The 'About Me' Page

Thank you for visiting my vintage popular music webpages. On this page I shall tell you something about me.

this page first published by John Wright, 26 July 1997
last update 2 June 2008vintage@r2ok.co.uk

This is John Wright, from the Midlands of England

Originally from Scotland, I moved to England nearly 30 years ago, and am now married with grown-up two children and 2000 78rpm records, semi-retired consultant.

How did I get into 78's ?

I first took an interest in 78rpm records in the early seventies when I found some interesting classical discs with Elgar conducting his own music etc. When I moved to England I wanted a wind-up gramophone on which to play my small collection. From a junk shop I acquired a large cabinet-type Columbia gramophone, with lid and volume-control doors.

My life changed in that junk shop when the proprietor demonstrated the gramophone by playing a 10" disc with the title "Swanee Smiles". I was captivated by the sound, really nutty music I thought. I bought the machine for 15 and the 78 was thrown in.
Back home the Elgars got a play but soon got neglected as I constantly played "Swanee Smiles" to my friends. The label said 'The Savoy Havana Band, at the Savoy Hotel, London.

I can't remember how long it was before I found out information on the Savoy Havana Band, but a local pub used to play Alan Dell's BBC 'Dance Band Days' on a Monday night, and I then began to stay in on Monday nights!
Soon I found reference books in the library (see my page 78rpm Books) and later the 'Memory Lane' magazine (see my page 78rpm Magazines).
Red NicholsI really got hooked on 78's and my collection has grown to over 2000 records, collected over 25 years. I am particulary keen on hot dance band records of the 1920's and 30's, and early jazz, and I am fond of many vocalists of the time.
Thanks to the many magazines that were around in the 1980's-1990's I got to know many collectors, learned a lot about dance bands in Britain and USA, and learned about record labels, pseudonyms, vocalists, hot trumpeters and other musicians. I contributed the odd letter and article to some of the magazines, and I still index the 'Memory Lane' magazine.

What's in my collection ?

Al BowllyMy 78 collection has come from junk shops, antique shops and record fairs. Thankfully, I'm fairly selective about what I collect and so avoided having tens of thousands of them. They are mainly dance band records from 1920-1940, British and American, and I am particularly fond of Ambrose, Savoy Bands, Paul Whiteman, Jack Hylton, Ray Noble etc. Records featuring the hot trumpeters Bix Beiderbecke, Sylvester Ahola, Red Nichols, Max Goldberg, Jack Jackson are common in my collection. So too are vocalists like Al Bowlly, Maurice Elwin, Bing Crosby, Irving Kaufman.

Bix BeiderbeckeI was fortunate that my job took me and the family to USA for two years. In that time I amassed a collection of over 500 American 78's, mainly dance bands, but also many early jazz, blues and ragtime music. Since then I've also collected a number of British 78's from the ragtime era.

Any gems in my collection ?

I would answer yes there are hundreds of gems in my collection. But the most precious to me are several Paul Whiteman Victors and US Columbias featuring both Bix Beiderbecke and a very young Bing Crosby, then there are the Clarence Williams, ODJB, Jimmy Noone, Fletcher Henderson, and several blues 78's all found in USA.

And of the 1500 or so British 78's, I over 100 Al Bowlly records, Zonophones featuring Sylvester Ahola and Maurice Elwin, Ambrose and Jack Hylton records featuring the voice of Sam Browne.

My most valuable record ?

Paul Whiteman Some of the US records mentioned above may be very valuable, but I'm very proud to be the owner of a copy of the British HMV B5509, from 1928. On one side this features Paul Whiteman's 'Loveable', with Bix and Bing. For some reason this disc is quite rare and the title wasn't released in USA at the time. The rarest British recording that I possess is probably a 1931 Stanley Black band recording on the Oriole label, from 1929 featuring very hot jazz and scat singing from Nat Gonella. It is thought only three copies of this record exist.


As well as records I am always on the look out for films, photographs and sheet music featuring dance bands. Pride of place on our dining room wall is an original 18"x12" photograph of the Savoy Orpheans dance band of 1924 complete with signatures of most of the band, including Debroy Somers, Carroll Gibbons, Ray Starita, Al Starita, Ramon Newton, Vernon Ferry etc. That photo with signatures is priceless (to me anyway!!). One day I just by chance walked into a Birmingham auction, and there it was. Nobody else was interested in it, and when the bidding started at 10 I got it!

I wrote an article for Brian Rust's 'Needletime' magazine in which I attempted to identify the 28 musicians in the photo! I think I was successful. Someday I will re-publish the article on this website, though the photograph size and quality would make lousy scanning.

And another 'priceless' item is a card signed by Al Bowlly and Ray Noble, no ordinary card as it advertised and dated their gig at Waltham, Massachusetts, a gig previously not known by Bowlly fans.

I met some of the old British dance band musicians years ago at a 'Memory Lane' party. I particularly remember Joe Crossman, Alfie Noakes, Tiny Winters, and Mrs Lew Stone. More recently I have met Jack Trafford, one of the trio Rhythm Brothers who sang with Bert Ambrose Orch and other British bands in the 1930's.

The most active feature on this website now is the contacts made with families of musicians from the 1920's and 1930's. These contacts often lead to tribute pages when the families kindly donate photos and memorabilia of thier father or grandfather who was once a top dance band musician or singer. You can see the results at Personality pages.

The world of 78 rpm record collectors.

Quite an odd bunch of people these 78 collectors :), Over the years I've met the late Brian Rust, the late Sandy Forbes, Steve Walker, Ray Pallett, John Hobbs, Joe Moore, Mike Hart, Norman Field, Steve Walker, Steve Ike, Mike Thomas, Charles Hippesley-Cox, Richard Johnson, the late Bill White, Nick Dellow, Derek Spruce, , the late John Gunn, Mark Berresford, Joe Freeman, Mike Biel. I've had great fun meeting them, and now several of us are regular contributors to the vintage music internet groups. Since about 2001, however, there has been a notable drop in interest as attendances at record fairs reduces, some of the older collectors have passed away, many rare records are appearing at record fairs but not fetching any valuable price. Several of the 78 collectors' magazines are no longer published, indeed in 2008 there are now only two or three good magazines published in Britain. I expect in the future all 'magazines' will be found on the internet, and now most discussions on vintage music occur on Facebook groups.


Interested ? Whether you are already a 78 collector or would like to know more about finding and collecting vintage recordings, drop me a line. I can answer most beginners' questions and if I can't I know someone who can ! Just E-mail your questions to me.


Duke Ellington

Maybe you like the music of the old movies of the 30's. There are the musicals of course, but you can often hear incidental dance band music on many old movies, and on some movies a dance band or jazz band are seen as well as heard. I'm trying to list all vintage music to be seen and heard on British and American movies from the dance band era. See my films pages, maybe you can help fill the gaps!

link to films


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