Blog posts · My Fiction · Songs

“Dinner For One, Please James.” The Butler’s Tale.

He was standing by the fireplace with a solemn look that I hadn’t seen on his face before. The house was silent except for the loud ticking from the clock. I never noticed how loud it was before.

“Sir, dinner is ready.”

He continued to stare out of the window.

I moved closer towards him. “Sir?”

He turned to look at me. “Yes, what is it James?”

“I said dinner is ready sir. Will Madame be coming down?”

“No,” he replied slowly, with what seemed to be great effort. “She won’t be coming down. She has gone and left me.” He stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray, turning it round and round, long after it had been extinguished.

“Gone?” I gasped in surprise. “But I only saw Madame early this morning, when I brought up her breakfast.”

He nodded sadly, his dark eyes glistened with unshed tears. “lt’s dinner for one now please James.”

My heart sank at this revelation. Why would Madame have left, and more importantly where would she have gone? Leave this beautiful house, and the man who adored her? It made no sense to me, but propriety forbade me pressing him on the matter.

“Don’t be downhearted James. I’ll still eat your dinner, even if it is only a few mouthfuls,” he told me with a wry smile.

He sat down and lit another cigarette. “I never thought we’d ever part, what funny games love plays,” he said so quietly, that I wondered if the comment wasn’t made to me, but that he was speaking to himself. He fell silent and, head down, gazed at his shoes. I rather thought he didn’t want me to see the tears in his mournful eyes.

The silence hung between us awkwardly. I didn’t quite know what to say, so instead I said: “Shall I bring the wine in with your dinner sir?”

“You may as well, ” he replied heavily. “There’s a bottle opened from the party last night.”

“Very good sir.” I went back into the kitchen and laid the tray for the sad solo meal. When I returned I saw that he had pushed the second set of dinner ware to the end of the table.

I set the tray down on the table, and as my hand hovered by the vase of flowers, and was about to move it slightly to place the wine bottle there he cried out “No! Don’t move her favourite flowers!” in a tone so full of anguish it startled me and filled me with sorrow.

“Of course not sir, I was merely making a little room for the wine.”

“Maybe she’ll come back to me, and I’d like her flowers just where she placed them.”

“Oh I most certainly hope so sir,” I said with the brightest tone I could muster. “I’ll leave you to your dinner then.”

“No, don’t go yet James-” he gripped my arm, and then withdrew a note from his jacket pocket, and held it out to me. I hesitated before taking it.

“Go on read it.”

“I’m not certain I should sir.”

“Please, then you’ll know why–why she left.”

“That’s not my business sir,” I told him. “I was very fond of Madame as you know, her being the one who engaged me.”

“I don’t want you to blame her for leaving; the fault was not hers.”

“I wasn’t thinking any such thing sir,” I replied stiffly. “If you insist, I’ll read the note, but it’s not very proper I must say. You can count on my discretion.”

I confess at this moment I suspected some impropriety on his part, and I think he saw it through my expression, although I attempted to hide that from him.

“You know how much I love her James. Since I met her, there’s been no one else.” His tone was so utterly sincere that when I read the contents of the note, I was inclined to believe him and felt rather outraged on his behalf.

Why would your best friend say such a thing? I don’t understand.”

“I don’t either. I telephoned him this afternoon and he admitted he’d talked to my wife at the party last night, but strongly denied he’d told her that he’d seen me with another girl. He was very upset I’d even think he’d say something like that!”

“I see.”

“But when we went up to bed last night,” he continued, “I thought something might be up because she went to sleep in her own room, saying she was very tired. I mean, she has done that once or twice before, so I didn’t think much of it until I got up late this morning and found the note slipped under my door.”

“How I wish Madame hadn’t given me the rest of the morning off sir,” I sighed. “Perhaps I could’ve found out who it was who said those terrible things to her, if she had mentioned the matter to me, that is. You know how I don’t like to pry. I wonder why Madame would say it was your best friend? It’s quite a mystery!”

“She doesn’t know all of my friends, and I haven’t exactly got a best friend either. I’ve a few close friends and some fellas I know from my work. It could’ve been anyone, but from the description in the note I thought it most closely described Jerry, but he swears it wasn’t him. He’s not the type to make things up either. Must it end like this James?”

I sincerely hope not. Surely she will realise it’s all been a terrible mistake, and come home. I’d better get on with helping Jessie in the kitchen now if you don’t mind sir.”

