Category Archives: 1920s

Aubrey Boomer and a Ryder Cup story

Many of us have just watched the Ryder Cup but I wonder how many have read the story of the early days and one Aubrey Basil Boomer who was born on 1st November 1897 and passed-away on 2nd October 1989.

Aubrey had become interested in golf when he watched the sis-rimes Open Champion Harry Vardon playing in Jersey during the First World War.  After the war Aubrey developed his golfing career in France.  Why France?  He felt that in England golf professionals were employed by clubs as low-paid servants while across the Channel they were regarded as social equals of the members they served, by virtue of their skill at the game.  Aubrey became the favorite professional of the rich who visited Paris.  One of these was Sir Philip Sassoon who rewarded him by having suits made up for him at Saville Row!  This ‘status’ appears to have upset the petty-minded officialdom that then ran the British professional game so much that, when Aubrey was chosen for the 1927 Ryder Cup match against America in America he was recorded as a Frenchman and was required to wear a beret!

The sea crossing took nearly a week; many of the team were seasick, and practice was poor to non-existent for those that could cope with conditions because they found that they had to practice their swings in time with the roll of the boat!

This was the first of two Ryder Cup matches – the 1st Ryder Cup Match was held at the Worcester County Club in Worcester in Massachusetts. That very first competition was dominated by the United States who won by the then landslide score of 9½–2½ points with the USA Captain Walter Hagen becoming the first winning captain to lift the Ryder Cup.  Ted Ray was the first captain to represent the Great Britain team.

Aubrey was a profession golfer who played in the early 20th century. He had three top-10 finishes in the Open Championship and was a frequent competitor in the French Open which he won five times – in 1921, 1922, 1926 and 1929. In the 1921 French Open he won in a playoff against Arnaud Massy – his former golf teacher!  Massy had been 3 shots up after 9 holes but picked up his ball on the 34th hole when he was 8 shots behind!  In his 1929 victory he beat the St Cloud course record with a score of 61.

In the 1924 Open Championship held in June at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake Walter Hagan won the second of his four Open Championships, one stroke ahead of runner-up Ernest Whitcome.  Aubrey Boomer finished tied for sixth place in the event.

In the 1927 championship was held in July at the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland.  Amateur Bobby Jones successfully defended the title with a six-stroke victory, the second of his three victories at the Open Championship. Aubrey Boomer and Fred Robson tied for second place – once again six shots back from the winner!

Aubrey suffered a stroke in Cannes and died later in Brussels on 2nd October 1989.

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Roy Fox – an American-born British dance band leader.

Roy Fox, an American-born British dance band leader, was born in Denver, Colorado on 25th October 25 1901.  His period of greatest popularity was in England during the British dance band era of the 1930s.

Roy and his musician sister Vera were raised in Hollywood in a Salvation Army family. Roy had begun playing a cornet when he was 11 years old, and by age 13 was performing in the Los Angeles Examiner’s newsboy’s band. Soon after he was playing bugle for a studio owned by Cecil B. DeMille!

His first major association came at the age of 16 when he joined Abe Lyman’s orchestra at the Sunset Inn in Santa Monica. There he played alongside many of the established artists and developed a soft style of playing which earned him the nickname, “The Whispering Cornetist”. In 1920 he put together his own band and, in 1925, scored a gig on radio broadcasting with Art Hickman’s orchestra.  After some time in New York City, Roy and Abe reconvened in Hollywood, working at the Ambassador Hotel, and Fox continued to broadcast with his own bands. During this time he also did a number of film soundtracks!

As time and reputation moved on 1930 found Roy Fox being invited to perform in London.  His first performance was on Monday 29th September 1930.  In that same year Roy recorded on the BBC and, when his band returned to the USA in the Spring of 1931, Roy remained behind, recording with a new group for Decca Records and accepting an engagement at the Monseigneur restaurant in Piccadilly.  Unfortunately Roy fell ill with pleurisy in 1932 and travelled to Switzerland for a stay at a sanatorium. During his convalescence the band was led by its pianist, Lew Stone but, on his return to London, Roy resumed the control.

However, when the Monseigneur contract came up for renewal that autumn Roy was unable to agree terms and, as a result the restaurant’s owner then offered the residency to Lew Stone. With the exception of trumpeter Sid Buckman, the band decided to go with Lew!  In response Roy took out an injunction on the grounds of breach of contract against his singer Al Bowlly which prevented Bowlly performing with Stone’s band on the first night.  On Tuesday, 25th October Roy Fox applied for an extension of the injunction against Al, but at a hearing in chambers Mr. Justice McCardie denied Roy Fox’s application on the grounds that ‘the contract related specifically to the ‘Monseigneur’ lost his action.

