jabw_vintage/report no. 39

Let us tell you about......

Doreen Henry

this page first published 12 September 2008
last updated 12 September 2013vintage@r2ok.co.uk

Doreen Henry b. 9 Jan 1906 - d. 19 June 1990

When Doreen Henry died in Leeds in 1990 the British press lamented widely in the arts columns and broadsheets, pointing out that the British never knew what a jazz celebrity they had had in their midst.

It would seem that Doreen never established a career in Britain as a young girl in the 1920s because she was not attracted by the bright lights of London and stayed in her home town of Leeds, yet when her elder sister Vera moved to the USA in 1924 Doreen followed two years later.

According to the American press of the time Doreen was quickly noticed in New York and was soon heard singing, and accompanying herself on piano, on the city's WCPH Broadway radio station. The press also reports that she was in the cast of the 1929 musical Girl Crazy when the pit orchestra included Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller.

Doreen also appeared in Radio Scandals on radio WMCA and the press compared her to Helen Morgan.

Doreen returned to Britain in 1939 where she soon met Richard Auty, former English national Rugby player, now a wool merchant. She may have thought to give up music at this time but she continued singing in Leeds and was soon noticed.

During WWII Doreen worked with the BBC's Armed Forces programmes and the American Forces network The Duffle Bag Show.

After the war she appeared regularly on BBC radio programmes, still living in Leeds she would commute 200 miles to London for each broadcast, and making records with the likes of George Chisholm, Billy Munn, George Shearing and Stephane Grappelli. Sugar and Out Of Nowhere with Grappelli (Decca F-8582) are often regarded as Doreen's finest records.

Listen to Doreen singing Sugar with Stephane Grappelli (violin), George Shearing (piano), George Elliott (guitar), Peter Akister (bass) and Jack Parnell (drums).


Doreen also did dates at London night clubs including Hatchett's, The Colony and the Blue Angel (with Frank weir's band). Doreen also broadcast in 1947 on the BBC programme The Music Society of Lower Basin Street accompanied by Phil Green and his Basin Street Band and his Rhythm On Reeds Orchestra, songs incuded It Had To Be You and Love's Lullaby.

Doreen and her husband often travelled to USA to see her sister Vera and it was at this time that she met jazz trombonist/singer Jack Teagarden and she sang with his band at New York's Famous Door club when the band included Bobby Hackett, trumpet.

The photo on the left r. to l. Doreen, Jack Teagarden, and friends.

In the photo on the left are: Doreen Henry (seated right), with (from left) Irv Manning, Charlie Queener, Miff Mole, Joe Grauso, Muggsy Spanier and Ernie Caceres.
Returning to Britain, Doreen was featured on BBC Jazz Club sessions, directed by Mark White, often with Billy Munn on piano but also with the bands of Kenny Ball and Freddy Randall.

In the late 1940s Richard Auty founded his own record company, Harmony Records. Starting in 1949 early artistes recording on the label included Frankie Howerd (A1001) and Billy Ternent's Orchestra(A1003-A1006), and also American trumpeter Jimmy McPartland and his wife to be pianist Marian Page (A1002, A1007).

Doreen made some records including St Louis Blues/Can't We Be Friends with Billy Munn and his Jazzclubmen (1008) and two titles with Ralph Sharon and his Boptet, How High The Moon and Euphoria when the band included Johnny Dankworth and Ronnie Scott.

Listen to Doreen coming straight in with the vocal in Can't We Be Friends? with Billy Munn and his Jazzclubmen.

Can't We Be Friends?

Doreen's brother, Tom Henry, was also a singer and they made some records together, and he also recorded with Billy Ternent in 1949.

Doreen ceased perfoming professionally sometime in the early 1950s.

Doreen died in St jemma's Hospice, on June 9th 1990.


Jazz Joural Vol.44 No.8 Aug. 1991
The Annual Obituary (1990) Editor Deborah Andrews, St James Press Chicago, London

You can join the very active discussion group and talk about Doreen Henry and other artistes who performed with dance bands and jazz bands of the 1920s-1950s:

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