Sydney Kyte: This Is The Missus
Ray Noble: The Younger Generation << sound clip
Jack Hylton: They All Fall In Love
Billy Cotton: Skirts
Debroy Somers Band: Look What You've Done
The Blue Mountaineers: Sweet Sixteen And Never Been Kissed
Ambrose: It's The Talk Of The Town
Lew Stone: The Bouncing Ball
Roy Fox: I've Got An Invitation To A Dance
Jack Payne: Mr & Mrs Is The Name
Casani Club Orchestra: Red Sails In The Sunset
Mario 'Harp' Lorenzi: Everything Stops For Tea
Harry Roy: Eeny Meeny Miney Mo
Ambrose: Hors d'oeuvres
Mrs Jack Hylton & Her Band: Please Believe Me
Orlando & His Orchestra: Love Is Good For Anything That Ails You
Billy Merrin & His Commanders: On The Beach At Bali Bali
Jack Hylton: One, Two, Button Your Shoe << sound clip
Henry Hall: Eccentric
Jay Wilbur: You Can't Stop Me From Dreaming
Savoy Hotel Orpheans: Love Walked In
Jack Harris: I Double Dare You
Sydney Lipton: Reckless Night On Board An Ocean Liner
Brian Lawrance: I Must See Annie Tonight
Geraldo: Two Sleepy People << sound clip
Ronnie Munro: Sing A Song Of Sunbeams
Essentially, the 'Golden Age Of British Dance Bands' was pre-war and this collection concentrates on the fabulous Thirties. It was a time when well-drilled, competitive and hard working bands had the pick of the wealth of great songs which were being produced, it seemed almost daily, in America and to a lesser extent in the UK.
Sydney Kyte was already a musician/bandleader with several years experience behind him at the time of his impressive recording debut with This Is The Missus. Newly installed at the Piccadilly Hotel, Sydney remained in residence for nearly five years before embarking on a variety tour. Words And Music, which opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London on 16 September 1932, was the first joint C B Cochran-Noël Coward revue to make a loss. This was despite containing such songs as 'The Party's Over Now', 'Mad About The Boy' and The Younger Generation. Ray Noble & His New Mayfair Orchestra were purely a 'house' band with no existence outside the recording studios. Even so, the tremendous reception a lot of the bands superb records received in the USA (many with the legendary Al Bowlly), led to Noble and Bowlly travelling to New York in the autumn of 1934 for an extended visit. Bowlly returned to the UK in January 1937, alone. Over the next four years, until his tragic death in The Blitz in April 1941, he came back to the treadmill of record sessions and appearances in variety. Amongst his best recordings from this era, by general consensus, are those made with the bandleader Geraldo in 1938/9. Hear for yourself on Two Sleepy People.
A Cole Porter song aptly follows our Noël Coward offering; this one's called They All Fall In Love from a rather obscure film, The Battle Of Paris. Jack Hylton built up a tremendous following in the eleven years from 1927 as Europe's greatest show band. His first track on this collection was made in the open acoustic of a large hall in Berlin (probably the Beethovensaal). After over ten years on the 'His Master's Voice' label, both record company and bandleader had an acrimonious split when the latter went off to Decca for a couple of years. Hylton didn't record commercially at all during 1934 but came back to HMV for the last five years of his bandleading career. One, Two, Button Your Shoe from the film Pennies From Heaven features the marvellous vocal quintet The Swingtette, a group Hylton had discovered in Kansas City during his long sojourn in the United States.
The most prolific and one of the best of the dance band singers was Sam Browne (who toppled Al Bowlly from first place in the Melody Maker Popularity Poll in 1937). Sam's first contribution is on the very lively Skirts with Billy Cotton & His Band. Cotton, unlike many of his contemporaries, maintained his position as a high profile working bandleader throughout the Fifties and Sixties, right up to his death on 25 March 1969. Vocal honours are shared between Sam Browne and Nat Gonella on Sweet Sixteen And Never Been Kissed, where both Romeos independently declare that the young lady in question has "...never been kissed by no-nobody but me". The Blue Mountaineers was a studio band, the nucleus of which comprised musicians moonlighting from Ambrose's Orchestra!
Dublin-born Debroy Somers was the first musical director of The Savoy Orpheans from 1923 to 1926. Upon leaving, he formed his own touring band and although some of his recordings can sound a little ponderous and dated, Look What You've Done from the Eddie Cantor film The Kid From Spain is an agreeable number enhanced by a vocal from Dan Donovan.
The popularity of Ambrose & His Orchestra's Saturday night radio broadcasts boosted the band's fame. Ambrose remains in the opinion of many the top British bandleader of the 1930s. It's The Talk Of The Town, a popular standard from 1933, features the perennial favourite Elsie Carlisle. David Comer's old instrumental warhorse Hors D'Oeuvres (dating from 1915) is dressed up in new clothes by pianist-arranger Bert Barnes so effectively that it is still an Ambrose classic. Further down the line, it was adopted by Sid Phillips as his signature tune. Another instrumental classic in British dance band history is Lew Stone's recording of the descriptive Frankie Trumbauer composition The Bouncing Ball. Lew's opportunity for band leadership came rather unexpectedly when he was asked to take over Roy Fox's band at London's plush Monseigneur Restaurant when the latter became ill; from then on Lew never looked back.
