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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jack Payne and his BBC Dance Orchestra.........

Jack Payne

John Wesley Vivian Payne was born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, the only son of a music warehouse manager. While serving in the Royal Flying Corps he played the piano in amateur dance bands.

Payne served in the Royal Air Force during World War I, and led dance bands for the troops. Prior to joining the Royal Air Force, he was part of "The Allies" concert party. This voluntary group performed to wounded soldiers convalescing around Birmingham. In the 1920s he played in a six-piece band which became the house band at the London's Hotel Cecil in 1925. This ensemble regularly performed on the BBC in the latter half of the decade. In 1928, Payne became the BBC Director of Dance Music. His signature tune was Irving Berlin's "Say it With Music". After leaving the BBC in 1932, when he was succeeded by Henry Hall, he returned to playing hotel venues and took his band on nationwide tours and made a film Say it with Music (1932), followed four years later by Sunshine Ahead. In the 1930s he spent a little less time touring, so he could concentrate his efforts on running a theatrical agency.

Payne had three successful waltzes - "Blue Pacific Moonlight", "Underneath the Spanish Stars" and "Pagan Serenade", which he composed. These were later published in the 1930s.

Payne did some jazz recording, including working with Garland Wilson. He toured South Africa and France in the 1930s. In 1941 he returned to the post of Director of Dance Music at the BBC, remaining there until 1946. He engaged two young teenagers to sing with his orchestra. They were Carole Carr and Lizbeth Webb, the musical comedy star of Bless The Bride. During this period, Art Christmas was one of the musicians who played with him. Following this he became a disc jockey. In 1955, he followed this change of career by returning to the dance music scene to present his own BBC Television programme, Words and Music, which ran for three series.  He also made the occasional television appearance as a panellist in Juke Box Jury, as well as other popular music programmes of the decade.

During his final years, Payne ran a hotel, The Middle House, in Mayfield, East Sussex, which was not a successful financial venture. Payne was married twice - his first wife having died after sixteen years of marriage. He had an adopted daughter with his second wife, the pianist and composer Peggy Cochrane. He wrote two autobiographies, This is Jack Payne (1932) and Signature Tune (1947).

Jack Payne died in December 1969.

A note on the British dance bands:

Overview of the great British Dance Bands

I suppose it all started when the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB) opened, on April 7, 1919, at the London Hippodrome as part of the Musical Revue "Joy Bells". After which, they toured some variety theaters and finally settled in the Hammersmith Palais de Danse, on 28 Nov 1919, for a stay of nine months.

In Britain, as in America, it is important to note that 'dancing' was the major impetus in popular music, especially the popularity of the Fox Trot. (Please see our "Dance", link for more information on the foxtrot.) Dancing was the force driving hotels to provide venues for bands and for places where patrons might dance. However, as in the USA, it was the development of Radio Broadcasting that may have done the most to establish dance bands as national institutions. On March 26, 1923, Marius B. Winter's band was the first to broadcast (using the attic of Marconi House in London as a studio). And, in 1924, Winter was also the first band on (Commericial) Radio Paris. (Marius always claimed his was the first band to use a "Signature" Tune.)

The first major influence on British Popular music was London's Savoy Hotel. The two main bands to consider are the New York Havana Orchestra and the Savoy Orpheans. As early as 1916, a group known as the Savoy Quartette had taken up residence at the Savoy, and remained resident until 1920. But, their music was quite different from the music that was to sweep the world starting about 1920.

In 1919, Bert Ralton an American Saxophonist, left Art Hickman's band in New York City, went to Havana, Cuba, and formed his own band. About 1920/1, he arrived in England, and, in March of 1922, his New York Havana Band played at London's Coliseum. A few months later they opened at the Savoy Hotel as the Savoy Havana Band. On April 23, 1922, they first broadcast from a BBC studio, and 5 months later became the first dance band to have regular, weekly broadcasts remoted from the Savoy Hotel. At end of year, Ralton left for Australia, and Reginald Batten, the violinist, became the leader. By this time, the band had Rudy Vallee on sax, and Billy Mayerl on piano. (Parenthetically speaking, we might note that Bert Ralton went on to die in a 1927 South African Safari accident.)