“I don’t know how I can go on without her,” he murmured to himself. I gave him pat on the shoulder, which I know is rather familiar for a butler-man servant, but the poor fellow looked so forlorn. After I had assisted Jessie in the kitchen I went up to Madame’s room and filled her vase with her favourite white gardenias.

Video created by Wistful Nostalgic

1930s Magazines · Blog posts · Singers

Anona Winn: 1930s Radio Favourite.

A postcard of Anona I have in my collection of 1930s singers and musicians.

Anona Winn was an Australian singer who moved to London and became one of Britain´s favourite singers of dance band music on the radio. Born Anona Edna Wilkins in Sydney in 1904, she initially studied piano, then opera singing at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music. Her tutor Dame Nellie Melba referred to Anona as a “human flute” because of her impressive vocal range. Dame Nellie also persuaded Anona to change her surname to Winn. However, whilst the tuition Anona received was of a very high standard, the training methods did not suit Anona, so she became a journalist for a time, in addition to appearing in pantomime and other theatre productions. Her subsequent move to London proved to be the right choice for her as the below article from December, 1934 shows.

Popular Music And Dancing Weekly, 8th of December, 1934.

The article is a very nice biography of Anona up to this period of her life in 1934. It reveals that she was a child entertainer in her native Australia and that growing up there gave her a love of the open air, horse riding, swimming, ice skating and tennis. (Incidentally, Anona would live until she was ninety years old, so her love of the outdoors and sporting pursuits probably contributed to her long life).

Blonde, blue eyed Anona was also a keen reader and enjoyed playing bridge and eating ice cream daily, but being stuck in traffic irritated her. She had a fondness for musical comedy, which shows in her recording of Please Don’t Mention It, with Al Bowlly. I wrote a short fiction inspired by this number which you can read here in a previous blog post:

Here is a British Pathe short of Anona singing A Precious Little Thing Called Love, from 1929 or 1930. I love the sparkles on her frock! Her operatic training is very evident, especially in her final high note.

Another number from Anona, dating from 1929.

This video has a beautiful gramophone playing a 78 of Anona and Reg Purdell. It is a fine example of Anona singing the musical comedy genre popular in the era.

In addition to her singing talents Anona was also a song lyricist. My favourite is What More Can I Ask? written and recorded by Ray Noble, with Al Bowlly as the vocalist.

The whole article about Anona can be downloaded here as a pdf:

1930s Magazines · Blog posts · Radio

The Aristocratic Midget Radio, September, 1931.

I acquired this interesting ninety year old radio magazine from Ebay a few months ago; since it is now exactly ninety years this month when it was produced it seems the right time to make a post about it. It isn’t in the best condition as you can see from the front cover below. I don’t mind though; adds to its charm!

I suppose the chap who originally bought it made use of it well. One of the featured radios in this magazine is charmingly named the Aristocratic Midget. It cost £10, which is approximately worth £696.63 today. Yet, the radio magazine is of the opinion that this is not expensive! The price of radios today are so much cheaper than back then. I suppose you can pay about £400 for a very high end fancy DAB Bluetooth DAB radio, but really, a standard radio costing around £30 will more than do its job. The interesting thing is a radio that will cost almost this much today, will be an original 1930s radio. Or more likely, even more than that. I’ve seen some on Ebay listed for around £2,000; although they tend to be the larger models than the Midget. It´s interesting that in this digital age, 1930s radios still hold the same value!

For some people, the design of these 1930s Art Deco radios have never lost their appeal. They have an aesthetic that is very pleasing to look at, and are a great feature in home decor. There are now many little retro radios being made inspired by their design: Amazon has quite a few on their website. They are even retro radios with CD players made to resemble them.

Here is the model I got second hand from Ebay last year. It even has a sort of warm old sound to it. I am very pleased with it because when the lid is down on the CD it does give the sound and feel of listening to an old radio broadcast. I’ve never used it to actually tune into a radio station because there are no stations that exclusively play a dance band broadcast or 1930s style radio show. Those type are all on the internet these days (which is a subject for a future post).

For some men in the 1930s building radios was a popular hobby. Below are instructions on how to build the Midget radio.

Below is a downloadable pdf of the Midget radio pages and the instructions.

Here is a short film of British workers in a radio factory in London. There are many women working there!

