jabw_vintage/report no. 40

Let us tell you about......

Ronnie Genarder

this page first published 11 March 2012
last updated 18 September 2019vintage@r2ok.co.uk

Ronnie Genarder b. 23 February 1911 - d. 25 January 1973. British dance band singer and entertainer.

"When Ronnie Genarder died in 1973 he was a grievous loss to his multitude of friends in the music business" so wrote music journalist the late Chris Hayes, who published a short biography of Ronnie in the Memory Lane magazine No 127 (Summer 2000). Chris went on to say "Everyone loved Ron, because he was so gentle, modest and affectionate, with a touch of wistful charm, making him a most treasured companion. To complete the picture of personal appeal was the captivating accent of his native Clydebank, which occasionally showed through in his vocal recordings for Roy Fox and Jack Payne".

John Wright: I am indebted to the late Chris Hayes as I have quoted extensively from his Memory Lane article. For this tribute to Ronnie Genarder I am also grateful to nephew of Ronnie Genarder, John Reginald Welch and his sister Helen who provided photographs and additional information.

Ronnie Gernarder

Born John Ronald Gardner in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, Ronnie was the son of a driver working for the local council. After his schooling at Clydebank High School, Ronnie worked as a machinist in the local Singer sewing machine factory, but then having been a useful footballer at school, he applied for a trial with Clydebank, in the Scottish Second Division, and succesfully signed as a professional. Ronnie's football career abruptly ended with a broken leg and medical advice that he should never play again, but as Chris Hayes relates: "Ronnie did prove the doctors wrong by turning out for Jack Payne's XI in many charity football games!"

As a teenager Ronnie taught himself to play the banjo and guitar as a hobby, and could play them very competently and he could play as he sang. Chris Hayes quoted Emile Grimshaw, an all-time great plectrist and teacher, who described Ronnie glowingly as "a marvellous rhythm guitarist".

Ronnie with guitar, banjo and megaphone.

Ronnie worked as a semi-pro musician around Clydebank with local outfits, including the 'Max St Clair and his di barry Orchestra', and appeared as a soloist at hotels and clubs, including the Radnor Park Bowling Club. His popularity led to a resident job leading his own small band at the Beach Pavilion, in Aberdeen, and then at the tender age of 20, in December 1931 Ronnie travelled to London to seek his fortune. One day, on Archer Street, the pavement employment exchange for musicians in those days, just behind Piccadilly Circus, Ronnie met Bert Collier, the lead trumpet with the Joe Loss band, who told him that that Joe Loss was looking for a singer to join his band at the Kit-Cat Club.

Joe Loss

Joe Loss band, 1932
Ronnie Genarder, guitarist/singer with Joe Loss

Roy Fox

Ronnie got the job with Joe Loss. He still went by the name of John Gardner and Joe thought this name was not really suitable and told him to use his middle name, Ronald, and gave a colourful twist to his surname, so he became Ronnie Genarder. During this time, Joe Loss had not yet made any recordings. In January 1933, the Roy Fox band moved from the Cafe Anglais to the Kit-Cat to play opposite Joe Loss. Roy soon persuaded Ronnie to switch bands, supplementing Roy's regular vocalists Jack Plant, Peggy Dell and the Cubs group, which surely did not please Joe Loss.

Ronnie stayed with the Roy Fox band for about 9 months (during which Ivor Mairants was the main guitarist) and Ronnie sang on just 7 recordings.

Roy Fox band, 1933
In this photo are two guitarists.

Ivor Mairants left, Jack Plant right.

Ronnie Genarder is sitting behind Ivor Mairants.

Here's a list of Ronnie Genarder's recordings with Roy Fox:

Feb 1933Young And HealthyDecca F3497
Mar 1933My Love SongDecca F3505
Apr 1933Castles In The SandDecca F3550
May 1933Something Came And Got Me In The SpringDecca F3571
Jun 1933Somebody Stole My GalDecca F3618
Aug 1933There's A Cabin In The PinesDecca F3632
Oct 1933Dinner At EightDecca F3685
- and Jack Plant hums!