The next important date in British music occurred in 1923 when Debroy Somers formed his Savoy Orpheans Orchestra. Rudy Vallee was still there, as was Billy Thorburn on piano, and now Carroll Gibbons. It should be noted that the New York Havana Band, or Savoy Havana Band as they came to be called, were indeed quite popular, but they never achieved the same fame as the Savoy Orpheans. When Somers left in 1926, Cyril Newton became the leader. Carroll Gibbons became leader in 1927. (And, the American, Frank Guarente, who had been touring with his "New Georgians Orch", joined the band.) Both of these fine orchestras were resident at the Savoy until 1927, when William de Mornys, the agent for both the bands, withdrew them due to the Savoy's refusal in allowing them to play other engagements. Carroll Gibbons and Teddy Sinclair became co-leaders of "The "Original Savoy Orpheans" that now included trumpeters Max Goldberg and Frank Guarente. While in 1928, Reg Batten became the leader of "The New Savoy Orpheans" that included American's Sylvester Ahola on trumpet and Irving Brodsky on piano.

The "Orpheans" history then becomes somewhat 'cloudy'. A band calling themselves 'The Original Savoy Orpheans' went on tour to Germany (even recording in Berlin), and, upon their return, disbanded. A group calling themselves 'The New Savoy Orpheans' became the "pit orchestra" for the theatrical production called "Topsy and Eva", and they too disbanded upon that production's closing. Then in 1929, Ben Evers got himself tied in a legal knot when he formed a stageband using the 'Savoy Orpheans' name and was forced to disband. In 1931, first Ben Loban and then in 1932 Jack Hart both attempted to revive the name. However (in a 1932 decision), the Savoy Hotel won exclusive rights to the name "Savoy Orpheans". One final note. In 1931, Carroll Gibbons led a band, resident at the Savoy, called "The Savoy Orpheans", but other than the name, this band had little in common with any of the prior groups.

As one might suspect, many American musicians were playing in British bands during the 1920's. In the Orpheans, one could find Frank Guarente, Sylvester Ahola, the Starita Brothers and Rudy Valley. While Fred Elizalde's Savoy Hotel band included Chelsea Quealey, Bobby Davis, Adrian Rollini and Fud Livinston.

Also as might be expected, from circa 1920 through the 1930's, American bands frequently visited England. In 1922 or 1923, the Bar Harbor Orchestra was in England. In 1923, Paul Specht was in residence at Lyons Corner House, and in 1925, Specht played the Kit-Cat Club. In the summer of 1924, The Princeton Triangle Band was playing at the New Princes Restaurant in the Picadilly Hotel. In late 1925, the Kit-Cat club brought in the Ted Lewis Orch. That same year, both Ted Lewis and Vincent Lopez led their bands at the Hippodrome. In 1926 and 1927, Paul Whiteman was in England. A Paul Specht Canadian Orch, fronted by Orville Johnson, played the Kit-Cat club in 1926, and Abe Lyman was at the same Kit-Cat in 1929, and also played the London Palladium. Gus Arnheim's band played the Savoy in 1929, while in 1930, Hal Kemp's Orchestra (with Bunny Berigan on trumpet) played at both the Cafe de Paris and the Coliseum.

Two other American orchestras managed to stay in England long enough to become 'English' orchestras. That is to say, they became an integral part of the English musical tradition. These were the Starita Brothers and the Fred Elizalde Orchestras.

While The Savoy Orpheans (all of them!), the New York (Savoy) Havana Band, and the Fred Elizalde Orchestra are important because they were the real pioneers of British popular music, never-the-less there were many others. During this same period, many hotels and night clubs were becoming interested in presenting danceable music for their patrons.

