78rpm and Vintage Music Discussions

from 2002

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this page first published by John Wright, 7 July 2002
last update 26 December 2002vintage@r2ok.co.uk

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November 2002

Phil Neely, identified as Ambrose vocalist !
I exchanged CD's of early Ambrose recordings with US collector John Liefert. After playing my CD John contacted me:

John Liefert: "Just wanted to report to you about those titles from the May 31, 1929 Decca M session of Ambrose's which I heard recently. I was quite surprised to hear PHIL NEELY on the vocals. I'm quite familiar with his vocal style. Phil Neely was Abe Lyman's vocalist at the time, and was touring in the UK in the Spring of 1929 with the Lyman band; my supposition is that Neely "moonlighted" on this particular Ambrose session when Lyman had a lull in performances. Other "visiting firemen" from America including Chick Endor and Les Reis, also appeared on British dance band recordings, so Neely wouldn't be alone in that regard. I'd say if you wish to compare - just play any Abe Lyman recording from 1927 to 1930 or so that have Neely vocals and play them back to back with the Ambrose's."

John Wright: "John, not having relevant Abe Lyman recordings I got help from colleague Mike Thomas who has recently made many many vocal identifications for the revision of the Rust/Forbes book. Mike is in agreement with you, it is definitely Phil Neely on Ambrose's session of may 31, 1929, You're The Cream In My Coffee, Mean To Me, A Precious Little Thing Called Love, Don't Hold Everything. We will report this finding in the next issue of magazine OK For Sound.

John Liefert: "Regarding that particular Ambrose session, playing You're The Cream In My Coffee again and noticed there is a sequence 2/3 through the side with the brass section playing the chorus with a very light touch, and piano chiming in the background, that has a sound very much like the Lyman band of the time. I suspect the "mutual admiration society" was at work here, with Neely singing of course, and possibly some of the Lyman musicians either guesting on the date, supplying a little arranging section, or at least the Ambrose men offering a nod stylistically to Lyman. At any rate, it's a delightful side".

November 2002

Elsie Carlisle in 1926
When I aquired an old Feb 1926 issue of the Radio Times, I published a web page listing the many dance band broadcasts that could be heard then, go to Radio Times. It is interesting to see that Elsie Carlisle was recording as early as 1926, I've often wondered how much of a 'star' was Elsie in the 1920's? Here she is broadcasting with Sidney Firman in March 1926, and later she made just a handful of records as a soloist each year 1926 and 1927 before getting into studios with the dance bands proper in 1928.
One of her earliest recordings, in May 1926, was I Love My Baby, I don't have the record but I have the sheet music which has her photo on it - so the sheet music and the broadcasting suggest she was maybe becoming well known before the recording was made. Or was that sheet music on sale for years and they put her photo on later editions?

extract from files of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/british-dance-bands/

October 2002

Henry Hall, heard at the Olympia 1934
One of my collector colleagues Earl Okin wrote to me: "I notice your website mentions Henry Hall's BBC Orch performing Memphis By Morning at the Palladium in 1934. Well I have Memphis By Morning on a metal-lacquer 12" disc (actually the label says Memphis By Night but Night is certainly a mistake), and it says at the OLYMPIA 1934".
Earl sent me an mp3 of the recording and it sounded very good. I can confirm it's not the same broadcast recorded at the Palladium in 1934. On Earl's disc the band's intro plays It's Just The Time For Dancing. Regarding Henry Hall's stage broadcasts, there was the Radio Olympia exposition performance in August 1933, then the Royal Command Performance at the Palladium on May 8th, 1934, then according to Henry's autobiography there was a second performance at Olympia when he says 'on my return from America.... almost immediately we visited Radiolympia again'. That's all he says about it, and it would have been around August 1934, so it all fits nicely.
Memphis By Morning is a marvellous performance, with a fine violin solo. This tune was only ever recorded commercially in Britain by the Brian Lawrance band (6 July '34), he was a fine fiddler so the virtuoso fiddle seems to be a feature with that song.
I have updated the web page that lists Henry Hall's recorded broadcasts and you can hear a sound clip of Memphis By Morning at Olympia, it is certainly worthy of inclusion in a future Henry Hall CD.