Roy now formed a new band with Sid Buckman as trumpeter and vocalist, and secured a residency at the Cafe Anglais in Leicester Square.  Roy also performed in Belgium as well as other locations in the UK.  At Christmas he played a variety of instruments in this band.  In 1933-4 Roy made the films On the Air and Big Ben Calling; recorded for HMV in 1936, and toured Europe until 1938, when he fell ill again.

In later years Roy moved to Australia, where he led the Jay Whidden Orchestra and visited the U.S. for a few tours with small groups.  In 1946/47 he led a band in England  with appearances at the Isle of Man and London’s Potomac Club. He went into semi-retirement after 1952, when he opened his own booking agency. He died in London in 1982, aged 80.

Roy Fox – an American-born British dance band leader

Roy Fox, an American-born British dance band leader, was born in Denver, Colorado on 25th October 25 1901.  His period of greatest popularity was in England during the British dance band era of the 1930s.

Roy and his musician sister Vera were raised in Hollywood in a Salvation Army family. Roy had begun playing a cornet when he was 11 years old, and by age 13 was performing in the Los Angeles Examiner’s newsboy’s band. Soon after he was playing bugle for a studio owned by Cecil B. DeMille!

His first major association came at the age of 16 when he joined Abe Lyman’s orchestra at the Sunset Inn in Santa Monica. There he played alongside many of the established artists and developed a soft style of playing which earned him the nickname, “The Whispering Cornetist”. In 1920 he put together his own band and, in 1925, scored a gig on radio broadcasting with Art Hickman’s orchestra.  After some time in New York City, Roy and Abe reconvened in Hollywood, working at the Ambassador Hotel, and Fox continued to broadcast with his own bands. During this time he also did a number of film soundtracks!

As time and reputation moved on 1930 found Roy Fox being invited to perform in London.  His first performance was on Monday 29th September 1930.  In that same year Roy recorded on the BBC and, when his band returned to the USA in the Spring of 1931, Roy remained behind, recording with a new group for Decca Records and accepting an engagement at the Monseigneur restaurant in Piccadilly.  Unfortunately Roy fell ill with pleurisy in 1932 and travelled to Switzerland for a stay at a sanatorium. During his convalescence the band was led by its pianist, Lew Stone but, on his return to London, Roy resumed the control.

However, when the Monseigneur contract came up for renewal that autumn Roy was unable to agree terms and, as a result the restaurant’s owner then offered the residency to Lew Stone. With the exception of trumpeter Sid Buckman, the band decided to go with Lew!  In response Roy took out an injunction on the grounds of breach of contract against his singer Al Bowlly which prevented Bowlly performing with Stone’s band on the first night.  On Tuesday, 25th October Roy Fox applied for an extension of the injunction against Al, but at a hearing in chambers Mr. Justice McCardie denied Roy Fox’s application on the grounds that ‘the contract related specifically to the ‘Monseigneur’ lost his action.

Roy now formed a new band with Sid Buckman as trumpeter and vocalist, and secured a residency at the Cafe Anglais in Leicester Square.  Roy also performed in Belgium as well as other locations in the UK.  At Christmas he played a variety of instruments in this band.  In 1933-4 Roy made the films On the Air and Big Ben Calling; recorded for HMV in 1936, and toured Europe until 1938, when he fell ill again.

In later years Roy moved to Australia, where he led the Jay Whidden Orchestra and visited the U.S. for a few tours with small groups.  In 1946/47 he led a band in England  with appearances at the Isle of Man and London’s Potomac Club. He went into semi-retirement after 1952, when he opened his own booking agency. He died in London in 1982, aged 80.

The Music and the 1920s become the 1930s both sides of the Atlantic

One of the pioneers of the raucous, rapid-fire, eight-to-the-bar piano style described as ‘BOOGIE’ was Jimmy Yancey.  Born in Chicago in 1896 he worked in vaudeville as a singer and tap dancer – starting at the age of 6 – before taking up the piano in 1915.  Although he did not make a recording until 1939 his student – Meade “Lux” Lewis – would become one of the first to document the boogie-woogie piano style on record with his 1927 ‘Honky Tonk Train Blues’ – a masterpiece of intricate cross-rhythms that highlighted Lewis’s skills.   In this same year Pine Top Smith gathered widespread attention with the catchy ‘Pine Top’s Boogie-Woogie’.