Radio, in the form of the BBC, opened a new world of opportunity to a new group of bands and their leaders. In May 24, 1923, Ben Davis' Carlton Hotel Dance Band was heard on Radio Broadcast, as was Henry Hall's Gleneagles Hotel Orchestra in 1924. In 1925, the BBC carried Jack Payne and his Hotel Cecil Orchestra. On Feb 16, 1926, the BBC's first house band made it's initial broadcast. Called the London Radio Dance Band, it was under the direction of violinist Sidney Firman. This group had been resident at London's Cavour Restaurant. In 1928, the BBC decided to really form it's very own house band, which was called "The BBC Dance Orchestra under the direction of Jack Payne". About three years later, it was known as Jack Payne and his Orchestra.

There is a rather interesting sidelight on British music that I might mention here. For some strange reason, the BBC did not approve of "song plugging", and even banned giving the title of the songs that bands were playing. Of course, this was a battle they were to lose. Still, for a while, the anti-song plugging mania permeated the British music scene. This writer remembers a time when even Noel Coward exhibited his own bias against "plugging". He told friends that he disapproved of the American practice of "Song Plugging". By this he meant the practices of American musical producers. Melodies were first introduced in the Overture, then again used as themes or background music during various parts of the plot, before the full song was finally given it's due - someplace in the score. By this time, the audience had been 'conditioned' to enjoy the tune. Coward (in this writer's opinion, -correctly) referred to this as "song plugging", and he was (in this writer's opinion - wrong) adamantly against the practice . (Even the best tunes often need a little help before they are accepted by the public).

Two other orchestras must be mentioned in any overview of the early English dance bands. The Jack Hylton Orchestra recorded prolifically during the early 1920's. Bert Ambrose's Orchestra also recorded throughout the 1920's and was already well known. In 1923, 'Ambrose' was resident at London's Embassy Club, skillfully playing his violin.

But it was the 1930's that saw the rise of the great British bands, such as Roy Fox; Ray Noble; Harry Roy; Ted Heath, and Lew Stone, Other bands would become a part of the Big Bands era. For example, the top bands of 1940 include:
    Ambrose and his orchestra
    Billy Cotton Orch
    Eddie Carroll Orch.
    Geraldo and his Orch.
    Carroll Gibbons Orch.
    Henry Hall Orch.
    Jack Harris Orch.
    Jack Hylton Orch.
    Jack Jackson Orch.
    Ken Jones Orch.
    Sidney Lipton Orch.
    Joe Loss Orch.
    Mantovani Orch.
    Jack Payne Orch.
    Oscar Rabin Orch.
    Harry Roy Orch.
    Billy Ternent Orch.
    Maurice Winnick Orch.

And to name just a few of the vocalists popular in the 1940s,
    Al Bowlly (recorded more tunes that any other vocalist)
    Sam Browne
    Jack Cooper
    Sam Costa
    Evelyn Dall
    Beryl Davis
    Denny Dennis
    Dan Donovan
    Leslie Douglas
    Dolly Elsie
    Gracie Fields
    Chick Henderson
    Anne Lenner
    Celia Lipton
    Vera Lynn
    Anne Shelton

Finally, it is again worth emphasizing that the great engine driving the music and the bands was Ballroom Dancing (this was true the world over, not just Britain) -music and dancing was a way of life. And, it should probably be noted that meeting people was the prime motivation for the music and dancing. Perhaps half of the young men at a dance were there to meet a nice young lady. And conversely, half of the young ladies were there to meet a nice young man, looking for a nice young lady.

In addition to the Dance Halls found in major cities, there were myriads of weekend dances held in suburban boroughs - usually at a local church. The music consisted of everything from phonograph records, to trios and even small home town bands. While a donation of one shilling could get you into the local church dance, Five Shillings was the entry price for such posh London venues as The Trocadero, The Astoria Ballroom, Hammersmith Palais, The Lyceum and many others (where many of the patrons were expert dancers).