extract from files of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/british-dance-bands/

October 2002

Al Bowlly/Les Allen on Edison Bell Radio 1416, take -2
At the Birmingham 78 Fair I bought about 20 records, quite a variety of stuff, only one features Al Bowlly. It's one of those 8" Edison Bell Radio records where Al duets with Les Allen. A lot of collectors tend to ignore these, Al's contribution is often very minor, it's often hard to get a good sound from them, and you need a gramophone or a proper non-automatic turntable to play them to the end as the label is only about 2" diameter.
Anyway EBR1416 is by Al Vocale and his Crooners, probably a Len Fillis group as the lead instrument is a steel guitar. It has Say A Little Prayer For Me, a rather pretty 'blues ballad' as they called it then. Les Allen takes lead vocals while Al Bowlly hums in harmony, yes he hums most of the vocal part and only joins in with Les Allen to sing the line 'You're so forgiving, you banish all my sorrows'. Another guitar is heard throughout so is it another candidate for the Al Bowlly guitar discography?...only if Al could hum in harmony AND play the guitar at the same time :0)
The other side is Waiting For That Thing Called Happiness. I quite like this song, it's more of a duet for Les and Al, and Al does a reasonable scat too. Again a second guitar is heard throughout but I'm not convinced that Al could play the guitar during this vocal. Mike Thomas has reminded me about the symbols used by EBR to distinguish take numbers for recordings and on this copy of Waiting For... there's a fine clearly drawn triangle so it is take -2 on my copy. I believe this has not been found before. I'd like to compare takes -1 and -2, I expect we might only hear a difference in Al's scat and end up counting do-do-dos and de-de dats! And maybe the violin breaks will be different.
It's a fine recording, must be one of the better EBR's featuring Al Bowlly, he and Les Allen compliment each other perfectly, and the hawaiian guitar and violin breaks are well-played, there's a low- register clarinet noodling in the back too, a piano, and possibly another guitar strums. I have recorded it onto my PC and employed the crude noise removal program Audacity that I have and the results were quite good, I think because the groove noise is at a near-constant level throughout.

extract from files of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bowlly/

September 2002

Grandson of Manuel Elizalde
I received a fascinating e-mail from Juan Miguel Elizalde Harrison: "Mr Wright, by way of introduction, I am the grandson of Manuel Elizalde. (Lizz or Manolo--he went by Manolo ever since I can remember, but as a young boy I thought the name Lizz was funny!). As you know he was Fred Elizalde's brother. I am the son of Mary Ruth, Manolo's daughter. I have many fond memories of Uncle Fred who was an amazing, irreverent character and one of my favorite relatives growing up. It was wonderful to have holidays at my grandfather's house in Manila and have Uncle Fred play the piano for us. Grandpa (Manolo) used to play clarinet in the bands with Uncle Fred way back when but I never heard him play -- family legend has it that Grandpa had a very bad experience in Manila during the Japanese occupation in World War II and swore to give up playing if he got out alive. Whether true or just a romantic family legend, I never heard Grandpa play with Uncle Fred".
Juan continues "You might be amused to know that some time after the war, Uncle Fred went to Japan and spent a lot of time there, eventually marrying a most beautiful Japanese woman name Shigeko. Fred spent a lot of time composing "classical" music which was supposedly rather atonal! Grandpa, and their sister Carmen (Carmenchu to us), used to say the music was very strange, describing it as "bing, bang, bong!" with furrowed brow and a scorn. I never heard these pieces either!
Juan then asked "I am looking for recordings of Fred and his band so I can hear them play together. An aquaintance of mine many years ago had a recording which I heard just once, and, unfortunately, my memory of the event has vaporised. I have not met the aquaintance since. Do you know where I might be able to find a recording?"