The 1930s were a crucial period in the development of the blues. It was then that the Mississippi Delta blues performers Charley Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson travelled throughout the southern states, singing about their woes, freedom, love and sex to community after community.  Johnson – who allegedly made a pack with ‘The Devil’ in order to become a better guitar player – was the first true blues performance artist.  On the east coast, musicians such as Blind Boy Fuller, Sonny Terry and the Rev Gary Davis developed a more folksy, ‘Piedmomt Blues’ style.  Meanwhile, in Kansas City, Count Basie was absorbing the blues and – reinjecting it into the big band jazz style of the swing era.  In New York Billie Holiday, one of the most famous blues/jazz singers of all time’s, began captivating audiences with her haunting, sensuous voice.  We’ll come back to her another day.

In the 1930s, Great Britain was not without its’ own performers.  Jack Hylton – born John Greenhalgh Hilton in 1892 – was an English pianist, composer, band leader and impresario that rose to prominence during the British dance band era.  Being referred as the “British King of Jazz” and “The Ambassador of British Dance Music” by the musical press, not only because of his popularity which extended throughout the world, but also for his use of unusually large ensembles for the time and his polished arrangements.

By the time the Depression started biting in 1930 Jack had downsized his band and began performing less frequently in Europe.  However, in that same year, Maurice Chevalier recorded with Jack, who also made the first record of “Body and Soul”. In 1932, Hylton was decorated by the French government, recording with Paul Robeson the same year and making the first transatlantic entertainment broadcast with Paul Whiteman and his orchestra.

In late 1933 Jack left Decca after refusing to take a pay cut and did not begin making records again until 1935 when he re-joined HMV.  He had spent 1934 touring Europe again, and adopted “The Soldiers in the Park” – more commonly known as “Oh Listen to the Band” –  as his signature tune. In 1935 he appeared in his first feature film, the musical comedy ‘She Shall Have Music’, which starred June Clyde and Claude Dampier.  That same year, Jack was finally able to perform in the United States, something he had repeatedly attempted for almost a decade, but had been opposed by the musician unions who, in 1929 cancelled his tour at the last minute.  Standard Oil signed Jack for a radio show on CBS, not only paying him and his star players, but also paying all expenses for those band members unable to play in the U.S. While in Chicago, Hylton made a number of records with his radio band for Victor but Union pressure led him to return to the UK in 1936. Pat O’Malley and Alec Templeton stayed in America, making a name for them-selves.

Upon returning to Britain, Jack was criticised for adopting the then-popular swing rhythm, so he kept playing in his well-established style, including a series of new “concert recordings”. After a new tour of Europe in 1937, which included a performance at the Scala in Nazi Germany, Hylton began appearing on radio more frequently, starring in Radio Luxembourg’s Rinso Radio Revue until 1939, when he appeared in BBC’s Band Waggon as well as its 1940 film adaption.  He mostly retired from the music industry after 1940, becoming a successful theatrical businessman until his death.

We’ll tell the story of another man of the times next week.

Bing Crosby goes to prison, takes a wife and moves on

Last week we left Bing developing a following from the younger members of the audience – so much so that he was assigned a key solo spot in a major production number.  The number was ‘Song of the Dawn’ which the Whiteman band filmed in Hollywood in 1930.  But …… things didn’t quite go to plan!

It was the night before the ‘Song of the Dawn’ was to be filmed that things went ‘a little awry’.  Bing had developed a reputation within the Whiteman clan as a fun-loving boozer and womanizer – and this night he was arrested for drunken driving.  Bing was jailed for 30 days and singer-actor John Boles – a Warner Brothers leading man – was brought-in to sing the part.  However – for several of the other numbers in King of Jazz featuring the Rhythm Boys Whiteman arranged to have Crosby brought to the studio under police guard and returned to jail after each day’s shooting ended!  When the film was completed Whiteman left Hollywood and went on a national tour.

The police experience had a sobering effect on the young Crosby and he began to take his career more seriously – particularly with regard to the potential of musical movies.  The group went to work in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub with Gus Arnheim’s orchestra.  There was also another reason for Bing to stay where they were – Miss Wilma Wyatt, a singer known as Dixie Lee!  In September 1930 they married and their unity initiated some ‘interesting’ responses!  News stories had comments such as ‘Rising young Fox star weds obscure crooner’ or, as Bing put it ‘Miss Big marries Mr Little’.