This clip from 1936 shows the building of the wooden cases of the radios, then on to making the components. There really was a lot of skill and craftsmanship, not to mention a lot of time, applied in making these wonderful old radios. This film was made in Latvia.

Blog posts · My Fiction

Never Swat A Fly: a Cautionary Tale.

Bright young things Bertie and Mabel were out for a night’s fun at a ritzy night club where the hottest dance bands played all night long. Mabel was wearing her new gown and felt very glamorous, which had cost her nearly all her month’s allowance. As Bertie gave her admiring glances when she got into his motor car, she felt it would be worth the dressing down her stuffy old father Wilfred would give her when he found out the price tag. He didn’t much approve of Bertie, despite him being exceedingly rich.

“Frivolous fellow,” he sniffed one night as Bertie waved goodbye after bringing her home.

“Oh don’t be tiresome Father.” Mabel sighed. “I’m going to bed.” With that she swept up the stairs feeling like the cat that’d got the cream. Just wait until he finds out Bertie has proposed, that’ll give him something to sniff at! she smiled to herself, as she brushed her hair before getting into bed.

At the club they were drinking an expensive bottle of wine and waiting for the waiter to bring their first course of soup. When it arrived Bertie was just about to swallow his first mouthful when Mabel gasped.

“What on earth is the matter Mabel?” Bertie was poised with the soup spoon to his mouth.

There’s a dirty big fly on your spoon!” she cried.

Bertie dropped his spoon on the table, splattering soup onto the tablecloth. The fly launched itself off the spoon and whizzed around Bertie’s head.

He swatted at the creature with his hands; waving his hands rather comically at both sides of his head. The couple at the next table looked over at the commotion.

I say- what is going on there? Is it a new dance craze?” the man asked his girlfriend, his voice slurred with too much wine.

“Don’t be ridiculous Walter! Who dances sitting down?”

One of the waiters rushed over to Bertie’s table. “What seems to be the trouble sir?”

“A fly! That is what’s the trouble. And what’s more it was sitting in my soup!” he replied angrily.

“Oh please do accept my apology sir. I am afraid the thing has been quite a bother to a few other diners tonight. I have tried to get rid of it, but it eludes my efforts to swat it. But it appears to be gone now sir, I don’t see it. May I bring you anything else? “

“No you may not!” scowled Bertie, “and if you think I am paying the bill you are sorely mistaken.”

He took Mabel’s arm. “Come on, let’s find somewhere else to dine.”

As they collected their coats, Walter, the man from nearby table was just returning from the gentlemen’s rest room. He grinned inanely when he saw Bertie and waved his hands either side of his head.

“Are you trying to be funny?” Bertie frowned.

Before Walter could reply, the fly appeared as if from nowhere buzzing loudly, then landed on Walter’s nose. As he swatted at it, he knocked his spectacles off his nose, lost his balance and fell over.

Mabel put her hand over her mouth, trying to stifle her laughter.

The fly circled around the air, and then was joined by another smaller fly.

“There’s another one- look Bertie!” she pointed.

Bertie took off his dinner jacket and swung it at the flies, who sailed into the air almost gracefully and vanished from sight.

One of the musicians from the dance band, walking past on his way back from his break leaned close to Mabel mischievously. “Never swat a fly, he may love another fly, and sit with her and sigh, the way I do with you!” he sang.

“Now look here!” Bertie interrupted. “This is my fiancee you are flirting with!”

“I was only having a bit of fun. It’s from our new number!” the musician replied.

“Really–” Bertie said in a sarcastic tone. “What nonsense! A number about a fly indeed!”

“It’s true!” the other man laughed. “If you stay I’ll prove it to you and ask the band to play it.”

“I don’t think so,” Bertie said. “Come on Mabel.” He took her by the arm and led her to the cloakroom to collect their coats.

As they left the musician looked down at Walter lying on the floor. “What are you doing down there?” He held out his hand and helped him up. “Are these yours?” he held out the broken spectacles.

“I was a- attacked– by a giant flying monster!” he moaned.

“I think you’ve had too much to drink,” the musician said wryly. “If I were you I’d go on home and sleep it off.” He put the spectacles into Walter’s pocket, and patted him on the shoulder as he left.

Blog posts · Vintage Books

The Big Book For Girls, 1935.