I wrote back to Juan: "Checking the reference books, Manuel plays clarinet on the Elizalde records made in UK up to end-1927, after that only Fred is featured. There were also earlier records made in USA featuring both brothers. I don't know a source of the early British records but the American recordings are on a CD obtainable from : streetsonline.co.uk

July 2002

Rare Homochord, Al Bowlly with Fred Bird
Mike Hart writes: "I have the German 78 Homocord 4-2418. Because I love You has the label credit thus:
Fred Bird
mit enlischem Refrain: Al. Bowlly
Piano: Edgar Adeler

Until I was lucky enough to acquire a copy, I'd assumed that it was an Al Bowlly "solo vocal" recording - but Fred Bird gets his name in bold type on the label. Unfortunately the record is rather worn; Al sings only, there is no banjo/guitar; there are two violins; and there are a couple of single notes that could be tubular bells. The other side of the record, I'm Alone In Athlone, gives this label credit:
Fred Bird
mit enlischem Refrain und Banjo: Al. Bowlly
Piano: Edgar Adeler

Again, it sounds like two violins, can't hear banjo nor tubular bells.

extract from files of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bowlly/

July 2002

Noble/Bowlly US radio transcription recordings
John Wright: "I was lucky enough to get a CD of "Ray Noble and his All-Star American Orchestra" which is a selection of radio transcription recordings from 1935-36. Of the 19 tracks, 10 feature Al Bowlly vocals.
The most stunning tracks sung by Al are 5 from the session December 7, 1936. "Now/Little Old Lady/There's Something In The Air/ Easy To Love/I'll Foresake All Others". Listening to these tracks with headphones or in the car (loud) it becomes very apparent that on that day the original discs somehow captured a very high level of hi-fi. The clarity of Al Bowlly's voice is astonishing, and you can clearly hear Al breathing, all the in-takes of breath can be heard between phrases.
"As someone who has listened to Al for nearly 30 years, I can say that this up-close and personal experience with Al's voice was very moving. I'm not aware of other such up-close recordings of Al's voice, the 'hi- fi' is remarkable. There were other titles recorded Dec 7 that are not on the CD: I Love You Truly/Under Your Spell/You Were There".

Jeff Wallder: "Those Al Bowlly tracks were taken from the 'Coty Salute To Youth' radio programme. Another number is Night On The Desert.

Barry McCanna: "The sessions you are talking about were released on LP in RCA's "The Radio Years" series and have long been favourites of mine. They are worth getting hold of for all of the numbers involved and I agree with what you say about the clarity of the sound".

Jaime: "Just wanted to add, re the "London" LPs:

London HMG 5019
The Radio Years, Ray Noble and his Orchestra 1935/6 - Vol. 1
Tracks sung by Al Bowlly:
In A Little Gypsy Tea-Room / Lullaby of Broadway, Ray Noble Medley: By The Fireside - Love Is The Sweetest Thing - May 13, 1935;
Now / Little Old Lady / There's Something In The Air - December 7, 1936.

London HMG 5027
The Radio Years, Ray Noble and his Orchestra 1935/6 - Vol. 2
Tracks sung by Al Bowlly:
'Way Back Home (with The Freshmen) / Snowball - May 13, 1935;
You Were There / Easy To Love You / I Love You Truly / Under Your Spell / I'll Forsake All Others - December 7, 1936.

Mike Hart: "I'm fortunate to have one of the Associated records in my collection that was used in the Decca Radio Years series. It's a 12in. disc, hill and dale (vertical cut) at 33.3 rpm that plays from the outside in and is pressed in a red vinyl-like material:
A-492-2 Reginald Norman And His Orchestra Associated 125-B
In A Little Gypsy Tea Room / Let's Spill The Beans
First title has vocal by Al and the other is a tenor sax feature for Bud Freeman with no vocal. There is a scan of this label at radio transcription page.
Ray Noble was at the time (1935-1936) contracted to Victor records but saw the opportunity of recording for other companies providing he used a pseudonym, hence Reginald Norman = Ray Noble. I've been told that there are some Associated records from the period that have the label credit Reginald Norman with vocalist Art Brady - AB = Al Bowlly, but I've never seen one.
Decca brought out two LPs in their Radio Years series, but I've Got You Under My Skin, Please Keep Me In Your Dreams, Soon, Let's Put Our Heads Together and I Can't Give You Anything But Love were scheduled for a third LP that was never issued.

