Georgia', 'Nobody's Sweetheart' and big rhythm bounces with jazz phrasing. But The Whispering Trumpet was never the focal point of the band. The band recorded for he last time in 1938 ... Roy Fox was not a well man.

A seven year dream for Roy Fox. He led musically fine bands after the war but the moment had passed.

Signature tune, 'Whispering'.

Maurice Winnick (1902-62) born in Manchester, a child violin prodigy, then a cinema pianist ... and saxophonist. Guy Lombardo was his inspiration, Sam Costa sang. In 1936 he took over from Harry Roy at The Mayfair. The bands recordings sold well during the 1930s but the war brought an end to dance bands and the start of a career as impresario at the BBC.

Remember ... 'Twenty Questions' and the 'Mystery Voice' ... 'and the next object is ... animal, vegetable or mineral?' and 'What's My Line' all from the USA for Anona Winn, Norman Hackforth, Jack Train, Stewart Macpherson, Richard Dimbleby, Joy Adamson, Gilbert Harding ...

'The Sweetest Music this Side of Heaven'.

Carroll GibbonsCarroll Gibbons (1903-54) born in Clinton, Massachusetts, a piano player everyone loved. He studied at The Royal Academy of Music and came back to London for more.

The Savoy Hotel was a fabulous place in the early 1920s and the patrons demanded glitz and dance music ... the music of Orpheus which moved the soul. The war was past and a new music from America was arriving and with it new dances ... even The Savoy felt obliged to modernise and go for syncopation.

First in 1922 Bert Ralton led The Savoy Savanna Band then The Savoy Orpheans were formed by Debroy Somers, an ex-army bandmaster, in 1923. But the new American music was a whole new ball game and many old dogs found it impossible to learn new tricks and help was needed ... Americans 21 year old Carroll Gibbons, piano, and his mate Rudy Vallee, sax, were recruited from the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston.

Carroll Gibbons joined The Orpheans in 1926 and when Debroy left in 1927 Carroll took over... an American at The Savoy ... who would believe it?

In 1923 he recorded with the Orpheans at the 1923 Columbia sessions. This led to years of steady recording activity for HMV. By 1927 he was billed as the leader of the Savoy Orpheans ... 'Hello Everybody' ... with him were George Melochrino, Rudy Starita, Al Bowlly, Les Allen, Brian Lawrence, Harry Bentley ... and from 1931 were Ethel Levy and Anne Lenner (the first female vocalist at the mic) ... two pianos and 'the' Johnny Green ... George Melachrino was brilliant playing & singing ... Jack Plant sang 'As Time Goes By' in 1932 (10 years before 'Casablanca') ... Gibbons stayed on & on at The Savoy all through the Blitz ... it was all fun.

In 1928 Carroll Gibbons was appointed Director of Light Music at HMV.

He also served as a staff composer at MGM films 1930-1, but Gibbons continued to lead the Orpheans until his sudden death at the age of 51.

Radio Luxembourg offered a show in the 1930s, sponsored by Hartley's Jam!

Some thought the band sounded a bit like Glen Miller.

In 1928 he wrote the hit, 'A Garden in the Rain' and in 1932 his signature tune, 'On the Air'.

Better Think Twice 1934 vocal Harry Bentley, was featured in Dennis Potter's 'Pennies from Heaven' TV series from 1978.

Ray NobleRay Noble (1903-78) born in Hove in 1903, son of a neurologist, educated at Dulwich College and taught piano at The Royal Academy of Music. He was electrified when he heard American syncopated piano style and gave up a classical bent. He played local hops, was spotted by Laurence Wright in 1926 and won Melody Maker contests in 1927, before he became Staff Arranger with Jack Payne & the first BBC Dance Orchestra in 1928 ... and then Musical Director at HMV in 1929.

 In 1930 Ray Noble directed the house band at HMV, the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra, which had been formed by Carroll Gibbons just for recording.  He recruited the best from the top bands for his recording sessions ... Nat Gonella on trumpet, and in 1930 Ray Noble & his Orchestra were joined by a new crooner, Al Bowlly. Ray Noble's compositions and arrangement were tops and in April 1931 they had a hit 'Goodnight Sweetheart' (with collaborators Jimmy Campbell & Reg Connelly).

In 1931 also he recorded another Jimmy Campbell & Reg Connelly song with Al Bowlly; 'Down Sunnyside Lane'.

In 1934 Noble went to America where his records were selling well, English sweetness and sophistication contrasted with Ragtime & Jazz. He took Al Bowlly & Bill Harty his drummer manager with him and Glen Miller organised a band for him for The Rainbow Room in New York ... Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Spivak & George van Epp. He then accepted an offer in Hollywood and did radio shows for a quarter of a century before eventually retiring back in England in the 1950s.

He wrote some great songs; Love is the Sweetest Thing for Al Bowlly and 'Goodnight Sweetheart' which was a Guy Lombardo hit ... and 'Cherokee' which Charlie Parker made his own ... and, of course, his greatest of all which made him world renowned ... his signature tune ... The Very Thought of You 1934.