This book for girls dating from 1935 I have in my vintage book collection has such a charming front cover. I love old books; there’s something special about them. They have a particular scent that I love, and the texture of thick old paper is unlike any you’ll find today. I even like the fox marks. The book boards, made of thick matte cardboard, you never see on books today either.

Mrs Herbet Strang” is rather an enigma, because on searching for this name on Wikipedia I learned that “Herbet Strang” was the pseudonym of two English authors, George Herbert Ely (1866–1958) and Charles James L’Estrange (1867–1947). So was this editor the wife of George or the wife of Charles? I think she was probably George’s wife because his middle name was Herbet. That’s a name you don’t find boys named today!

The book has some wonderful line drawings throughout it, which I love looking at. I think I’ll scan quite a few of them in the near future to edit and add to my own vintage fiction posts for this blog, and perhaps use them in some future art projects too.

I confess to not having got round to reading any of the stories in the book yet. I am looking forward to baking a cake one afternoon and settling down with my 1930s music on the record player, with a nice cup of black coffee and having a good read. The story below looks like it will be good. A cottage in Cornwall and a spooky legend; just my sort of story!

Here’s another one, about a girl called Mavis, who has just moved to a village in Surrey. Another “old fashioned” name you don’t see any youngsters called these days, but I quite like the name.

The book was given to an 11 year old girl named Ann Evans as a birthday present from her mother. I expect that little Ann loved her birthday present. I have no idea where she lived or anything else about her, but here I am all these years later, taking care of her book, and one day I hope that I’ll find someone to pass it on to, who will take care of it when I’m gone. The book deserves to be preserved for and read by future generations.

Al Bowlly · My Fiction · Songs

“Please Don’t Mention It”: The Trifles of Courtship, as told in a song.

She was sitting in her favourite armchair by the fire, when the telephone rang.

Oh hello dear. I’m allright, just a bit of a cold. Yes, I’m keeping warm. I have a blanket and had some hot soup earlier. Thank you for phoning me. Oh you dear thing, I love you too. Please don’t mention it, it’s no trouble at all.”

He dialled the number as fast as he could. He couldn’t wait to hear her voice again. When she answered his heart skipped a beat. “It’s me. I hope you’re having a nice time at your parent’s. I miss you though! Have you thought any more about what I asked you?”

Her voice was a sweet as a bell as she gave him the answer he wanted.

” My persistence worked then! I told you I’d make you care about me didn’t I?”

Her laugh was like music to his ears. “Thank you for missing me. Yes, of course I’m missing you!”

They cuddled up on the sofa in their new house, kissing and whispering words of love.

“Thank you for such a lovely honeymoon,” she said in between his kisses.

“Don’t mention it, you deserved it,” he smiled, pulling her closer. “Nothing is too much trouble for you!”

She hurried down the street and ducked into the doorway of the restaurant. “Oh I’m sorry dear, I got held up. Betty had to go home so I offered to stay on and finish her work too.”

“Thank you for keeping me waiting for an hour in this pouring rain,” he replied sarcastically.

“I really am sorry dear. I did phone the restaurant. Didn’t they tell you I was running late?”

“No they didn’t,” he glared at her. “But thank you for saying you won’t be late again.”

Please don’t mention it.” she answered tartly.

I won’t mention it. It’s been no trouble at all,” he retorted, and shook his wet umbrella over her new shoes. She gave him a cross look, which he ignored. Holding the door open he simply said : “Well let’s have dinner shall we?”

She finally got home. Opening the front door she pulled off her new shoes and dropped them on to the polished linoleum floor. They made a clop clop sound, which by magic made him suddenly appear by the sitting room doorway.

“Thank you for giving me a ride in your car. I can’t remember when I’ve walked so far, my feet are so sore,” she scowled at him, and picking up her shoes, started hobbling up the stairs. “I’m going to soak my poor feet in the bath.”

Please don’t mention it!” he called up the stairs.

“I won’t mention it!” she shouted and threw her shoes over the banister, and, as one of them bounced on top of his head and he yelled in pain, she gave him a sarcastic laugh. “It’ll be no trouble at all!”

1920s Fashion · 1920s Magazines · Blog posts

The Fashionable American Woman, 1929.

A few months ago I acquired a vintage American magazine named Mallinson’s Contribution To the World of Fashion for 1929. The magazine was published in New York in the Spring of 1929. It is full of illustrations and photographs of textiles, home furnishings, and women’s and children’s clothing. The colour illustrations are absolutely sumptuous! We are used to seeing photographs and film from the 1920s in sepia or monochrome so it is a feast for the eyes to see the rich, vibrant colours of the women’s frocks. I think the colour, style and patterns are far more attractive than anything you’d see in a clothing store today. I’d wear every single one of those beautiful frocks!