John Wright: "The CD I have was released in 1992. Jazz Band EBCD2112-2. It says produced by Flyright Record & Dist. Co. Ltd, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, UK. I expect this CD will be hard to find unless it has been re- issued again. The other Al Bowlly tracks on the CD, from May 13 1935, do not have the same super hi-fi sound".

extract from files of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bowlly/

August 2002

John Thornton, banjo
I was contacted by Jane Doherty of New York City who wrote: "My grandfather was John Thornton, who played the banjo in various British bands in the 1920's and into the early 30's. By accounts I've heard he was extremely good -- one of the best in England at the time -- but he gave it up because he found the fast-paced high life too much for him. I am wondering if there might not be any recordings of his playing and thought you might be able to help me with some suggestions about how and where to begin searching for those. He played in a band called "the Quinquaginta Ramblers" at Cambridge and there was another called the "The Dixie Coons", they are mentioned in the Melody Maker issues from 1927".

I replied to Jane: "I am indebted to my colleague Steve Walker who thoroughly researched the Quinquaginta Ramblers and associated musicians some years ago. The name Quinquaginta Ramblers or Dance Band seems to date back to 1925 and achieved some fame when the Elizalde brothers from USA got involved. Fred Elizalde went on to lead a band at the Savoy Hotel in 1927. George Monkhouse became leader of the QR band 1928-29. Various photographs of this period do not feature John Thornton, and Monkhouse himself is shown as the banjo player, but sometime in 1929 Monkhouse left the band and at least one photograph (May 1929, attached) does show John Thornton with the banjo.

Monkhouse returned to lead the band and they went to London December 1929 to make records in the Parlophone studios. John Thornton was with the band in the studio when they recorded:

Parlophone R560Birmingham Bertha/Stamp Your Feet
Parlophone R561So The Bluebirds And The Blackbirds Got Together

another recording session followed in April 1930, we believe also featured John Thornton:

Parlophone R656Singapore Sorrows/Avalon
Parlophone R657Cryin' All Day

I haven't heard any of the records but Melody Maker reviews of the time gave just a little praise, though of course the musicians were amateurs at the time. The recording quality from the Parlophone studios was also poor at the time.
In March 1931 the Quinquaginta Ramblers, now led by Richard Philpott, were in London for Boat Race week, and performed at the Cafe De Paris. The Melody Maker report again lists John Thornton as banjo player and again reminds readers the band is an amateur outfit and gives them some praise.
That's all the knowledge I have on John Thornton right now. My main references do not list him with any other recording bands.

Please note: Information and photograph reproduced with the permission of Steve Walker, author of a series of articles in the magazine Gunn Report issue no. 100 and others.

April 2002

Len Fillis Quintet, Edison Bell Record
I always grab unusual Len Fillis records if I see them at a fair, and the gold-labelled Edison Bell Record B.5633 was unusual, and I had not seen it listed anywhere. Label says Blue Hawaiian Quintet,directed by Len Fillis. It's from an unusual 10" Edison Bell Record series, and at first I thought the matrix numbers dated it to 1931 which might put any vocals in to Al Bowlly possibilities. One of the vocals did intrigue me for a while. I couldn't say it was Al Bowlly but the singer had a similar style and I had to ask opinions. Mike Thomas put me straight by indicating that the matrix numbers EB1112-1D and EB1113-11D date the recordings from around December 1933, indeed they are consecutive with a Howard Flynn session that produced EBR.5632.
The recordings on my EBR.5633 are typical Hawaiian efforts from a Len Fillis group, but who was the singer on Song Of The Island? The other side is Harbour Of Home Sweet Home EB1112-1D, it also features a short vocal, and this was identified as Dan Donovan by Mike Thomas, and everyone agrees. For the singer of Song Of The Island we eliminated Al Bowlly, Jimmy Mesene and Harry Bentley, but within weeks I happened to hear George Barclay singing Blue Hawaii on BBC Radio 2 and I thought... that's the voice! There is a strong similarity on comparing the two.
The only snag in this theory is that the Edison record I have would appear to be from Dec 1933 but articles I have on George Barclay suggest he probably didn't come down to London for the first time till summer 1934, based on the first records he made with Archie Alexander Regal Zonophone MR-1353. In Memory Lane No. 78 Chris Hayes mentions George's 'first visit to London' when he won a contest at Streatham Locarno. If Chris Hayes' article is chronological then the contest at Streatham appears to have taken place some time before Archie Alexander's summer 1934 season at Cliftonville. Now we could date the Streatham visit if someone checked out the local press at Streatham, or contemporary music press, when maybe George did a bit of studio work. Although Archie kept a tight rein on his up and coming star George Barclay, it's possible that he was offered an anonymous recording session for George.