During WW2, many venues had to be closed due to wartime restrictions. Still many bands managed to hang on (with inferior sidemen as a rule), and of course the music - especially the music of home and the girl left behind - went with the fighting men overseas. Many of the bandsmen that were inducted into the armed forces managed to stay together in regimental bands and such, playing in unlikely places as Aircraft hangars, Deckside on ships, post canteens, and overseas bases.

Government came to support C.E.M.A (the Council for the Encouragement of Music) which provided funds to small groups, to symphony orchestras, and to theatre companys (including the Old Vic Theatre that widely toured the provinces.) However, one man, Ernest Bevin, believed that C.E.M.A.'s Opera productions and other classical music was not appropriate for the folks working in Britain's wartime factories, and he convinced government to support his E.N.S.A. - the Entertainments National Service Association. E.N.S.A. sent Popular music entertainers into factories and service bases where workers and servicemen greeted them enthusiastically.

With victory and the War's end, the servicemen came home. Something resembling normal living returned. It is interesting to note that the "Big Band Era" (say 1935 - 1945) had come to an end in America, and slowly, the very music that had maintained the morale of British and American fighting forces died away (because of many, many factors), However, while American orchestras began to disband in droves, the big bands did manage to remain popular in Britain (and Australia) until well into the 1960s. And, -wonder of wonders- Swing Music and the Big Bands are back in vogue 50 years later. This writer thinks that speaks volumes about the quality of the music and the bands that played the songs. It was a time when people loved listening to the kind of music that Musicians loved playing. It was a time of Love and Romance. Will that ever die? I think not.

An article from Gramophone Magazine 1931 (quite interesting) :

By request..........some Jack Payne and his BBC Dance Orchestra. Not a big list, as I don't have too much by them. Some of these sides are not great in sound quality, and are encoded at a low bit rate. Nonetheless, it is a good jumping off point for listening and perhaps finding some more music.
Love for sale
Choo choo
Say it with music
The argument song
More than you know
You too
After the broadcast pt 1 
Ain't that the way it goes
Happy ending
The peanut vendor
We'll gather lilacs
After The Broadcast - Part 2 (Introducing "With Your Consent")
v: Billy Scott-Comber 1932
Blues in my heart
1932 v: Billy Scott-Comber
Happy-Go-Lucky You And Broken-Hearted Me
(v: Jack Payne, Bob Busby, Bob Manning, Billy Scott-Comber) 1932
Now that you're gone (v: Les Allen)
Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
(Jack Payne & his Orchestra & the Crackerjacks)
Just imagine
v: Val Rosing
One alone
1927 (w/ The Hotel Cecil Orch.)
If I ever lost you
I've got a feeling I'm falling
Medley from "The Love Parade"
Say it isn't so
 Lets Put Out The Lights And Go To Sleep 
v:Billy Scott Turner 1932
Blue Is The Night
v: Jack Payne 1930
Exactly like you
v: Jack Payne 1930
Fire, Fire, Fire
v: Jack Payne 1930
Harmonica Harry
v: Jack Payne/ chorus 1930


  1. Fascinating!

    But... What do you know about PEGGY COCHRANE? I've not found much useful biographical information, except that she was (apparently) born in Streatham Hill. I live in Streatham Hill, and am fascinated by this musical polymath.

    Robin Gordon-Powell
    Conductor, Camerata Santa Dorotea
    Music Publisher, The Amber Ring

  2. Hmmm, I probably know about as much, if not much less, than yourself. I do know that she also played violin. I am aware of one of her compositions, Le Ruisseau for piano....I know it from a solo recording of York Bowen, on 78. I believe that the solo recordings are available on CD. I've heard some of her piano, some '40s "Percy Faith-ish/Mantovani-ish light music", conducted by Payne (I found it enjoyable). Bio details I've never seen much of, either. I just know of some of her work as violinist, and on piano. As a composer I don't know that she very prolific. I can't say that I've been able to help much, I'm sorry :(

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