The magazine’s pages are very large, so I wasn’t able to fit the whole pages onto my scanner.

Here is the front cover:

Here is an advertisement for Celanese Brand Fabrics:

An advertisement for Truhu Silks:

Embroidery designs on women’s frocks:

Women’s hats and pretty clutch bags:

An advertisement for Tru-Poise Shoes:

I think you’ll agree that these garments are especially beautiful and classy looking, but probably high end fashion and expensive. However, the quality would have been exceptional and made to last.

When doing a bit of online research about this magazine I didn’t find any other copies of it anywhere in online stores and websites where one can usually find vintage magazines (such as Etsy and Ebay), or even much information about it, so it appears to be quite rare. This makes it even more of a treasure.

However I did come across two interesting articles about the Mallinson company and American fabrics and fashions of the 1920s here:

1930s Magazines · 78 RPM Recordings · Blog posts · Songs

Rhythm Fan Clubs of the 1930s.

Popular Music And Dancing Weekly, March 16th, 1935

The vast majority of people in this isle of ours are musically inclined, but few enthusiastically so; for instance, how many people understand what is termed “Hot”‘ Rhythmic music ?

I am afraid that the very name gives a misconceived idea—music at a terrific speed with hardly any melody. Needless to say, that is not “Hot” Rhythm.

During the past eighteen months I have found a growing enthusiasm for the study of this type of music, hence the formation of a Rhythm Club in North Middlesex, where sessions are held regularly once a week throughout the year. Since the actual formation of this club there have now been opened no less than seventy similar clubs throughout the British Isles.

The idea behind the Rhythm Clubs is to study all forms of rhythmic music, through the medium of the gramophone. What actually happens is this : upon joining any such club the member hands to the Club Librarian a list of his own personal collections of records, from which future programmes can be built.

The Director of Programmes then commences the evening’s session, which, to give a typical example, might be specially given for those who wish to see the progression from what is known as “commercial,” or popular, music to the present day “modern” rhythm.

As each record is played, the programme director gives his comments, and after playing, the members then debate upon the points raised by the commentator, and thus begin their studies of this most intriguing subject.

Until I had read this article I never knew that us Brits had set up these Rhythm Clubs, where men and women would meet to listen to their collections of “hot” 78s (probably what most people would call jazz today) and talk about the recordings. I have avoided using the term “song” because not all of these recordings, or numbers, would have had lyrics sung by a singer. Maybe it comes across as nerdy to some modern day people, but I like the idea of group listening, and learning about the artistry of these great musicians.

Today, listeners of British dance band music (and American dance/jazz music) is considered quite “niche” and is somewhat of a hobby to a few listeners in that some like to collect 78s (shellac records) from the era; collect music magazines and sheet music of the songs (as I do), and have a general interest in the 1920s and 1930s. I suppose the nearest thing we have today to the Rhythm Clubs are Facebook groups, and the excellent magazine Memory Lane.

The listener according to the writer, from attending these clubs and spending time studying the recordings would over time find:

.. that his hearing gradually becomes more acute. When this comes to pass he will find great enjoyment in participating, with increasing confidence, in that popular club item known as a ” Detector Programme,” in which members are asked to name artists or bands, by listening to the style and method of execution as portrayed upon the records. This is not as easy as it may seem; just try it yourself.

Here is a suggested list given in the article for someone to try. I expect that how a modern listener would categorise or describe each recording might be slightly different than how someone back in 1935 would’ve done it.

Here are the recordings :

It is noticeable that all the recordings are made by Americans except the first one which is Ray Noble’s New Mayfair Dance Orchestra in London, with South African national Greek/Lebanese vocalist Al Bowlly. Duke Ellington was very popular in London at this time. It’s not difficult to see why either!

The whole article in can be downloaded here as a pdf:

1930s Magazines · Blog posts · Dance Bands

Happy Birthday Lew Stone!

