Category Archives: Dancing

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.

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The wars are over and a new world begins

With the end of the conflict both sides of the Atlantic took a deep breath and moved on.  The third decade of the 20th century- the 1920s – looked exciting.  It would be the decade that marked the beginning of the modern music era. The music recording industry was just beginning to develop and a myriad of new technologies was coming along.  That would help to create the way music would be made and distributed.

By the 1910s the first commercial public radio stations had begun broadcasting in the United States and, once radio became widespread and popular, the worlds of radio and recorded music began to merge. The music recording industry’s profits dropped with the proliferation of commercial radio and, beginning in 1923, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) required licensing fees to play their music on the radio. A final influence on the music industry came near the end of the decade when silent movies turned into “talkies”, incorporating recorded sounds and creating a whole new venue for the distribution of popular music. Movie versions of Broadway musicals became extremely popular and introduced different types of music to audiences across the world.

What we all know is that the modern music industry developed wider skills in the 1920s with all of the new technologies that were created and used to make and distribute music. The music world was wide open, making way for the popularization of genres like Jazz, Blues, Broadway and Dance Bands.

The gramophone had been created in the late 1880s; become popular in the early 1900s and developed the way the music was recorded in the mid-1920s. As the recording process improved, a number of independent record labels began to appear and, in doing so, helped to expand the modern music industry.  For many this expanded in the harbour city of Charleston in South Carolina.

The Charleston was a dance with rhythm that had popularized the mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 composer/pianist – one James P. Johnson.  It was called “The Charleston” and had originated in a Broadway show ‘Running Wild’ and became one of the most popular hits of the decade.  The show itself only ran from 29th October 1923 to 28th June 1924 but the Charleston, as a dance by the public, peaked in the mid-1926 to 1927.

The Charleston – and similar dances such as the Black Bottom which involved “Kicking up your heels – were very popular through to the end of the 1920s

Jazz music had begun in the early 1900s within the New Orleans community and reached the mainstream in the 1920s when Southern African American musicians began moving up to Chicago looking for work. The Twenties are often called the Jazz Age because the popularization of that music had an enormous cultural effect.  The music was important because it influenced fashion, dances, accepted moral standards, youth culture, and race relations. It was one of the first types of music to be culturally appropriated by the American white middle class and Jazz scholars often separate the music into “Jazz” and “White Jazz”. This marked a difference in style and meaning between original African American jazz artists and popularized white jazz artists. Jazz music was also popular on the newly booming radio networks and it was one of the ways that white musicians appropriated and popularized the music as many national stations refused to play records by black artists at the time.

Two predominant black artists that had popularity and played in jazz bands. Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were two, while one influential white jazz artist at the time was Bix Beiderbecke. Jazz gained popularity and spread through the country in clubs, speakeasies, and dance halls where Jazz bands would play their new music.

We’ll have a looks at Britain’s music work next week!