jabw_vintage report No. 8

Let me tell you about......

Lew Stone, 1898 - 1969 , British dance band leader and arranger

this page first published by John Wright, 22 Sept 1998
last update 22 December 2010vintage@r2ok.co.uk

The career of Lew Stone was much reported in the musical press of the 1930's and has been well documented since his death in 1969. Most recently a new biography of Lew Stone A Modest Maestro has been written by Tony Staveacre. You can obtain this book at : http://www.lewstone.co.uk

I have read most of the publications about Lew Stone and present just the most relevant facts here, with acknowledgements. There are links to pages where I have reproduced articles from contemporary press.

Born in London in 1898, Lew Stone learned music at an early age and became an accomplished pianist. In the 1920's he worked with many important dance bands. Some arrangements attributed(1) to Lew Stone can be heard on particular records by the Savoy Orpheans (1927) and Ray Starita and his Ambassador's Band (1928),

look out for:
HMV C-1310 Lido Lady Savoy Orpheans
Col 5228 Spread A Little Happiness Ray Starita

During 1927-1931 Lew Stone's arrangements for the Bert Ambrose Orch virtually made it the best in Europe. The HMV discs are today sought after as much for those arrangements as for the superb instrumentalists or vocals.

Look out for:
HMV B5464Singapore Sorrows
Without You Sweetheart
(both arr. Lew Stone)
HMV B5605Me And The Man In The Moon
If I Had You
(both arr. Lew Stone)

You can read more about Lew's contribution to Bert Ambrose Orch on this website.

Lew continued to work with other bands like Jack Hylton's and Jack Payne's BBC Dance Orchestra, and he also took several top musicians into the studio to make a few recordings that were issued on the Duophone label as 'Lewis Stone and his Orchestra'. Roy Fox's Band opened at the Monseigneur Restaurant in 1931 and Lew Stone took the up the position of pianist and arranger. When Roy Fox became ill in October he was sent off to Switzerland to rest and Lew assumed leadership of the band. The main vocalist at the Monseigneur was the very popular Al Bowlly who had already sang on over 30 recordings.
Lew began to use other band members for vocal refrain and this proved successful particularly when trumpeter Nat Gonella sang 'Oh! Mo'nah'. Sales of the record Decca F.2763 were huge and may have kept Decca in business.
When Roy Fox returned to London in April 1932 he found that his band was the most popular in the city. A contemporary article in the Gramophone magazine describes events(2).
In 1932 Lew also worked with a studio band and several recordings were issued on the flexible Durium Records featuring vocals by Al Bowlly, Sam Browne and Les Allen. Some of the arrangements on Durium were by Stan Bowsher(1).

In October 1932, when Roy Fox's contract at the Monseigneur ended, Lew Stone was offered the post of bandleader and this story filled the pages of the music press. An article from Rhythm magazine describes how this happened(2).
The Tuesday night broadcasts from the Monseigneur established Lew Stone's band as a great favourite with the listening public, who recognised the sheer quality of the music, and the royal clientele attracted an unsurpassed reputation. Rave reviews were common in the music press, for example Melody Maker(3).
The popularity of vocalist Al Bowlly increased, he was a regular on broadcasts, his name was credited on many of the Decca records and he toured with the band including an appearance in front of royalty at the London Palladium.

Look out for:
Decca F.3313Junk Man Blues, vocal Al Bowlly
My Woman, vocal Al Bowlly
Decca F.3502Someone To Care For, vocal Al Bowlly
Won't You Stay To Tea? vocal Al Bowlly

Listen to the introduction of Lew's arrangement of My Woman from 1932, and then listen to part of Al Bowlly's vocal in the same recording.

There is a very good Cartoon of Lew Stone's Band with Al Bowlly is at the microphone and the other musicians from the band of 1933 are(1): Nat Gonella and Alfie Noakes (trumpets), Lew Davis and Joe Ferrie (trombones), Joe Crossman, Jim Easton, Ernest Ritte, Harry Berly (reeds), Eddie Carroll (piano), Harry Sherman (guitar), Tiny Winters (string bass), Bill Harty (drums). Some arrangements were by Phil Cardew, Stan Bowsher, Con Lamprecht.
In 1933 Lew Stone's Monseigneur Band were involved in an interesting competition designed to test the popularity of in Britain of British vs US dance bands. It was run by the 'News Chronicle' newspaper and was based on the sales of specially recorded dance tunes by Lew's band, Jack Hylton's, Guy Lombardo's and Wayne King's. The songs were What More can I Ask? and Can't We Meet Again? Read about the competition and the result in 'News Chronicle' .
From late 1931 until 1934 Lew Stone was also musical director for British and Dominion Films, working mostly from Elstree Studios, and later worked with other film companies. About 40 pre-1947 films which involved Lew Stone with his band or as Musical Director are included in the listings of British musical films on this website. British Dance Bands on Film, British Entertainers on Film, British Musical Directors.
In Nov 1933 Lew Stone transferred his band to the Cafe Anglais and in Feb 1934 started a very successful tour under the Mecca Agency. The band returned to the Monseigneur in Mar 1934 until the Summer when the Monseigneur was sold to become a cinema. Then in Sep 1934 Al Bowlly and Bill Harty left to join Ray Noble in USA.

