[ Henry Hall (& his BBC Dance Orch) ],
b. London, 2 May, 1898, d. Eastbourne, 28 October, 1989
|26 tracks [1932-1936]
on VOCALION 6008
UK 1998 73:28 min
Henry Hall is best remembered for the five year period in the 1930's when he directed the BBC Dance Orchestra and was the most popular radio star in Britain receiving the largest fan mail of any broadcasting artist, but that was only part of a most successful career as bandleader, composer, arranger, impresario and broadcaster.
As a youth, Henry worked with the Salvation Army's Musical Services division. His formal musical studies were at the Guildhall School of Music and also at Trinity College where he studied piano, trumpet and harmony. After WW1, he worked as a pianist in silent picture theatres, and formed his own trio, The Variety Three, disbanded in 1922.
His first break came in 1922 when he joined the LMS Railway Hotel chain as a pianist and ten years later he was the Musical Director for the hotels controlling 32 bands. In the middle of 1924 he formed a band for the new ultra-grand Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire,Scotland, and broadcast for the first time from the opening night ball. Henry made a few records for COLUMBIA (from 1924) over the next two years but no real impact was made outside the hotels until Thursday 31 July 1930 when he made his first late night broadcast from Gleneagles. (Note: From the late 1920's until 1936 the BBC would broadcast live dance music between 10.30pm and midnight, - six nights a week.) From then onwards Henry Hall and his Gleneagles Band was broadcasting practically every week. When the Gleneagles Hotel closed during the winter months, Henry would transfer to either the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool or the Midland Hotel in Manchester, and in this latter venue the band started recording for DECCA in March 1931. Henry's first record hit was his arrangement MUSICAL COMEDY SWITCH (Decca K..581) and on one of those first Decca sessions the innovative British jazzman Spike Hughes deputised on string bass and probably Henry's jazziest record I LOST MY GIRL FROM MEMPHIS (Decca F.2330) was the result. The Gleneagles Band broadcasts attracted a lot comment as the band was small for a regular broadcasting unit - about six musicians - which could hold an unseen audience for 90 minutes without a vocalist. Their signature tune was COME YE BACK TO BONNIE SCOTLAND.
The BBC were impressed and when their resident dance bandleader, Jack Payne, decided to leave to go on tour, Henry was invited to form a new BBC Dance Orchestra. Many in the London musical profession were shocked that a leader from "the provinces" had been given the prestigious job and music critics were scathing about the new band but Henry soon won the hearts of the British public with his fine music and quiet but engaging personality, and led the band to even greater popularity than before. Their first broadcast was on March 15th 1932 and was also notable for being the first transmission from Broadcasting House, London. Henry introduced his two new signature tunes, opening with IT'S JUST THE TIME FOR DANCING and closing with the still warmly remembered HERE'S TO THE NEXT TIME. For the next five years the Orchestra was heard most week days with regular daily broadcasts at 5.15pm, every Thursday on the late night spot, later alternating Saturday nights with the Ambrose Orchestra. With the BBC post came a new recording contract with Columbia and the band had an enormous hit in its first year with TEDDY BEARS PICNIC (Col.DB.955/FB.2816) which went on to sell a million. Henry realised that a lot of youngsters would be listening to his afternoon programmes and he introduced a lot of numbers like TEDDY BEARS PICNIC to appeal to them. There was something for all the family.
Jack Payne had established a hot rhythm style as leader of the BBC Dance Orchestra, but Henry decided that a radically different approach was needed to identify his band. Less emphasis on brass and more on melody (the new 1932 BBC band even sported a cello)!!. Henry's many vocalists included Val Rosing, Les Allen, Kitty Masters, Phyllis Robins, Dan Donovan, Leslie Douglas, Bob Mallin, Flanagan & Allen, Gracie Fields and George Elrick. The band increased size over the years until in March 1936 there were 27 instrumentalists and vocalists. American Benny Carter was added to the impressive list of arrangers which included the band's pianist Bert Read, Ronnie Munro, Phil Cardew and Burton Gillis, the saxophonist who joined Henry in 1929 and stayed until the war. Although few of Carter's scores were recorded, his work can be heard to great effect on I'M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET (Col.FB 1364), BYE,BYE,BABY (Col.FB 1547) and ONE,TWO, BUTTON YOUR SHOE (Col.FB 1627). The BBC Band was at its glorious best between 1935 and 1937 when the band had a big sound. Surviving broadcast recordings show that the band would tackle such material as STOMPIN' AT THE SAVOY while its Columbia records concentrated on the popular songs of the day.
