Monthly Archives: August 2018

1942 sees two ‘new’ singers on the scene

The war was now across the whole world but the music of the US in 1942 brought a top five tracks that would last long after the conflict had ended.  These were:

At number 5 was ‘A String of Pearls’ by Glenn Miller while, at number 4, Jimmy Dorsey was telling the story of ‘Tangerine’ with Vaughn Monroe’s version very close behind.

Glenn Miller was also at number 3 – this time with ‘Moonlight Cocktail’ – with Paul Whiteman ‘Traveling Light’ at number 2.

At number 1 was Alvino Rey – or Bing Crosby – or Horace Heidt – or the Merry Macs – but, which ever we chose, all will tell us the same story – the story that was ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’!

Meanwhile in Britain, without any question, the most popular vocalist of the time and place was Vera Lynn“the forces’ sweetheart”.  She sang just about every well-known wartime song in her concerts and in her travels to the troops.  I remember my Dad sending a message back to mum and me at home saying they had enjoyed ‘Vera Lynn singing and talking to everyone out in the desert one afternoon – but he could not say where it had happened’. I know he also had two or three more ‘shows’ from Ms Lynn – but he never did say where they were!

There was, however, more than one side to all of this – and that came to the fore in February 1942 when bandleader Tommy Dorsey said of an singer:  ‘He’s a great singer, but ya know, you can’t make it without a band.  Every singer has got to have a band behind him’. Tommy was talking about a twenty-six-year-old singer who was riding the crest of phenomenal popularity.  Wherever this singer appeared with Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra he would be greeted with screams, sighs, and fainting spells from a faithful contingent of over-stimulated female bobby-soxers greeting his every phrase, motion, and intonation with loud and rapturous delight.

Having spent the previous seven years paying his musical dues – a tour with a Major Bowes’ amateur unit; a stint as a singing waiter, a year as vocalist with the struggling Harry James orchestra – one Frank Sinatra now felt he was ready for a solo career, even if his boss Tommy Dorsey said he was ‘a damn fool’ for considering it!

Francis Albert Sinatra was born on 12th December 1915 – an American singer, actor, and producer who would become one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century.  He became one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide and would find success as a solo artist after he signed with Columbia Records in 1943, becoming the idol of the “bobby soxers” when he released his debut album, ‘The Voice of Frank Sinatra’ in 1946.

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Noel Coward and London Pride

Noel Coward wrote “London Pride” in the spring of 1941, during the Blitz. According to his own account, he was sitting on a seat on a platform in Paddington station, watching Londoners going about their business quite unfazed by the broken glass scattered around from the station’s roof damaged by the previous night’s bombing: in a moment of patriotic pride, he suddenly recalled an old English folk song which had been apparently appropriated by the Germans for their national anthem, and it occurred to him that he could reclaim the melody in a new song. The song started in his head there and then and was finished in a few days.

The song has six verses. The opening lines, repeated three times within the song, are:

London Pride has been handed down to us, London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us, and our pride it forever will be.

The flower mentioned is Saxifraga x urbium, a perennial garden flowering plant historically known as ‘London Pride’. The song was intended to raise Londoners’ spirits during the Blitz. It was also circulated after the July 2005 bombings.

Coward acknowledged one of the traditional cries of London – “Won’t You Buy My Sweet-Smelling Lavender” as the starting-point for the tune, but he also pointed out the similarity with “Deutschland uber alles”, which he claimed was based on the same tune. It contrasts with many of the major-key, grandiose melodies used to celebrate patriotism, including God Save the King and Land of Hope and Glory. Its orchestration also contrasts with those anthems, employing muted strings and a celeste, rather than a pipe organ and a choir.

The words above – the story above – are an introduction to today’s story line. In an hour or so time the full words for London Pride will appear for you – just as it would had done so many years ago!

Here are the lyrics for London Pride as promised a short time ago:

London Pride has been handed down to us.  London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us, and our pride it for ever will be.
Woa, Liza, see the coster barrows, vegetable marrows and the fruit piled high.
Woa, Liza, little London sparrows, Covent Garden Market where the costers cry.
Cockney feet mark the beat of history. Every street pins a memory down.
Nothing ever can quite replace The Grace of London Town.
INTERLUDE

There’s a little city flower every spring unfailing

  Growing in the Growing in the crevices by some London railing,
Though it has a Latin name, in town and country-side
We in England call it London Pride.
London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be.