For about a year from Nov 1934 Lew Stone moved to the Regal Zonophone record label, continued with theatre tours, and the band resided for a time at the Hollywood Restaurant. Alan Kane became the main vocalist while there were also vocal contributions from Nat Gonella, Joe Ferrie, Tiny Winters and Joe Crossman. When Nat Gonella left to concentrate on his own Georgians band in March 1935, trumpeter Tommy McQuater joined Lew's band. On Oct 12 Lew Stone featured Sam Browne as vocalist for the first time with Cheek To Cheek and Isn't This A Lovely Day? In November Lew Stone and his band returned to the Decca record label.
In 1936 Lew stopped touring and formed a smaller band which opened on 30th March at the Cafe Ce Paris. The band also began to broadcast regularly for commercial radio stations Normandy and Luxembourg. In October Lew Stone became musical director for the show "On Your Toes" (opened Feb 1937). The band continued at the Cafe de Paris until 31st July 1937. In September Lew became musical director of the show "Hide are Seek" starring Cicely Courtneidge and Bobby Howes.

Al Bowlly returned to England at the end of 1937 and in Feb 1938 he began recording with Lew Stone again. Recordings with Al Bowlly in 1938 rank as good as those made during the earlier years. Lew Stone's band played music of all kinds, for all tastes, and for all the dance tempos, but today it is particularly their playing of the sentimental ballads that is recognised and in demand for re-issue on CD, especially the titles featuring Al Bowlly. In his own arrangements Lew Stone was particularly careful to match Al's voice with appropriate ensemble phrasing and short instrumental solos resulting in very pleasant recordings which make much more satisfying listening than many other bands' recordings of the standard tunes.
Look out for:
Decca F.3783Close Your Eyes
Decca F.5017Riptide
Decca F.6641Moonlight On The Highway
Decca F.6745You Couldn't be Cuter

Lew Stone was not afraid to work with modern music and was also an innovator. His recordings of the Gene Gifford/Casa Loma titles are not mere copies but careful interpretations which make full use of the superb musicians in his band. The skills of Lew Davis, Joe Crossman and Nat Gonella are particulary evident on several of Lew's earlier jazz titles, some of which were issued in USA.

Look out for:
Lazy RhythmDecca F.3644656
Blue Jazz
White Jazz
Decca F.3782487
NagasakiDecca F.3821496
Tiger Rag
Canadian Capers
Decca F.3839510
Milenberg Joys
The Call Of The Freaks
Decca F.3953
Garden Of Weed
That's A Plenty
Decca F.5271361

In June 1938 the band were the first name band to play at Butlins Holiday Camps and in September they were back at The Cafe de Paris and broadcasting regularly from there.
In October Lew Stone became musical director for the Jack Hulbert show "Under Your Hat" which continued into 1939 and featured the Rhythm Brothers (Clive Erard, Jack Trafford, Frank Trafford). His band played at the El Morocco Club, London.
In June 1940 Lew Stone opened at the Dorchester hotel with a seven piece band which he led on the novachord. This band was much praised for its original style. Later Lew also made several records with his jazz group the Stonecrackers which featured Britain's finest soloists. Broadcasting and recording with his large band continued and he toured the country during the rest of the war years. After the war his band resided at various places including The Embassy Club, The Pigalle Restaurant and Oddenino's Restaurant up to 1955. Lew continued to work round the ballrooms and was broadcasting programmes for Music While You Work in the 1960s but latterly was concentrating on his new entertainments agency. At the time of his death in 1969 Lew's music from the 1930's was just beginning to gather a whole new following. (4)

For Australia/NZ visitors I have a listing of Lew Stone records kindly sent to me by writer/collector Ross Laird, Australian 78rpm Issues.


(1) British Dance bands on Record 1911-1945, Brian Rust & Sandy Forbes, 1989
(2) Lew Stone:a career in music, compiled by Kenith Trodd, 1971, published by Mrs Joyce Stone. also source for illustrations from Radio Times, Melody Maker, News Chronicle
(3) The Dance Band Era, Albert McCarthy, 1971
(4) A Modest Maestro, Tony Staveacre, 2010 You can obtain this book at : http://www.lewstone.co.uk

Full details of these books can be found at 78rpm Books page or Other Books page

You can join the very active discussion group and talk about Lew Stone and other dance bands and jazz bands of the 1920s-1950s:

The Facebook group: Golden Age of British Dance Bands

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