Geraldo (1904-74) Gerald Bright was born in the East End, working class Jewish, and a child prodigy on the piano at The Royal Academy of Music. Played piano in the cinemas and the organ a t a posh restaurant in The Strand. Meticulous and organised Gerry traveled to learn about the music scene. After piano at the Tower Ballroom and in Liverpool he formed his own band at The Majestic, St Annes. Gerald Bright & his Celebrity  Orchestra, (six piece group), broadcast on the BBC North Region and the word spread. He moved back to London as the Gaucho Tango Band at The Savoy in 1930, where he alternated with Carroll Gibbons and made his first recordings. The band was also booked by Charlie Chaplain for 'Modern Times'. In 1933 they did  royal Command performance. His 'tango' style went down well but he soon moved to a 'sweeter' sound. Geraldo and his Sweet Music, with vocals by Monte Rey & Cyril Grantham and a signature tune, 'I Bring You Sweet Music'.

Geraldo became a big name on the radio, 'Music Shop', 'Milestones of Melody', 'Dancing Through', 'Band Box' & 'Romance in Rhythm' ... introducing Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth. Geraldo was also musical director at Elstree Studios. A purple patch at one time he had 200 musicians on his payroll. They recorded at Abbey Road and Al Bowlly did some of his best work with Geraldo.

 He played some jazz from 1939 and was Britain's Glen Miller entertaining the troops and traveling extensively. Gerry became BBC Director of Dance Music ... it was all go. He was the first band on TV and later became Musical Supervisor for Cunard; 'Geraldo's Navy'. The band didn't break up until the 1960s.

'On behalf of me and the boys cheerio and thanks for listening'.

Mantovani (1905-80) 'Monty' was a violinist like his father, born in Venice and came to England when he was four.
In 1923 he formed a quintet at The Midland Hotel, Birmingham. He recorded in 1927 in disguise and formed small dance orchestra to play The Metropole in London and in 1931 left for The Monseigneur. where he stayed until 1934, up against Roy Fox and Lew Stone. He had a small 'Tipica Orchestra' playing popular tune and he acquitted himself well and moved to the Cafe de Paris ... then 'The Hollywood Club' and the 'San Marco Restaurant'. In1937 'Tipica' was dropped and the size of the orchestra increased and he moved to Decca where he stayed for 35 years as he moved more to light orchestral music.

He was unknown in America and tried for a new 'cascading violins' sound with Ronald Binge, a waterfall of silvery melodies. 'Charmaine' was recorded in 1951 and sensational success. Then 'Song from the Moulin Rouge' in 1953. Champagne music conquered America where he toured every year from 1954 to 1969. Awards and recognition followed.

Jack JacksonJack Jackson (1906-78) born in Kent, a brass band trumpet player and later Disk Jockey on the BBC's 'Band Parade' and 'Record Round Up' from 1948 for 20 years.

Jack was a rebellious hot trumpet prodigy and went to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music and turn pro. In 1926 he toured South Africa with Bert Ralton's Havana Band, during a hunting trip Bert, an American saxophonist, was tragically shot.

On his return to the UK in 1927 Jack joined the Hylton band and made a name for himself playing 'hot' trumpet. It was through Hylton's recordings that he became famous.

He tired of touring with Hylton and in 1929 played at the Berkeley Hotel and then Savoy. In 1931 he was with Jack Payne and the BBC Dance Orchestra. Business like Jack Payne and care fee extrovert Jackson clashed resulting in Jack leaving to form his own band.

In 1933 he became an elegant band leader and led his new band at the Dorchester. There he stayed for five years. Alberta Hunter sang with the band ... and Fred Latham and Sam Costa (star of 'Much Binding inn the Marsh').

He featured in the BBC's 'Band Call', 'Salute to Rhythm' and 'Band Parade' and secured a final residency at The Mayfair in 1940 before the war intervened and the big band bubble burst.

Jack wrote his signature tune, 'Make Those People Sway'. And finished his shows with, 'Dancing in the Dark'.

After the war a second career as the first ever zany off beat disc jockey with 'Jack Jackson's Record Round Up', which began in 1948. 'Record Roundabout' and Radio Luxembourg's 'Jackson's Jukebox' followed!

The old timers from the ballrooms and the post war youngsters both claimed Jack Jackson as their favourite.

Fred ElizaldeFred Elizalde (1907-79) a Spanish Filipino born in Manila in 1907, he started piano early and studied music before Stanford in 1925 ... and jazz. He came to London in 1926 to continue studies. He moved to Cambridge University and led a band (The Quinquaginta Ramblers) ... ragtime and jazz were not 'serious' music, they were generally seen as American 'fads' ... but folk in Cambridge lapped up the new music ... and soon all over the country people sat up and wanted 'jazz' and 'blues'. The sound was revolutionary and within a year was well respected.