By January 1935, the time of the recording of I've Got An Invitation To A Dance, the American-born bandleader Roy Fox was undergoing a nationwide theatre tour. This lasted until August 1938 when Roy's health, always fragile, broke down again. Rich and mellow-voiced Denny Dennis got his first big chance with Roy in November 1933 and soon became billed as 'The British Bing Crosby'. Denny died on 1 November 1993, his eightieth birthday. For four years Jack Payne held the post as musical director of the first BBC Dance Orchestra (1928-32) before embarking on an extensive touring schedule. Loyal, long-serving Billy Scott-Coomber is the vocalist on Mr And Mrs Is The Name, a lively and propulsive song introduced by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler in the Hollywood musical Flirtation Walk.
A British song hit of 1935, which also became big in America, was Red Sails In The Sunset. US pianist and bandleader Charlie Kunz, domiciled in the UK from 1922 until his death in 1958, led his band at Santos Casani's club in London's Regent Street during the mid-Thirties. The late George Barclay, born in Aberdeen in 1911, and sometimes billed as 'The Shy Singer' provides a pleasing vocal chorus. The film Come Out Of The Pantry was a kind of Anglo-American alliance in that it was a British film with songs written by the crack American songwriting team of Sigler, Goodhart and Hoffman. Jack Buchanan was the star (well they don't come much more British than that) and he introduced us to the jaunty Everything Stops For Tea. In this version we have harp playing Mario Lorenzi who is joined by vocalist Sam Costa - in the days before Sam became the radio comedian and presenter many of us remember with affection. He is to be heard too on You Can't Stop Me From Dreaming with Jay Wilbur & His Band. Jay was an eminent 'house' band director working for the Crystalate and Decca record companies during the Thirties and early Forties.
Diminutive and peppy, Harry Roy was happy to maintain his 'King Of Hotcha' image. His recording of Eeny Meeny Miney Mo was made when he was resident at the Mayfair Hotel. Following on the heels of the sophisticated Ambrose Orchestra, some critics had predicted that the Mayfair clientele wouldn't warm to Harry's lively antics. They were proved wrong. Rhythm singer Dinah Miller partners Harry in their brief but effective vocal chorus. There's a nice break also from Harry's new piano team of Stanley Black and Norman Yarlett. The 9-inch Crown records were available in Woolworths between 1935 and 1937 at only sixpence each and represented excellent value. Recorded by technical innovator Arthur Haddy, their sound quality for the most part, was excellent. We have two examples here. Ennis Parkes, otherwise known as Mrs Jack Hylton, directs her band on Please Believe Me with a vocal by the fledgling Jimmy Miller. During the war Jimmy progressed to the leadership of the great service band the RAF Dance Orchestra, later Squadronaires. Billy Merrin, the undisputed 'King Of The Midlands', gives us his version of a popular song from 1936, On The Beach At Bali Bali.
Those who saw the late Dennis Potter's highly original and racy television series Pennies From Heaven from 1978 - 'a play with music in six parts' - may recall the Orlando and Phyllis Robins recording of Love Is Good For Anything That Ails You. Suffice to say this scene features Arthur's mistress Eileen, now pregnant, relating the story of Rapunzel to her class at the infants school. But whether you remember this or no, do enjoy the song on its own merits. The flowing clarinet-led instrumental Eccentric was made by Henry Hall & His Orchestra at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool during their tour. Only three weeks before, Henry had 'flown the nest' as director of the BBC Dance Orchestra (1932-37) in succession to Jack Payne. Massachusetts-born Carroll Gibbons with The Savoy Hotel Orpheans gives us a wonderfully relaxed reading of Love Walked In from George Gershwin's last film score The Goldwyn Follies. George Melachrino, singing here, achieved his greatest fame as a top-notch bandleader during and after World War II. Our final American bandleader is Jack Harris, resident in the UK from 1927 to 1940. An interesting, ahead-of-its-time arrangement of I Double Dare You with Joanne Andrews is one of Jack's fine sides cut for HMV between 1937 and 1939.
Raymond Scott (1908-1994) was the composer of quirky, descriptive pieces (both in content and title) which enjoyed a vogue in the late Thirties. These included 'War Dance For Wooden Indians', 'Dinner Music For A Pack Of Hungry Cannibals' and, the no less catchily titled, A Reckless Night On Board An Ocean Liner. Sydney Lipton's was, not altogether surprisingly, the only British dance band version of this opus and it remains one of his most popular recordings. The Australian Brian Lawrance, with his matinée idol looks, played the male juvenile lead in two film musicals. An accomplished violinist with a pleasant vocal style, he led his own band from 1934-40. Hear him on I Must See Annie Tonight. War clouds were gathering, but you wouldn't have known this from our final track, the airy Sing A Song Of Sunbeams from the Bing Crosby film East Side Of Heaven. The talented and versatile Ronnie Munro (1897-1989) lends just the right touch with his studio orchestra accompanying the enchanting Alice Mann, wife of the Canadian bandleader Billy Bissett.