A Snap-Shot View
Jack Hylton (1892-1965)
The name he acquired at birth - in Bolton, Lancashire, on July 2nd., 1892 - happened to be Jackson Greenhalgh Hylton. He came from a family of mill-workers and, after leaving school, took up employment in the mill where his father worked. But with a view of "rising above this station in life" he drifted into the entertainment world - becoming "The Singing Mill Boy" at the age of seventeen. He then obtained a job as the conductor of the orchestra belonging to a touring pantomime. After this, he decided to settle down and took a job as a pianist in the London "440 Club".
The start of the First World War led him to join the"20th Hussars Regiment at the age of 22; and from this - and because of his show-business experience - he became the director of the Army Entertainment Division.
After the war and working as a pianist with various orchestras, his real break into the dance-band business came when records of the then famous American band-leader, Paul Whiteman, arrived in the UK. Jack Hylton happened to be the only musician who could successfully transcribe the new musical arrangements of jazzy dance music for other bands to use. The expanding Record Company - HMV - wanted to capitalise on this increasingly popular music; so, on the 28th of May of1921, Jack Hylton became the head of a seven-piece band which recorded some of his jazz transcriptions and the record label carried the title: "Jack Hylton's Jazz Band". The music produced is - in my opinion - some of the best in early jazz music - and, when I get round to it, I'll offer a sample of a mid 1920 version on this page (if I can "tone down" the scratches of the particular records I have).
However, after this recording success, Jack Hylton never "looked back" and his band - rearranged and expanded from the original seven-piece to a fourteen-piece orchestra - became one of the top British Bands in the 1930s, with every performance introduced by his signature tune: "Oh Listen To The Band".
His last major involvement in show-business concerned a production of "Camelot" at London's Dury Lane Theatre, in 1964. However, he did not live to see the end of its "run". He died in the London Clinic on the 29th January, 1965, in the midst of the show's highly successful stagings. It seems his life was one long "musical run" - and I give thanks he was able to be that way and record his music; so that we can all: "Listen To The Band".
Popular vocalists singing with his band, from time to time, were: Denny Dennis; Primrose Orrick; Jack Plant; Sam Costa; Peggy Dell; Eve Becke and Jack Hylton's wife: Ennis Parkes - who formed her own band under the name "Mrs. Jack Hylton and Her Band" (No doubt the use of "Mrs" coupled with her husband's name - to give title to her band - would certainly not be "in tune" with our present time).
Bert Ambrose (1897-1971)
It seems Bert Ambrose's life depicts a real "rags to riches" story. Born in a situation of deep poverty in London's East End, the son of a "rag-and-bone" merchant, he became a well-to-do "top of the pops" band-leader of a twenty-piece orchestra in the 1930s - playing music at the "best" hotels. However, and in the beginning, his father (mindful of their Jewish origin) arranged for young Albert to learn the violin; so that his son would always have a skill he could take with him and use anywhere in the world if "hostilities against the Jews" arose in the place he happened to be - and his son became "compelled" to "move on".
After acquiring this skill - and whilst still in his teens - young Ambrose went to New York and got a job as "sixth fiddle" at the Palais Royal on Broadway. Then, and less than six months later, he got the job of conducting the band.
He returned to London in 1920, and his "elegant appearance" plus his musical experience allowed him to opened at the Embassy Club in New Bond Street. He then transferred to the more prestigious Mayfair Hotel, in 1927, where he introduced his signature tune "When Day Is Done", sung by the band's vocalist, Sam Browne. His band acquired the reputation of being able to create a "magical atmosphere" in every dance-hall in which they played; this due to - it is claimed - Ambrose's "immaculate musicianship and sense of rhythm"
During the 1939-45 war air-raids on London, he stayed at his "base" - the Mayfair Hotel - from which he made many recordings and radio broadcasts to "cheer up" the war-time population
However, after the war, changing tastes and the rising expense of maintaining large groups of highly skilled musicians necessary for such bands made them no longer a viable media of entertainment. The "Groups" coming upon the scene with the "lesser expense" of just guitars and drums had more commercial attraction.
Although Ambrose had, right up to the 1950s, some "successes" with the old style, it seems the "days were done" for the dance-bands of the pre-war era.
Ambrose died in 1971, but his music still goes on - as you've just heard.
Popular vocalists singing with his band, from time to time, were: Sam Browne; Elsie Carlisle; Jack Cooper; Evelyn Dall and Vera Lynn.
Henry Robert Hall came into the world in the month of May, 1898, in the district of Peckham, London. Both his parents were members of the Salvation Army and young Henry obtained his first musical experiences by joining the "Sally Army Band" (as it was popularly known) in which he learnt to play the concertina and the cornet. The founder of the "Army" - William Booth - insisted, at the time of its formation, that any tunes composed and played must be cheerful. Following this "guideline" young Henry composed a tune called "The Sunshine March" which eventually formed the basis for his signature tune "Here's To The Next Time" - which - if you ever happen to hear - you'd soon detect its "marching beat".
The 1914-18 war "demanded" he volunteered for the real(?) Army and, because of his musical skills, he finished up in a Military Band, which gave him further experience in "beat music". The end of the war saw him playing as a pianist to accompany silent films shown in a cinema at Notting Hill Gate, London. However, greater opportunities were to follow. He got a job as a "relief pianist" at Manchester's Midland Hotel and - because of his debonair appearance and musical virtuosity - he soon attracted the attention of the managing director for that group of hotels. From this, he became the leader of the orchestra playing at the newly constructed Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire.
Even greater things were to follow when he persuaded the BBC to broadcast the opening night of the hotel in the June of 1924, over the newly emerging media of the "wireless". He maintained an ongoing connection with the BBC who eventually invited him to take over the leadership of the BBC Dance Orchestra, in 1932 where he remained in that role until 1937 - making his introductory words to each nightly broadcast: "This is Henry Hall speaking; and tonight is my Guest Night" famous.
He continued in the entertainment business throughout the 1939-45 war and retired in 1964. He died at Eastbourne, Sussex, in the October of 1989, aged 91.
However, his music has never died and it still goes marching on.
Popular vocalists singing with his band, from time to time, were: Val Rosing; Les Allan; Dan Donovan; Bob Mallin and - sometimes - Flanagan and Allan.
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