Fred Elizalde recorded in 1927 and was 'noticed' by Bert Ambrose. They recorded for Brunswick and then won a contract at The Savoy, alongside The Orpheans ... a Cambridge undergraduate at The Savoy? Elizalde criticized British dance music for its 'Viennese' qualities and brought more Afro-American rhythm to the party. Elizalde was a genius, he wrote and recorded with trumpeter Jack Jackson his song 'Stomp Your Feet'. His jazz style was so popular he recruited Adrian Rollini into the band and orchestrated hot jazz phrasing and put swing into British Dance Band. British dance music was never the same again, the dancers were doing the 'Black Bottom' at The Savoy! In 1928 Al Bowlly arrived in Britain and recorded with Elizalde. His legato rhythms and hot phrasing were magical at The Savoy; jazz came to British Dance Bands. Fred Elizalde recorded 'Tiger Rag' in 1928 and the band was voted best popular dance orchestra in Melody Maker in 1928.

In 1929 the BBC finally got an act together and broadcast music from The Savoy every night, the dance critics were unconvinced but the Melody Maker reported favourably.

Elizalde was at The Savoy from 1927 to 29 and and recorded with Brunswick and Decca.

But The Savoy establishment were not convinced and wanted to 'organise' sweet music for the dancers and the Ministry of Labour withdrew work permits for the 'decadent' Americans and Elizalde was squeezed out ... he went on tour with the band but was an incomprehensible disaster in Scotland ... there were no Eightsome Reels.  Near bankruptcy and the recession struck ... Elizalde gave up on 'modern' music and went back to Manila.  

Nat GonellNat Gonella (1908-98) there was little jazz around in the late 1920s and early 1930s but Nat led the way. In Islington the local school had a brass band and Nat wanted the uniform and a big bass drum but his music teacher pushed the cornet and Nat was soon hooked. By 1924 he was playing with Archie Pitt's 'Busby Boys' and introduced to some Bix Beiderbecke records by Archie Pitt's wife Gracie Fields to be! After trying the dance bands in Margate, Manchester & Belfast he went big time to Billy Cotton ... and Sydney Lipton, Sid Buckman & others ... at this time Louis Armstrong had made his mark on Nat ... singing and trumpet playing. His first recordings were with Billy Cotton in 1930; 'That Rhythm Man', 'Bessie couldn't Help It'.

In 1931 the brass section moved en mass to Roy Fox at the Monseigneur and Nat was on the radio with 'Georgia on My Mind'. Nat stayed on when Lew Stone took over. He also recorded with Stanley Black's 'Modernists' and Edgar Jackson's Dance Band and the great Ray Noble ... and later Brian Lawrence and his Quaglino's Quartet.

The Georgians started as a band within band with Lew Stone before becoming an autonomous unit doing the Music Hall tours. A great band with Pat Smuts, tenor, Harold Hood, piano, Jimmy Messini, guitar, Charlie Winter, bass, and Bob Dryden, drums. This was dance, jazz, novelty, jive and hokum. At his peak in the mid to late 1930s.

During the war Nat tried a big band; the New Georgians. But Nat was called up and joined the 'Stars in Battledress' and regimental bands. After the war he tried to rehabilitate himself with Jack Hylton and Acker Bilk but ran out of steam.

Brian Lawrence (1908-83) a fine singer from Australia in 1927. He recorded a wonderful version of Says My Heart in 19??.

Joe Loss (1909-90) a Russian Jew from Spitalfields. Violinist accompanying silent films, to the Trinity College of Music and a band leader in his teens (The Magnetic Dance Band), the youngest leader at the Astoria in the West End at 21, and then the Kit Kat Club, over a thousand recordings and still going strong 60 years later. Chick Henderson & Monte Rey ... 'Begin the Beguine', 'My Prayer' & 'That Sly Old Gentleman from Featherbed Lane', 'In the Mood, 'At the Woodchoppers Ball' ... and Vera Lynn's 'Red Sails in the Sunset'.  Signature tune, 'Let's Dance at the Make Believe Ballroom'.

Edmundo Ross (1910-) Fats Waller visited in 1938 and young drummer Edmundo from Trinidad was smitten.
He graduated from military bands in South America to a scholarship at the Royal Academy in London in 1937. He formed his own band in 1940, Ross's Rhumba Romeos, and on the advice of Victor Silvester he introduced new Latin rhythms into British dancing. So began a 35 year career ... at the Cosmo Club, the St Regis Club, the Astor, the Bagatelle, the Coconut Grove ... and the Edmundo Ross Club. A 1949 hit record was 'Wedding Samba'. TV and 'Come Dancing' popularised the Latin rhythms,

Stanley Black (1913–2002) OBE was pianist with Harry Roy.

The Squadronaires many ex Ambrose sidemen led by Ronnie Aldrich, made hay in the RAF in 1940. Dance music to raise morale for those at war and those at home ... uncensored by the BBC this was jazz music. 'There's Something in the Air' and South Rampart Street Parade ...

 

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