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ClassicsOnline Home » BRITISH DANCE BANDS, Vol. 3 (1928-1949)
BRITISH DANCE BANDS Vol.3
Original Recordings 1928-1949
Part Three of our A-to-Z survey of British Dance Bands commences with recordings by two contrasting small groups. Fred Hartleys Quintet was really more a light music ensemble than a dance band per se, but was enormously popular in the 1930s and its playing of a selection of songs by Jerome Kern (1885-1945) more than justifies its inclusion. Born in Dundee, Fred Hartley (1905-1980) made his first broadcast as a pianist in 1924. In 1931 he formed the quintet which made many broadcasts and recordings and backed many of the stars who recorded on Decca. The leader of the quintet at this time was famous violinist Reginald Leopold (b.1908) and where a reed is heard it was usually the legendary E. O. Pogson (1904-1980). Fred was notorious for being a very stern taskmaster in the studios, but his methods certainly got results as the perfection of ensemble on all of his recordings indicates. During World War II he became head of light music at the BBC and insisted that every person broadcasting in that idiom audition for him, which caused some resentment, especially from those who had been on the air for a large number of years. He emigrated to Australia in the 1950s.
Coincidentally, Arthur Young (1904-1965), who here leads Hatchetts Swingtette, also departed these shores for the Antipodes in 1950, more precisely to Hobart, Tasmania, where he ran his own bar! Hatchetts was the London restaurant where the group resided and the inclusion of Stephane Grappelli (1908-1997) underlines their jazz orientation. Young was undoubtedly one of the finest jazz pianists in the country at that time and is also heard here on the Novachord, an electric keyboard then much in vogue. The vocal is by Beryl Davis (b.1923), daughter of Oscar Rabins co-leader Harry Davis, who herself emigrated to the USA in 1947 where she enjoyed a no less successful career.
A bandleader who scored a tremendous hit in the USA and the most popular British leader after World War 2 was Ted Heath (1900-1969) who, after decades as a sideman formed his own band in 1945. They are heard here in Tequila, which became a regular feature in the 1950s for Duncan Campbell, though the vocal on this original recording is by drummer Jack Parnell (b.1923), the one original member of the band who remained with it until the final concert given in 2000 to a packed Royal Festival Hall, a measure of the loyalty that the Heath band inspired. During his years as a sideman, which included lengthy stints with Ambrose, Sydney Lipton and Geraldo, Ted Heath played in many session bands including those made under various names for the Vocalion Company by pianist Harry Bidgood (1897-1957) who here offers us a very popular number from 1932, Balloons. Working for Vocalions rival Edison Bell was Harry Hudson (1898-1969) whose records were released under more than twenty pseudonyms, albeit here he is credited as direc-tor and vocalist under his own name. In later years Hudson became well known as the pianist in Wilfred Pickles radio show Have a Go.
A session band of a rather different kind was that organised for Decca by Patrick Cairns (aka Spike) Hughes (1908-1987). The son of the Irish folk-song collector and arranger and music critic Herbert Hughes, Spike studied composition and orchestration in Vienna (1923-24). He originally played cello, teaching himself to play bass in the late 1920s when he fell under the spell of Duke Ellington. The Ellington influence can be heard in many of Hughes arrangements which are still rated amongst the most advanced by British bands of the period. Hughes employed only the finest players: on Limehouse Blues we hear such luminaries as trumpeters Jimmy Macaffer (b.1913), Chick Smith (1909-1983) and Leslie Thompson (1901-1987), trombonist brother of Jimmy, Don Macaffer (1911-1979), saxophonists Harry Hayes (1909-2002), Dave Shand (1909-1983) and Buddy Featherstonhaugh (1909-1976) and pianist Billy Mason (1897-1960) a virtual Whos Who of early 1930s British jazz. After working with all of the top British musicians of the day, in 1933 Hughes emigrated to the USA where he made a further series of recordings with top musicians before giving up the band business altogether after discovering he could go no higher in the profession.
During the late 1920s Hughes had worked briefly with the doyen of popular British bandleaders of the time- Jack Hylton (1892-1965). Born in Great Lever, near Bolton, Hylton had begun singing in his fathers pub The Round Croft at the age of seven billed as The Singing Mill Boy. He got his first professional engagement in 1905 with a pierrot troupe at Rhyl and in 1913 moved to London, playing piano and organ in a cinema at Stoke Newington. Following army service during World War I Hylton formed a double-act with Tommy Handley in a concert party for a season at Bangor before returning to London, where he joined the Queens Hall Roof Orchestra, of which he was soon appointed leader. He first appeared on stage with his own band in 1924 and was so successful that in March 1925 Sir Oswald Stoll booked him for the Alhambra, where they were retained for a record thirty-eight weeks. From that moment Jack Hylton never looked back and, until 1939 the Hylton Orchestra remained the premier European showband, undertaking sixteen European tours between 1927 and 1938.
Recorded in Berlin, Song Of The Dawn features, as does the final Hylton track, an excellent vocal by Pat OMalley (1904-1985), who went with Hylton to the USA in 1935 and stayed on to become a successful actor in Hollywood, while in between these two numbers comes the medley Ellingtonia, a reminder that it was Hylton who first brought Duke and his orchestra to this country, in 1933. It has been said that when members of the Ellington band heard this record, they recognised each others playing, but not their own! The influence of the Hylton band cannot be overstated. In 1929 alone it gave 700 performances, travelled 63,000 miles and along the way notched up sales of 3,180,000 records a staggering figure for those days. In 1940, following the call-up of so many of his person-nel, Hylton disbanded rather than lower his standards. He turned his sights towards another career and became as successful an impresario as he had been bandleader (among other notable entrepreneurial feats was his saving the London Philharmonic Orchestra after it was shamefully abandoned by Sir Thomas Beecham).