Hey lady, when the day is dawning, see the policeman yawning on his lonely beat.
Gay lady, Mayfair in the morning, hear your footsteps echo in the empty street.
Early rain and the pavement’s glistening; all Park Lane in a shimmering gown.
Nothing ever could break or harm the charm of London Town.

INTERLUDE
In our city darkened now, street and square and crescent,
We can feel our living past in our shadowed present,
Ghosts beside our starlit Thames Who lived and loved and died
Keep throughout the ages London Pride.
London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be.

Grey city, Stubbornly implanted, Taken so for granted For a thousand years.
Stay, city, Smokily enchanted, Cradle of our memories and hopes and fears.
Every Blitz Your resistance Toughening, From the Ritz To the Anchor and Crown,
Nothing ever could override The pride of London Town.

Songwriters: Noel Coward / Noel Pierce Coward   London Pride lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Britain’s first known car fatality

It happened on Monday 17th August 1896 when Bridget Driscoll was knocked down by Arthur Edsell who was reportedly driving at 4mph.

The Morning Post’s report on Friday 21st tells us that Mr Percy Morrison held an inquest at Penge on the body of Bridget Driscoll, the 44 year old wife of a labourer of 137 Old Town, Croydon, who was fatally injured by a motor-car at the Crystal Palace on Monday 17th August.

May Driscoll, daughter of the deceased, said she had gone to the Palace with her mother and a friend named Elizabeth Murphy to see the Catholic fete connected with the League of the Cross taking place that day.  They were on the Terrace when she saw three motor cars approaching, the last one of which was coming at a very fast rate, and going from one side of the road to the other.  The ladies safely avoided the first two cars, but the third one, which was a good distance behind, swayed towards them. As soon as Miss Driscoll had run close to the rails she turned and saw the car passing over her mother.

At the subsequent inquest the Coroner [c] asked: Did the car knock the deceased down?’  The Witness [w] replied: ‘Yes’.

[c]: ‘Did the driver appear to be attending properly to his duty?’

[w]: ‘I don’t think he understood how to drive; he kept going from one side to the other, whereas the other two were going straight.’

[c]:’Did your mother do anything to warn the driver?’

[w]: ‘Yes, she put her umbrella up.’

[c]: ‘Was your mother quite sober?’

[w]: ‘Yes, and I am sure she did not fall down in front of the car.’

The jury returned a verdict of “accidental death” after an inquest enduring some six hours, and no prosecution was made.

Two war-time happenings in one day in May 1941

Last week we were talking abought war in Britain and great music in the USA.  This week we have a surprise when a man from Germany arrived in Scotland with no music but had tea and chatter with a local family.

It was on the night of Saturday 10th May 1941 that David McLean, a Scottish farmer, found a German Messerschmidt airplane ablaze in his field and a parachutist who identified himself as Captain Alfred Horn.  The pilot had left an airfield near Munich in a small Messerschmidt fighter-bomber a little before 6 p.m., flying up the Rhine and across the North Sea. He used all his considerable skill by navigating such a course alone, using only charts and maps, on a foggy dark night over largely unfamiliar terrain – and all the while avoiding being shot down by British air defenses!  By 10:30, he was over Scotland, out of fuel, and forced to bail out just 12 miles from his destination.  He was injured and lying in a field so David took him to the house and his mum was soon serving him a cup of tea by the cottage fireside.  For nearly an hour the ‘visitor’ chatted with McLean, his mum and various relatives that had learned about the crash.

But – their surprise guest was no ordinary Luftwaffe pilot.  He was, in fact, Rudolf Hess, a long time Hitler loyalist!  He had joined the Nazi party in 1920, stood with his friend Adolf Hitler at the Beer Hall Putsch, and served in Landsberg prison.  It was in there that he had taken dictation for much of Mein Kampf.  As deputy Fuhrer, Hess was positioned behind only Hermann Goering in the succession hierarchy of the Nazi regime that had Europe firmly under the heel of its jackboot.  His appearance on Scottish soil was a self-described mission of peace just weeks before Hitler would launch his ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union, was one of the war’s strangest incidents.  We’ll take this a little further another day.