In October 1933 Ronnie was offered the opportunity to join the immensely popular Jack Payne band on tour. After the tour Ronnie made his first recording for Jack Payne, Dinner At Eight on Imperial 2919. Into 1934 and Jack band's recordings were being issued on the Rex label, usually about 6 recordings every month. Jack's usual vocalist was Billy Scott-Coomber who sang on about half the records. Jack Payne was still singing himself on some records, and the other vocalists were Ronnie Genarder and Ralph Silvester.

Jack Payne Band
Two singers/guitarists

Ronnie Genarder left, Billy Scott-Coomber right

Here's a list of Ronnie Genarder's recordings with Jack Payne:

Oct 1933Dinner At EightImperial 2919
Nov 1933ThanksImperial 2917
Nov 1933I've Got To Sing A Torch SongImperial 2934
Feb 1934We'll Make Hay While The Son ShinesRex 8164
Mar 1934In Other Words We're ThroughRex 8149
Apr 1934TrueRex 8166
Apr 1934Over My ShoulderRex 8227
May 1934A Place In Your HeartRex 8204
Sep 1934Isle Of CapriRex 8288
Dec 1934Don't You Cry When We Say GoodbyeRex 8350
Feb 1935Old Bohemian TownRex 8421
Feb 1935Maybe I'm Wrong AgainRex 8437
Mar 1935It's Easy To RememberRex 8452
Apr 1935Let me Sing You To Sleep With A Love SongRex 8496
Jul 1935One-Way StreetRex 8638
Sep 1935Lulu's Back In TownRex 8622
trio with Jack Payne and Bob Easson:
Nov 1935You Can't Do That There 'EreRex 8657
Nov 1935Car Of DreamsRex 8658
Jan 1936Lights OutRex 8693
Mar 1936AloneRex 8751
Aug 1936There Isn't Any Limit To My LoveRex 8876
Aug 1936FreeRex 8857
(a take with Jack Payne vocal was also issued
Oct 1936Organ Grinder's SwingRex 8900
Nov 1936A Rendezvous With A DreamRex 8932

Ronnie Genarder and the Grimshaw 'Revelation' guitar

Thank you to Eric Sandiford for the Grimshaw ads.

You can learn more about Grimshaw guitars at


and Emile Grimshaw


The Jack Payne Football XI

I believe Ronnie travelled with Jack Payne's band on tour in South Africa in the spring of 1936. From Aug-Nov 1936, in recording sessions, Ron is listed as Jack Payne's guitarist. Ronnie played a Vega gold-plated Vegavox banjo and an Epiphone Triumph six-string acoustic guitar. The Jack Payne band made no records for the next three years.


Listen to Ronnie singing with Jack Payne's orchestra.

Over My Shoulder

Lights Out

A Rendezvous With A Dream

Jack Payne band in 1938

Edith (Billie)

Chris Hayes wrote: "Before she married Ronnie, Billie (Edith) Welch had been a buyer at the big department store, Derry and Toms, in Oxford Street, London. They had met when Ron was singing for Roy Fox at the Kit-Cat. The culmination of their romance came in November 1938, which was a memorable week for both of them, because Ronnie appeared with Jack Payne and his band in the Royal Command Performance at the London Coliseum on Wednesday (9th) and they were married at Marylebone Town Hall on Saturday (12th)!

In an interview with Ronnie's widow in 1992, Chris Hayes relates: "She laughingly told me once how Ron appeared in a film with Jack Payne when all the boys dressed as pirates. She cannot remember the title of it, but does recall that Billy Scott-Coomber insisted on having a star role (as she says he always did!) and chose Long John Silver, which necessitated having one leg strapped up so that he hobbled along on the other leg with the aid of a stick. Everyone roared with laughter when he found he couldn't walk at all!

John Wright adds: "I've not seen it but I believe the film that Billie remembered was Sunshine Ahead (1936). I have a reference which says one the songs All Jolly Pirates was performed by Jack Payne's band!

Jack Payne band, at the 1938 Royal Command Performance

Ronnie left Jack Payne's band and went on a solo tour which lasted, on and off, until outbreak of war in September 1939, with an assortment of short-term jobs between, including bands led by dancer Jack Emerald, playing in variety, and Jack Hart, for a summer season in 1939 at the Strand Palais, Douglas, Isle of Man.

Ronnie appeared in a few films, including Stewart Granger's movie, Caravan, in which he played the guitar for a female gypsy dancer.