In 1934 Henry introduced a new presentation with his "Guest Nights" which was to continue into the 1950's, long after he disbanded. Over the years many of the great American songwriters like Irving Berlin , Harry Revel and Mack Gordon, appeared with the band on air. On August 4th 1936 a half-hour programme featured the music of Johnny Mercer with Mercer himself singing I'M BUILDING UP TO AN AWFUL LETDOWN, GOODY GOODY and I'M AN OLD COWHAND. This complete programme is available on CD - "Henry Hall's Hour" Radiogram RGM 001- a real treasure. Henry made several trips to the States to learn about developments in dance music and he directed the music on the maiden voyage of the liner RMS Queen Mary in May 1936. However, Henry was a well-known supporter of British songwriters and he himself had considerable success with his own IT'S TIME TO SAY GOODNIGHT.
Compilations recently released on cd are:- 1. Vocalion 6008 'HENRY HALL - Music Goes 'round And Around', containing 26 tracks recorded between 1932 and 1936. 2. ASV 5222 containing 24 tracks recorded between 1932 and 1939. 3. MFP 6356 containing 25 tracks recorded between 1932 and 1939. The vocalists included Dan Donovan; Kitty Masters; Les Allen; George Elrick; Hildegarde; Flanagan & Allen; Len Bermon; Bob Mallin: and Val Rosing. There are not many duplicated tracks on the three cd's. Earlier compilations were:- 'Henry Hall & The BBC Orchestra' 1971, 'This Is Henry Hall' 1978, 'The Golden Age of Henry Hall' 1974, 'Here's To The Next Time' 1985, 'Help Yourself To Happiness' 1986, 'What A Perfect Combination" 1986, 'Love Is The Sweetest Thing' 1987, 'My Dance' 1988, and 'Seeing Is Believing' 1988.
On 25 September 1937, The BBC Dance Orchestra directed by Henry Hall made its farewell broadcast and was back on air on September 30th as Henry Hall and his Dance Orchestra. The band went on tour to an enormous reception. Apart from the Orchestra's starring role in their film MUSIC HATH CHARMS in 1935, and a few appearances at the London Palladium amongst others, most people hadn't actually seen the band perform. When Henry and the boys arrived at the Central Station in Glasgow the police were called out to control the enthusiastic crowds. Over the next two years the Orchestra toured Britain and Europe and continued to record on COLUMBIA. In 1938, the band visited Germany and played the National-Scala Theatre in Berlin.
The band recorded for COLUMBIA in the UK, but his recordings were limited somewhat by his broadcast work and to provide 'something for everybody'. In Australia many of the releases were on RZ using the pseudonyms of 'The Rhythmic Troubadours' and also 'Silver Screen Orchestra'. This was possibly to allow for sales at a lower price. Unfortunately no details of the orchestra can thus be gleaned from the RZ label from these pseudonyms, and in consequence he was not known as well in Australia.
The first records to be released with the BBC band were Bing Crosby's 'Where The Blue Of The Night' and 'Songs That Are Old live Forever'.
The band kept going during the war and for some years after until Henry diversified his activities and became a successful businessman.
FURTHER READING:- 'Here's To The Next Time', Henry Hall.
|Australian Pressing G-21725
Matrix CA-13051-1, 78 rpm
Recorded 11th December 1932
Issued in UK as F-2662 on Columbia
Pseudonym of Rhythmic Troubadours.
Columbia & Regal Zonophone Labels
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© Based on article in Big Band Database