Dixie had played half-a-dozen movies for Fox but soon gave up that career and supported Bing in his.  As a result he worked on improving his breath control and started singing fewer rhythmic numbers and more romantic ballads.  Things now moved on at speed.  He left the Rhythm Boys after he missed a show and the group were briefly put on the blacklist by the musicians union and CBS Radio heard him and offered Bing a network contract.  Wife, brother and Bing moved to New York and, in September 1931 began a nightly 15 minute broadcast over the CBS Radio Network.  As singer-pianist, author and record producer Larry Carr once so aptly put it:

“After six long years of learning and honing his craft, he was an overnight success!”

This was the day England’s postmen stopped delivering your Sunday post.

Sunday 12th June 1921 was the day that the postmen in Britain stopped delivering their mail on a Sunday. The Saturday Hull Daily Mail of the time spelled out the situation for their readers:

‘The changes notified by the Postmaster General as to the postage rates and the Sunday collections and deliveries come into force at mid-night on Sunday. Subject to the payment of a special fee of one shilling, plus the ordinary postage and express fee, any letter or posted packet other than a parcel, will be accepted up to time of the general night mail posting on Saturday, at selected offices mentioned below, for special dispatch to any of the towns mentioned, but not elsewhere, and will be delivered by express messenger during the hours that office of destination is open for telegraph business. By the payment of a special fee of one shilling plus postage a letter will be accepted on Sunday for the offices mentioned for express despatch to any of the towns indicated for the first house-to-house delivery after its arrival on Monday.

The selected offices are, outside London, the head offices at Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne and Sheffield.’

Hull was disappointed and surprised that it was not one of the selected offices.

The man’s called BING

Harry Lillis Crosby – better known as Bing Crosby – was an American singer, actor, and song writer that achieved great popularity in radio, recordings, and motion pictures. He became the archetypal crooner of a period when the advent of radio broadcasting and talking pictures and the refinement of sound-recording techniques made the climate ideal for the rise of such a figure. His casual stage manner and mellow, relaxed singing style influenced two generations of pop singers and made him the most successful entertainer of his day.

He had acquired the nickname ‘Bing’ when he was in elementary school although it is unclear whether it came from a prank on a teacher or from a love for the comic strip of the time The Bingville Bugle. He came from a musical family and began to sing and to play the drums while studying law in Washington.  In the late 1920’s he was singing with the Paul Whiteman orchestra and, in 1931, he appeared in the early sound film King of Jazz. In 1932 he got his own program on the CBS radio station in New York City and began appearing in more films, so much so that by the late 1930s his records were selling millions of copies.

But let us take him back the late 1920s.

Bing and music really began when he started singing and playing drums in a small band called ‘Musicaladers’ that played at school dances and in social functions.  Bing and Alton Rinker – the brother of singer Mildred Bailey – dropped out of college in 1925 to try to make a success as a singing duo. Their target was West Coast – the home of Mildred and vaudeville theatres!  Mildred had contacts and introduced Bing and Alton to ‘a very big theatrical agent’ – they were on their way.  Some 18 months later the pair was hired by Paul Whiteman – at the time the leader of the most popular dance orchestra in the country!

Soon the two became three when Harry Barnes – a singer-pianist – joined them.   The Rhythm Boys developed a lightly swinging, easy-going vocal style that soon became one of the most popular elements of Paul Whiteman’s stage shows – AND his radio programs and recordings.

Bing had the most distinctive voice of the trio and, increasingly, was given chances to ‘go solo’ within the three.  He began developing a following from the younger members of the audience – so much so that he was assigned a key solo spot in a major production number.  The number was ‘Song of the Dawn’ which the Whiteman band filmed in Hollywood in 1930.

But …… things didn’t quite go to plan – but we’ll worry about that next week!

She was born Miss Mortenson

On 1st June 1926 a little girl was born and, in due time, was named Norma Jeane Mortenson.  She was born and raised in Los Angeles and spent most of her childhood in fosters homes and an orphanage.  She married at the age of 16 and, in 1944 while working as part of the war effort in a radioplane factory, she was introduced to a photographer from the ‘First Motion Picture Unit’.  Photographs were taken and she soon began a successful pin-up modelling career.  This work led to a short-livered film contracts with 20th Century Fox in 1946/7 and Columbia Pictures in 1948.  After a series of minor film roles she signed a new contract in 1951 with Fox and from there her career blossomed.  Oh – by the way – by now she had changed her name.