extract from files of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bowlly/

April 2002

Art Christmas Jnr.
I received an e-mail from Art Christmas Jnr. : "I would be very interested in providing you with a bio and pics of Art Christmas who was known as England's leading sax and multi-instrumentalist from the 1930's to the late 1940's leading many of his own groups and playing with The Roy Fox Orchestra and The Jack Payne Band to name a couple. He only lived to be 55 years old but had a very successful career in England and died in Canada shortly after becoming a music teacher at the Blind River District High School, here in Ontario Canada".

Of course I was delighted by this offer from Art Jnr. and the result is the Art Christmas web page.

March 2002

Danny Polo's family
I receieved an e-mail from Virginia Harris (USA) whose grandmother was Danny Polo's sister.
Virginia wrote: "We have been listening to Danny's music after clicking on your web page of his musical life -- and tears of joy and sadness flow. I have amazed everyone at school by playing Danny's clarinet on the internet! I am now trying to collect all of his music that I can find".
I wrote back: "Virginia, if you were to talk to any jazz or dance record collector in Britain about Danny Polo then you would hear nothing but praise for his virtuosity and the high esteem with which he was held by all his fellow musicians over here, and every collector would be able to name a few records and say something like 'Yeah Danny's on that Ambrose record, great solo' or 'Danny made some great records with his studio band in 1937-38, jazz masterpieces'.
"There are CD's of the Bert Ambrose orchestra which you can buy on the internet. These feature Danny Polo (the 'sleeve' notes will tell you more). From amazon.com you should be able to get: Flapper Past CD 7055 (1995) Glamour Of The Thirties - Ambrose and his Orch and I suggest you also check Dutton Labs, the Vocalion record label for Ambrose Orchestra CD's Vocalion CDEA6002 and Vocalion CDEA6025.

February 2002

Jose Norman family
I was contacted by Manny Norman who wrote: "I am the eldest son of Jose Norman (who died in 1990) and, naturally, I remember his band well when I was growing up; it pretty well pervaded our whole life at the time! The name of the band was actually "Jose Norman and his Rumbaleros". 
Manny donated several photos to this website and helped me to compile a web page Jose Norman. Later in the year Malcolm Laycock broadcast a special BBC tribute programme of 'Sunday Night At Ten' featuring songs written by, Jose Norman. Manny is now a regular contributor to the http://groups.yahoo.com/group/british-dance-bands/ group

February 2002

Memories of great friend Carl Barriteau
I received a very interesting e-mail from Les Johnston who knew Carl Barriteau:
Les wrote: "I was a founder member of the Edinburgh Rhythm Club in the 1940's and it was at his club the Eldorado, Leith (Edinburgh) that I first met Carl Barriteau. Due to poor financial management Carl was forced to disband, having been there 1949-51. He began to feature as a soloist with various groups and did a season on the Isle of Man with Cyril Stapleton's band, maybe that was summer 1952. Unfortunately I suffered a badly broken wrist which forced me to give up playing drums and, eventually, in 1956 I emigrated to Australia where I took up residence in Sydney and obtained a position with Qantas Airlines eventually becoming a flight crew member in 1963, on the Kangaroo Route (Sydney/London). This gave me the opportunity of visiting old friends and haunting record shops such as Dobells and others around Tottenham Court Road.
In 1968 I transferred to a ground job as Customer Service  Officer and one day saw none other than Carl Barriteau and Mae Cooper farewelling someone at Sydney Airport. Well, our friendship was renewed. Carl was working the New South Wales club circuit as a comedy and instrumental act and remained doing so until declining health forced retirement in 1980. He subsequently moved to the Gold Coast in Queensland and, when I retired in 1983, my wife and I did likewise and thus retained a friendship that began all those years ago in Edinburgh. Carl had quite a Scots accent and Mae Cooper, his wife, was from Glasgow. Carl died August 24, 1998".
"I have enjoyed this opportunity now of recalling old times and reminiscing about the characters who made up the dance band/popular music scene".
Les Johnston.  

