'Rhythm and Romance'

an oral history of popular music in York, England

this page first published by John Wright, 31 January 2004
last update 1 February 2012vintage@r2ok.co.uk

Mike Race, of the York Oral History Society, contacted me with information regarding a very interesting book and CD produced by the Society. For two years this group worked tirelessly on their project investigating the history of popular music in their locality during 1920-1970. The result was two books and volume one Rhythm And Romance is a very detailed study of the dance band activities in the York area. To accompany the book the society also propduced a very entertaining CD containing very rare recordings of dance bands, big bands and some very fine piano playing, as well as interviews with musicans and their fans, remembering those dance band days.

The book and CD are now available to the general public and I can strongly recommend these to anyone interested in popular music from the pre-rock'n'roll days.
In the book the researchers have uncovered a wealth of information and dozens of good quality photographs from the 1920-1950 era. There were several very fine dance bands operating in the York area and thankfully the surviving records can identify all the key musicians who played in the dance halls, hotels and clubs, entertaining the dancers.
The book really is an oral history for there are pages and pages of interviews with musicians explaining how they discovered jazz and dance music, how they obtained their first musical instrument, how the bands rehearsed and what music they played. The photographs are fascinating as these examples form the back cover show.

The CD accompanying the book Rhythm And Romance is a delightful collection of dance band records, piano solos and interviews. It is apparent that the dance bands operating in York were very competent.
The CD includes rare recordings made by J Prendergast and The "Rialtonians" who visited London in 1934 and made several records for the Octacross label. These are mythically rare. Even more rare are recordings by other bands which were not released commercially and we can hear Len Edwards Band, The Royal Crescent Hotel Band, Len Cundall & his Music and the Bert Keech Band. Into the big band era we hear very fine playing from the Modernaires and more recent recordings by the New Modernaires.
I am delighted to say that York was also blessed by some very fine pianists who can be heard on this CD, including Gordon Cottom Funny What Love Can Do and Bobby Hirst Tenderly.
I should point out that great efforts have been made to recover as much music as possible from the ancient shellac grooves, but listeners should be aware that often the recording techniques were low-tech and the records themselves were lucky to have survived at all. Most of the audio-restoration results are very good, and the rarest of the recordings though low in fidelity and suffering from 'noise' just have to be included for completeness.

The interviews reveal the thoughts and lives of musicians and dancers who really loved their music, I cannot recommend this CD and book enough. The whole project is a model for any local history society to follow. There must be many towns and cities in Britain where similar recordings and people still survive, waiting for the music and the memories to be preserved forever.

John Wright writes: In 2006 I was contacted by Chris Potter who stated that his father Jack Potter was the drummer with the Rialtonians in the 1930's. See the photos and images relating to Jack Potter at Researches 2006

You can obtain the York Society book and/or the CD from The York Oral History Society by contacting Mike Race or writing to York Oral History Society, c/o 15 Priory Street, York YO1 6ET, United Kingdom. The CD has 38 tracks (21 music, 17 speech) and costs 6.95, the book is A5 has 221 pages and costs 9.95. Postage is free.

Any enquiries about the project should be directed at the main co-ordinator Van Wilson. You can e-mail Van at van@vanalexinamay.freeserve.co.uk


Please e-mail John Wright if you have any information on other music societies who have produced or could produce similar books and CD's featuring their local bands and memories of the dance band days.


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