jabw_vintage/report no. 32

Let Us Tell You About.....

Eddie Collis, British singer, dance band vocalist and entertainer

this page first published by John Wright, 14 August 2004
last update 7 July 2012vintage@r2ok.co.uk

John Wright: I am delighted to say that I have been contacted by Conway Collis, son of Eddie Collis who recorded with some of the finest musicians and dance bands in Britain during the 1920's and early 1930's. Conway has kindly provided some information about Eddie Collis' life and has submitted some excellent photographs and clippings which are included in Eddie's web pages.

Conway Collis wrote: My Father was born in London in 1902. After a successful amateur boxing career, he began singing professionally about 1918-1919. He sang with a number of British dance bands, and then began performing and touring in Vaudeville shows. Primarily a singer and song stylist, Eddie also performed a soft shoe dance and was often the show's Master of Ceremonies. He worked extensively in Paris and cities around the world; his performances took him around the world three times during that period. By 1934 he ended up in America, where he performed in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and cities throughout the United States. I have sent clippings from some of these venues and they appear on this website.

My Dad sometimes performed under the byline "The Prince of Wales Favorite Singer". Shortly before he began singing professionally the Prince of Wales heard him sing and asked to have him sing at other events and venues, which was a big boost for his career.

When I was a young boy I met a few of the people with whom my father was friendly from his years in Vaudeville, including a couple of band leaders identified in the clips. Some of the others I met were well known, and some not.

Some points of interest:

A friend in Los Angeles mentioned that his late Dad had owned the leading Supper Club in Detroit in the late 30's. I said that I thought my Dad had performed on the Vaudeville circuit in Detroit. He said he had publicity photos in his basement of the headliners at his Dad's club. He looked and gave me a copy of the picture of my Father in White Collar and Tails that is include in the material provided for the web pages. For one show in New Jersey, in which he sang and was the MC, one of the opening acts was a young unknown singer named Frank Sinatra (in the late 80's I had a chance to talk to Mr. Sinatra about that). When I was 9 or 10 he took my Mother and me to a dinner club in the Midwest where Tony Bennett was performing. Mr. Bennett introduced him warmly from the stage and came over to the table afterwards. Around 1960 I saw a warm exchange of handwritten notes with Ed Sullivan.

My Dad left show business in the early 1940's, in part because he began to lose his singing voice. We learned much later that the problem a very slow forming type of throat cancer probably caused by industrial pollution in the part of London where he grew up. It was actually the proximate cause of his death 35 years later. He married my Mother in Chicago in 1947. Chicago was the last place he worked in show business, and he had decided to stay there. I was born in 1948, his first child, when my Dad was 46.

John Wright adds: Eddie Collis worked with several top Britsh bands in the 1920's, and Eddie's name was held in high esteem because his name was nearly always printed on the record labels. Sometimes the spelling varied (Kolis, Kollis, Collis), indeed Conway reckons originally Eddie's surname was spelled Kolis.
The bands Eddie worked with in Britain included Bert Ralton, Syd Roy, Teddy Brown, Al Starita, Ronnie Munro. While in Europe it is known that Eddie worked Lud Gluskin's band and the Billy-Max Orchestra. The film that Conway refers to features a band led by Eddie Collis supporting pianist Patricia Rossborough. The film can be viewed free at the British Pathe website http://www.itnarchive.com/britishpathe/

Click this link to HEAR Eddie Collis singing How Long Has This Been Going On? from the Syd Roy Lyricals recording from June 1, 1928.

Below are a few photographs and clippings provided by Conway Collis.

Brian Rust's discography lists the Lyricals as usually Syd Roy-p-a-dir., Charles Mead-t, Basil Green-tb, Harry Roy-cl-as, Johnny Swinfen-as, Harold Lyons-ts, N. Tronny-vn, Tommy Venn-bj-g, Eddie Collis-d-v. Sometimes with addition of Stan Gosling-tb and A.C. Heather-bb.

Of all those players we have also been contacted by family of Harold Lyons.

In this photo of the Lyricals, Eddie Collis is on the left, Harry Roy is at the back. Tommy Venn is seated and the fourth member is sax player Harold Lyons.
In this photo of Syd Roy's Lyricals, Eddie Collis is extreme right, and next to him is trumpeter Ernest Broadhurst (thank you to Barbara Saunders for that identification), Harry Roy is extreme left, Harold Lyons second left. Syd Roy is seated and guitarist Tommy Venn is behind Syd. The seventh musician is not yet identfied.

More photos of the Lyricals have been submitted to this website by Mark Lyons of London, whose grandfather was Harold Lyons' brother. Mark has done an excellent in preserving and researching the family archives. You can begin a tour of Mark's fantastic contribution to this website at the Harold Lyons page.

In the photo below Eddie is with the Lud Gluskin band on tour in Holland where they worked at the Carlton Hotel in Amsterdam. Eddie is the fella in the middle with his hand in his pocket. I believe Gluskin is the fella towards the left with the light coloured overcoat.
Other clippings from Eddie's British and European career:

To see more photos and clippings featuring Eddie's career in USA go to More about Eddie Collis.

We are working on a listing of all Eddie Collis' recordings. Go to Eddie Collis Discography

There is an active discussion group where you can talk about Eddie Collis and other singers who recorded with dance bands in the 1920's and 1930's:

Subscribe to British dance bands group

or check out the group site first at http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/british-dance-bands/

Any further information on the career of Eddie Collis will be much appreciated. Please e-mail John Wright with any additions, corrections

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