Ronnie was rejected for military service but was given employment at an aircraft factory at Cricklewood, in north west London, where he became an inspector and the entertainments manager. He remained there throughout hostilities, putting on shows appearing himself and recruiting star guests. He also managed to get in some broadcasts with trumpet-leader Teddy Foster, who had been with him for a time in Jack Payne's band. When released from the factory after peace had been declared, Ronnie had to choose between two attractive offers from former Jack Payne colleagues: violinist Cyril Stapleton and sax-clarinettist Sid Millward.

The late Chris Hayes wrote in 2000: "Cyril was forming an all star band to play at Fischer's Restaurant, in the West End of London, and Sid was already making a big success with a crazy musical act called the Nitwits, which he had formed while still serving in the army, broadcasting in a riotous radio show titled 'Ignorance Is Bliss'. Sid was a brilliant reedist, but had turned himself into a character of ridicule as a fumbling professor complete with a mass of hair and bush moustache, who tried desperately to control a bunch of lunatic musicians. Sid held his clarinet but seldom played it because of the interminable interruptions caused by the band!"

Chris Hayes relates the story of the Nitwits: "It was a difficult choice for Ronnie to make, especially as it meant becoming a figure of fun if he joined the Nitwits, but he had a soft spot for Sid and thought that comedy would be a change from singing, although it condemned him to become a scruffy unshaven kilted laird whose only song, Temptation, was almost blotted out by the antics of the band behind him! But it was all part of the act and he accepted it was good humour, even if I didn't! I felt he was utterly wasted and it seemed an awful shame. But as it turned out, it kept him in work incessantly for 24 years. Ronnie did leave the Nitwits for a few weeks to join an American act featuring three singers, but he was soon back, realising his mistake. When Sid's partner, Wally Stewart, a clever eccentric dancer and zany comic, suddenly collapsed and died, Ronnie became right-hand-man and often fronted the Nitwits when Sid had to rest during times of illness.

The Nitwits

Chris Hayes wrote: 'Ignorance Is Bliss' brought many lucrative offers for the Nitwits, and after a countryside bill-topping tour all over Europe they began alternating between the Lido, in Paris, and the Stardust, in Las Vegas, starting in 1959 and continuing without a break for 10 years, a year at a time in Paris and 18 months in Vegas. While playing in Vegas they frequently flew to Hollywood to appear in a radio show, leaving after their two shows at the Stardust on Friday and getting back there for three shows on Saturday! It was a hectic life in the glittering city of carnival and casinos, and his wife Billie usually went with him, as she had done when he toured with Jack Payne, so she became a familiar figure among musicians, a plump, jolly lady, popular with everyone.

The Lido, Paris

The Nitwits

Chris Hayes wrote: "During an appearance with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in the all-star show Hollywood Palace, when Bing sang Temptation, he joked that he had been offered a job with the Nitwits! The transatlantic triumphs of the band came to an end in 1969, when they were no longer booked into Paris and Vegas due to the changing scene in show business, with the advent of pop music. So they had to seek other venues and it proved extremely difficult with theatres, club and restaurants closing down or seeking a different kind of attraction. They kept going for a time playing at isolated places, but didn't work for a whole year, until an offer came for appearances in Miami and Puerto Rico in 1971. Sid rallied some of his original musicians, including Ronnie, and off they went on what proved to be their final fling, for while playing in the steaming heat of Puerto Rico, Sid had a fatal heart attack at his hotel. Due to some local difficulties, Sid's body had to be put into a communal grave out there.

"Ronnie took over leadership of the Nitwits to play out their engagement in Puerto Rico, which he and the others believed was for three weeks, but it transpired that unbeknown to them all, Sid had booked the act out there for a year. After consultations with the management, they stayed for six months, giving what turned out to be their farewell performances. When Ronnie got back to England he started a long battle with cancer, and died in January 1973.

Sid Millward

Listen to Chris Hayes speaking on BBC Radio Oxford, interviewed in 1973 by one of Jack Payne's singers - Billy Scott-Coomber!Chris Hayes interview


Chris Hayes remembers... Ronnie Genarder. Short biography published in Memory Lane edition no 127, Summer 2000.

Photographs and additional information provided by nephew of Ronnie Genarder, John Reginald Welch and his sister Helen.

John Welch and Mark Watson (BBC Radio Oxford) for the Chris Hayes audio clip and identifying Billy Scott-Coomber

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