She was now known as Marilyn Monroe!

I think we might say a little bit more about this lady in the near future!

Singers and songs are moving on towards the 1930s.

Albert Alick Bowlly [Al Bowlly] was born to Greek and Lebanese parents who had met en- route to Australia.  They moved to South Africa and their child was brought up in Johannesburg! After a series of odd jobs across South Africa, including being a barber and a jockey!  At the same time Al gained his musical experience singing for a dance band led by Edgar Adeler on a tour of South Africa.  That tour expanded to Rhodesia, India and Indonesia during the mid-1920s but in Surabaya, Indonesia Al fell out with Adeler and was fired from the band. After a spell with a Filipino band in Surabaya he was then employed by Jimmy Liquime in India. Al worked his passage back home by busking and, in 1927he had a date in Berlin, where he recorded Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” with Edgar Adeler.

Albert’s next move was to London for the first time as part of Fred Elizade’s orchestra. That nearly didn’t work as Al foolishly frittered away the fare money sent to him by Elizalde!  However – that year “If I Had You” became one of the first popular songs by an English jazz band to become well known in America as well.  First, however, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 resulted in Al Bowlly being made redundant and returning to several months of busking to survive.

In the USA a male singing duo began performing together in 1925.  In late 1926 they were recruited by Paul Whiteman to join his band. They were called The Rhythm Boys and were now three as, in 1927, pianist/singer/song writer Harry Barris had joined the pair of Al Rinker and one Bing Crosby. They made a number of recordings with the Whiteman Orchestra and released singles in their own right with Barris on piano. In Mau 1930, after three and a half years with Paul Whiteman the ‘Rhythm Boys’ moved on – and we’ll come back to them later.

Let’s end this session with two individuals whose names still ring in Britain today. 

Noel Coward was stage struck from childhood and, by the age of 20, was already writing plays.  By 1923 he enjoyed his first West End success with ‘London Calling’ and over the next 20 years, enjoyed continues success.

Our other is Gertrude Lawrence who had many similarities to Noel Coward.  Her multi-talent was ‘discovered’ by the time she was 18.  She made her name in Coward’s ‘London Calling’ in 1923 and then shared top billing with Beatrice Lillie in ‘Charlotte’s Revue’ in New York in 1924.  A true product of ‘the revue’ she had that ‘star’ quality that made her popular across the entertainment spectrum.

 

Music through good times & bad in the 1920’s

By the mid-1920s jazz was thriving in Britain with its popularity being boosted by the Melody Maker, a music newspaper which first appeared in January 1926, as well as by radio programmes from the recently launched British Broadcasting Corporation.

However this mid-1920s post-war period of prosperity was soon to be well and truly over. The re-introduction of the Gold Standard by Winston Churchill in 1925 kept interest rates high and meant UK exports were expensive. Coal reserves had been depleted during the War and Britain was now importing more coal than it was mining. All this, and the lack of investment in the new mass-production techniques in industry, led to a period of depression, deflation and decline in the UK’s economy. Unemployment rose to over 2 million, and particularly affected areas in the north of England and Wales, where unemployment reached 70% in some places. This lead in turn to the Great Strike of 1926 and, following the US Wall Street crash of 1929, the beginning of the Great Depressions of the 1930s.

From a decade that started with such a ‘boom’, the 1920s ended in an almighty bust, the likes of which weren’t to be seen again for a great many more years. None-the-less – all this poverty amongst the unemployed contrasted strikingly with the affluence of the middle and upper classes!

An American who came to the UK in the 1920s was Carroll Gibbons. He was born and raised in Clinton, Massachusetts. In his late teens he travelled to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1924 he returned to London with the brassless Boston Orchestra for an engagement at the Savoy Hotel in the Strand. He liked Britain so much that he settled there and later became the co-leader (with Howie Jacobs) of the Savoy Orpheans and the bandleader of the New May Fair Orchestra, which recorded for the Gramophone Company on the HMV label. In 1929, Gibbons appeared in the British film ‘Splinters’ as “Carroll Gibbons and His Masters Voice Orchestra”. Ray Noble himself led the New Mayfair Orchestra starting in 1929

Despite all of the hardships in the UK and the USA there were glimpses of a ‘new world’ – of ‘new people’.