While this was happening in Scotland the worst air raid on London during the Blitz was taking place.  Destruction was spread out all over the city, with German bombers targeting all bridges west of Tower Bridge, factories on the south side of the Thames, the warehouses at Stepney, and the railway line that ran north from Elephant and Castle.  Over 500 bombers flew to London on the night of 10 May, the full moon lighting their snaking path along the Thames. The pilots had 15 minutes to locate and bomb their targets once they reached London.  However the bombing lasted nearly seven hours, starting at 11pm on 10 May and continuing until the all-clear sounded at 5.50am the next morning. The British anti-aircraft batteries and RAF night-fighters managed to shoot down 33 planes, but despite their best efforts, 10th -11th May 1941 was one of the most destructive raids of the war.

Meanwhile – on that same night – David McLean, a Scottish farmer, found a German Messerschmitt airplane ablaze in his field and a parachutist who identified himself as Captain Alfred Horn.  The pilot had left an airfield near Munich in a small Messerschmitt fighter-bomber a little before 6 p.m., flying up the Rhine and across the North Sea. He used all his considerable skill by navigating such a course alone, using only charts and maps, on a foggy dark night over largely unfamiliar terrain – and all the while avoiding being shot down by British air defences!  By 10:30, he was over Scotland, out of fuel, and forced to bail out just 12 miles from his destination.  He was injured and lying in a field so David took him to the house and his mum was soon serving him a cup of tea by the cottage fireside.  For nearly an hour the ‘visitor’ chatted with McLean, his mum and various relatives that had learned about the crash.

But – their surprise guest was no ordinary Luftwaffe pilot.  He was, in fact, Rudolf Hess, a long time Hitler loyalist!  He had joined the Nazi party in 1920, stood with his friend Adolf Hitler at the Beer Hall Putsch, and served in Landsberg prison.  It was in there that he had taken dictation for much of Mein Kampf.  As deputy Fuhrer, Hess was positioned behind only Hermann Goering in the succession hierarchy of the Nazi regime that had Europe firmly under the heel of its jackboot.  His appearance on Scottish soil was a self-described mission of peace just weeks before Hitler would launch his ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union, was one of the war’s strangest incidents.

I’ll come back to this – and the responses – later

It was just ‘One of those days’.

We’ve all had one of these – for me Friday 14th August 1908 was one of them.  The information sources I found told me that this day was the days of ‘The first International Beauty Contest in Britain – it was held at the Pier Hippodrome at Folkestone in Kent.’   That was all that was said!  I dug deeper and found another source that said that ‘Felixstowe held the first international beauty contest on 14 August 1908. Entries were said to include six English girls, three French, one Irish, one Austrian and ‘a number of fisher girls from Boulogne’ – and nothing more!  I dug further and finally found ‘The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser’ and that told me that:

‘Folkestone Beauty Show: A crowded audience assembled at the Pier Pavilion on Friday evening in connection with the final of the International Ladies’ Beauty Show. Three visitors and three residents had been selected by the votes of the audience to compete against a selection of foreign beauties – representatives from Paris, Boulogne, Vienna and America. The English visitors all came from London. They were Miss Nellie Jarman from East Molesey; Miss Lever from Maida-vale and Miss Winnie Pickworth of Chelsea – who were adjudged first, second and third respectively at the preliminary adjudication. The former lady is an accomplished long-distance swimmer. The prizes were a grand cottage piano, a lady’s cycle and a gold watch. The Mayors of Folkstone, Hythe and Maidstone superintended the voting on Friday in which the audience took part. Whilst the counting process went on the ladies sat in full view of the audience.  Amidst a scene of great enthusiasm the Mayor announced the winners as follows:             

At 3rd place with 209 votes – Miss Winnie Osborn, Folkestone

At 2nd place  with 346 votes – Miss Asta Fleming of Vienna with 346 votes

At 1st place with 470 vote we have Miss Nellie Jarman, East Molesey

Each of the losers was presented with a souvenir medal. 

I must admit that I would have loved to watched this

11th August 1968 and British Rail makes 3 Special Offers

 A 315 mile, almost eleven hour journey marked the end of standard gauge steam-hauled passenger service on British Railways.  The timings sheet was headed with the statement – ‘Last steam hauled train on Britain Railways on standard track, Sunday 11th August 1968.’

A ‘Souvenir Platform Ticket’ was available – it tells us that: The last steam hauled train to operate on standard gauge track will run on Sunday, 11th August 1968.  The train will run from Liverpool 09.10 via Manchester to Carlisle calling at Manchester Victoria at 10.36 and 18.48 and will be hauled from Liverpool to Manchester by a class 5 locomotive.

Front & back of a souvenir platform ticket is available from The John Debens Collection.   Manchester Victoria souvenir platform ticket 2s 6d.  Not valid on Train. Not Transferable.