Hyltons wife Ennis Parkes (née Florence Parkington, 1894-1957) was a talented singer, dancer and pianist prior to leading a band from 1933 to 1937. She made a series of recordings for Crown, a nine-inch record that sold for 6d (21/2p) at Woolworths. These were of a high-quality, as was Mrs. Jack Hyltons band, benefiting especially from orchestrations by Jacks principal arranger, Billy Ternent (1899-1977). The vocalist on My Sweetest Dream is Jimmy Miller (1914-2001), later better known as leader of the Squadronnaires.
Another sometime Hylton associate who became one of the most popular bandleaders of the 1930s was the brilliant jazz trumpeter Jack Jackson (1907-1978). The son of a brass-band conductor Jack played cornet at the age of eight and later studied with John Solomon at the Royal Academy of Music, with violin as his second instrument. Having worked with Hylton from 1927 to 1929 he grew tired of touring, however, and eventually joined Jack Payne. He stayed with Payne, a strict disciplinarian, for two years but walked out after a row in 1933 and formed his own band which opened at the Dorchester Hotel in August of that year.
At the Dorchester he proved an immediate and a lasting hit and his warm, likeable personality would also stand him in good stead after the war, too, when with the decline of the bands he became a well-known and much loved disc jockey on the BBCs Light Programme. Jackson himself sings the refrain on Some Other Time, while Two Cigarettes In The Dark has a lovely atmospheric vocal by the velvet-toned American singer Alberta Hunter (1895-1984), who worked with the band during 1934-35.
Another American visitor to these shores was Howard Jacobs (1900-1977), an immaculate saxophonist who arrived here in 1922 and was initially a member of the Savoy Havana Band. Eventually he became co-leader of the Savoy Hotel Orpheans with Carroll Gibbons, before leading his own band as heard here. This features Stanley Black (1913-2002) on the Neo-Bechstein, an early attempt to combine electronics with the traditional piano. The vocalist is the bands drummer, Bill Airey-Smith (1901-1982). In 1938 Howard Jacobs returned to the USA, where ended his days playing the organ in a supper club!
The name Roberto Inglez may well conjure the image of a bandleader from exotic foreign parts, but in fact Inglez was really Bob Ingle from Scotland! A stint on the piano with Edmundo Ros led him to change his name and eventually he fronted the relief band at the Savoy Hotel. He became so popular and associated with Latin-American numbers such as Tico-Tico, that he was eventually invited to tour South America. He liked it so much that he stayed there, ending his days in Chile. Next, by way of contrast, we hear the Hawaiian guitar expertly played by South-African born Len Fillis (1903-1953) with the band of Edgar Jackson (1895-1967), whose real name was Edgar Cohen. Jackson was the first editor of Melody Maker magazine and a well-known music critic whose only recordings were made in 1932.
Since all of our selections were recorded by dance bands, one might reasonably suppose that they were suitable for dancing as well as listening enjoyment and indeed they were generally marked fox-trot, quick-step, waltz, etc. However, only very rarely were the records made at the correct tempi for dancing and in answer to public demand a number of groups were formed by the various companies to make records "in strict tempo" for those who wished to dance to them. Henry Jacques was a dancing teacher who was present at the sessions to ensure that the correct tempi were adhered to. This band was usually directed by Phil Green (1911-1982) or Harry Leader (1906-1987).
Our final two bandleaders were both of foreign origin and ironically both met with tragic ends within a month of one another. Ken Snakehips Johnson (really Kenrick Reginald Huymans, 1914-1941) was a native of British Guyana who studied in England from 1929 to 1931 at the Sir William Borlase School in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where he played the violin. After taking up tap-dancing he appeared as a dancer in the film Oh, Daddy in 1934 and, following a visit to the USA and a tour of the West Indies, he returned to Britain and worked with Leslie Thompsons Jamaica Emperors in 1936, eventually taking over leadership of the band. In late 1939 this outfit began a residency at the Café de Paris, alternating with Bert Firmans band. In 1940 Bert joined the army, a decision which somewhat bizarrely saved his life, for it was at the Café de Paris on March 8, 1941 that a direct hit during an air raid killed Johnson, his tenor player Dave Williams and some thirty members of the public. The Johnson band had many fine jazz musicians in its ranks and amongst those heard on these two tracks are trumpeters Dave Wilkins (1914-1990) and Leslie Jiver Hutchinson (1906-1959), trombonist Lad Busby (1920-1985), reed-man Carl Barriteau (1914-1998) and guitarist Joe Deniz (1913-1994). These tracks also benefit from vocals by Al Bowlly (1899-1941) who was himself killed in an air raid on April 17 with the Henderson Twins (Winifred and Teresa, daughters of Yorkshire comedian Dick Henderson and sisters of Dickie) on It Was A Lover And His Lass, one of the noted Shakespeare settings by Arthur Young.
Teddy Joyce (aka Edmund John Cuthbertson, 1907-1941) was a Canadian who initially studied music in Toronto. After a musical apprenticeship in various American bands, Joyce moved to London in 1934 where he enjoyed overnight success, dubbed The Stick of Dynamite on account of his energetic style of presentation. Both tracks here were made within his first year in this country. Love Was A Song has a delightful refrain by Wrexham-born Eric Whitley (1910-1991), who was also a vocalist and bass-player with Jack Hylton. Appropriately, we end this volume with Farewell Blues, for alas for poor Teddy Joyce the farewell came all too swiftly when he collapsed and died from a brain haemorrhage during a stage performance in Glasgow on 10February, 1941.
Guy W. Rowland. 2003
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BRITISH DANCE BANDS, Vol. 3 (1928-1949)