February 2002

Maccaferri guitars and the Selmer Company
Maintaining contact with Lew Davis' family, in particular his grand-daughter Kate, I refered Kate to a couple of websites of interest.
I was researching about Maccaferri guitars for another page on Al Bowlly, and found various references to Ben and Lew Davis and the Selmer music company:

The story of Mario Maccaferri is told on this website: www.hotclub.co.uk/html/macaf.html
Quote: "In 1923 Mario Maccaferri left Mozzani and embarked on a European tour. During this period he advertised as the maker of all stringed instruments. In 1926 he settled in London as a teacher and made a comfortable living as such. While here he began to develop the early prototypes of the Maccaferri guitars. He took the first prototypes to Ben and Lew Davis who in turn put him onto Henri Selmer in Paris who was so impressed that they gave him the contract of setting up a factory in Mante le Ville to build what were to become the 'Maccaferri Guitars by Selmer of Paris'".
"Within a few years these guitars had become popular with dance bands and jazz groups across Europe. The most famous of these being Django Reinhardt and The Hot Club de France".
"In 1934 Maccaferri left Selmer and this is the period most famous for Selmer as they introduced the Modele Jazz which incorporated the distinctive small oval hole. Which was used by Django, though not exclusively, until his death. His brother Joseph played the earlier D hole, (grand bouche or big mouth), in the Quintet which is still considered today as the rhythm guitar".
The involvement of Ben and Lew Davis with Selmer is explained at this website: steverussell/gallery/gallery3/stor.html
Quote: "In the 1920's Ben Davis played saxophone in dance bands in the Britain, and finally formed his own. Being a man of considerable drive and ambition, Ben Davis could see further potential in the music business. Following a meeting with Henri Selmer in 1928, Ben established the Selmer Company in London, on the 1st floor of 126, Charing Cross Road. Ben's initiative was a success, and the first premises were soon outgrown by 1932, when the business was moved to 114-116, Charing Cross Rd. The company's greatest period of expansion was from 1934 to the start of World War Two in 1939. By the time of the outbreak of WWII, Selmer was the biggest company in the UK musical instrument industry".
"After the war, Ben's brother Lew Davis, who was himself a leading trombonist, joined the company, and in 1953 a further move away from the French company occured when Musical and Plastic Industries was formed as a public company; this being the new holding company for Selcol and Selmer. The gap between the two Selmer companies was widened in 1964, when the Davis brothers sold their majority shareholding to a Midlands financial group. A Mr. J.A.Cochrane was appointed Chairman & MD, hence taking over the control of the UK Selmer company from Ben and Lew. The Henri Selmer company in France, continued to specialise in wind instruments, which of course have gained an excellent reputation all over the World".

You can see photos of Al Bowlly and Len Fillis with Maccaferri guitars:

February 2002

Reginald Williams family
Phillip Williams wrote to me: "I am very interested in finding some recordings of my father Reginald Williams (The Futurists), as most of his collection was misplaced and or sold when he died in the late 80's, I have been living in Singapore for many years and as you will appreciate its impossible to find anything here ! I would be interested in anyone who has knowledge of recordings of my father's band.
I wrote back: "The 78's of your father's band are very rare now, very difficult to find, expensive when they ARE found. All have been re-issued on CD - two of them were re-issued by EMI in 1997, Talk To Me (vocal by Dinah Miller) and We Speak Of You Often (vocal Bill Richards), on EMI - CDMFP 6362 and also MFP CD7243 56905 25, and with Al Bowlly vocals Small Town and What Do You Know Aboit Love? were issued on Hits of '39 ASV CDAJA5086 (1992), not found the CD featuring Al Bowlly singing I'm Madly In Love With You.

January 2002

Billy Thorburn family
I was contacted by Bruce Stanford, grandson of Billy Thorburn, pianist who played at the Savoy Hotel and who later had his own band and "The Organ, the Dance band and Me". Bruce told me much about Billy including the fact that on June 15th 1925 George Gershwin was in Britain and played on a BBC Broadcast Rhapsody In Blue accompanied by Billy Thorburn. We wrote a short biography of Billy Thorburn which can be found on this website at the Billy Thorburn page

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