A railway ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ for one last day

The ‘Fifteen Guinea Special’ was the last main-line passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on British Rail.  It happened on Sunday 11th August 1968 – the day before the introduction of a steam ban. It was a special rail tour excursion train organised for the occasion to run from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back. It was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey plus two engines sharing the third, very demanding, last leg.

Why was it called the Fifteen Guinea Special you may ask!  It was called that because of the high cost of tickets for the rail tour. 15 guineas were £15 15 shilling in pre-decimal British currency – and was the equivalent to £250 in 2016! Guinea prices were normally only used for luxury items or professional fees, but ticket prices had been inflated due to the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled mainline train.  The end of steam-hauled trains on British Railways was a turning point in the history of rail travel in Britain.

The BR steam ban was to be introduced the day after the rail tour, on 12th August 1968 and t  This slight change was to enable ‘Oliver Cromwell’ to make one last positioning run back to Norwich and on to Diss for preservation. This was the last steam-hauled passenger train to be run by BR on its standard gauge network. Thereafter, all mainline trains in Britain would be hauled by either diesel or electric power.  However – the ban did not apply to one mainline steam locomotive – the Flying Scotsman – due to Alan Pegler having secured a clause in the purchase contract when she was purchased from BR in 1963. After this, the only opportunity to view mainline steam locos in operation after the ban was to be on privately owned heritage railways and all but one of the locomotives that hauled the train were immediately purchased straight from service and passed into preservation.

Have a look at today’s other posting and see a little more about this very special journey.

War in Britain – great music in the US

Last week we were looking at three very different individuals and their music in the early months of the war – Noël Coward; Michael Carr (real name Maurice Alfred Cohen) and Hughie Charles an English songwriter and producer of musical theatre.   So, during the same time, what music was coming out from the USA music?

Well, Bing Crosby was the leading figure of the crooner sound as well as its most iconic, defining artist. By the 1940s he was an entertainment superstar who mastered all of the major media formats of the day, movies, radio, and recorded music.  Not too far behind Bing we can find Cabell Calloway – an American jazz singer and bandleader who was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem in New York City, where he was a regular performer.

Another man and performer of the times was Eddie Cantor (born Edward Israel Itzkowitz in January 1892). He was an American illustrated song performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor, and songwriter.  Familiar to Broadway, radio, movie, and early television audiences, this “Apostle of Pep” was regarded almost as a family member by millions because his top-rated radio shows revealed intimate stories and amusing anecdotes about his wife Ida and five daughters. His eye-rolling song-and-dance routines eventually led to his nickname, “Banjo Eyes”.  His eyes became his trademark, often exaggerated in illustrations, and leading to his appearance on Broadway in the musical ‘Banjo Eyes’ in 1941.

I could carry on with regard to the USA and a possible war but the US ‘powers that be’ were watching what was happening there and across in Europe but not taking the next step.  That may well come next week but for this week we can look at the top 5 songs recorded via the limited chart positions by the USA watchers:

At number 5 in the ratings was Billie Holiday with ‘God Bless the Child’   

At number 4 was Jimmy Dorsey with ‘Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)’. Jimmy was also in place at 3 with ‘Green Eyes’

At number 2 we can find ‘A String of Pearls’ from Glenn Miller who was also in place at number 1 with ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.

Numbers two and one would be noted by, and listened to, by people all over the world and Glenn Miller would receive the praise – but who actually composed ‘String of Pearls and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’?  They were Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.

Harry Warren was an American composer and lyricist and was the first major American songwriter to write for his composing primarily for film. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song eleven times and won three Oscars for composing “Lullaby of Broadway”, “You’ll Never Know” and “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe”.  Over a career spanning four decades, Harry was one of America’s most prolific film composers with his songs have been featured in over 300 films.

Mack Gordon was a Jewish-American composer and lyricist of songs for stage and film and was nominated for the best original song Oscar nine times in eleven years, including five consecutive years between 1940 and 1944, and won the award once, for “You’ll Never Know”.

So – let’s finish this week’s story with the number one of 1941 – the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.

Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
Track twenty nine, boy you can gimme a shine
I can afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo
I’ve got my fare and just a trifle to spare
You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham ‘n’ eggs in Carolina
When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far
Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’
Woo, woo, Chattanooga, there you are
There’s gonna be a certain party at the station
Satin and lace, I used to call funny face
She’s gonna cry until I tell her that I’ll never roam