Lew Stone in 1935

Lew Stone, one of Britian’s most popular dance band leaders, was born on this day, 28th June, 1898. Born into a London Jewish family, Lew learned to play the piano at a young age. He was diminuitive in height, smartly dressed with a quiet, modest demeanour. The boys who played in his bands really liked Lew. He is one of my favourite band leaders. Lew’s arrangements of the popular songs of the era were much admired, and still are today by those who love dance band music. To celebrate Lew’s birthday, this blog post is about Lew’s early life, taken from an article about him in 1935, which Lew wrote himself, which makes it especially interesting.

The article is from the June 1st issue of Popular Music And Dancing Weekly.

I haven’t found the issue which has the second part as yet (I’m hopeful!), so Lew’s story here ends before he started to work in the place that will always be associated with him: the Monseigneur Restaurant in Jermyn Street, London. Lew started his career in music as a pianist. Here is what he related about his childhood music lessons:

My parents were very keen about my learning’ music when I was a kid, even, if they frowned at first upon my musical ambitions. When I was seven I seemed to possess some musical talent, so my parents had me taught music.

For three years I had a musical education, which cost my father six guineas, at the rate of half a guinea per term. From my knowledge now I know that sometimes the money required some finding.

But, as usual, sport really interested me more than music, and when it came to practice—well, no long-suffering small boy ever went through more agony of boredom than me when I was supposed to practise.

To make sure that I did the requisite two hours a day my father used to lock me in a room at the end of a long passage, which seemed rather unfair to me, for it meant that the rest of the family did not have to suffer the noise of my practising. However, that room had a window, and it was on the first floor, and in no time I was hopping through it to freedom and football.

But the point was that I was able to pick up the theory of music pretty quickly, and that is how I managed to deceive my poor teacher for three years. My trick was to go through all the music that I was supposed to have been working at, fifteen minutes before the teacher arrived for my weekly lesson.

In that time was I able to muster up enough knowledge to get through the lesson. The result was that my teacher was quite satisfied with my progress at each lesson, and nobody knew that I had scarcely looked at my weekly tasks. But then I got too clever, and ceased even to take that quick preliminary look before the lesson, trusting to my memory to get me through. In a short time I was discovered, and then all my deception came out.

Finally my parents decided that, after all, I was not to to a pianist. Sport claimed me. At the age of twelve, when I was a very indifferent scholar at school, it was discovered that I could play football.

For a time, Lew was sports mad, and a career in music was not in his mind.

If anybody had told me in those days that I should one day be a musician I should have thought them crazy.

One day Lew’s brother, who often attended concerts at Queen’s Hall took Lew to one, and it had a “startling effect” on him, so much so that “the whole atmosphere left me in such an emotional state that I determined to take a big interest in music in the future.” He decided to continue with his music studies.

That was my first introduction to the large world of music and it was almost accidental. I continued to study music for some time, spending my pocket-money on second -hand music and books, trying to make up the ground I had lost. In those days I even had rosy-tinted dreams and romantic ambitions of being a solo pianist at that same Queen’s Hall.

Well, things have turned out differently. . . What swung my course to the channel it now runs in was the post-war jazz craze. . It is astonishing to look back and remember what discussion jazz stirred up then. People argued. stormed against jazz, and yelled for it.

I tried my hand at playing it, and discovered that any new self-taught technique enabled me to play this new-style music in a way that listeners seemed to like. I must have had rhythm, then.

I’ll say he did! Have a listen to Canadian Capers. This is an excellent arrangement!

Hurrah for Lew’s brother taking him to Queen’s Hall! If he hadn’t maybe Lew wouldn’t have got back into his piano and music studies, and become a sportsman instead. However, Lew’s father who was a furniture craftsman, was keen for Lew to follow him in this line of work, but Lew wasn’t having any of that and he ran away from home aged 14 to join a troupe of “juvenile performers” called the “Australian Sea Scouts”, who were “an extraordinary act, doing trick marching, gymnastics and so forth.” Exciting as this all was for the teenaged Lew, he and his friends soon found himself in a bit of trouble.

The label that should have inspired patriotic audiences to support us did not function according to plan, and one miserable day in far-away Durham we found ourselves stranded.

The problem was to get home again. Two other boys and I cast our lots in with each other and solved the problem by buying Platform tickets on the station, and getting in the London train when nobody was looking. Then we stowed away under the carriage seats, and after many narrow escapes landed at King’s Cross.

But we were flat broke, and pretty hungry and miserable. Then we decided to make our way to the docks and try and get jobs aboard a ship.

We trudged to the London Docks, but the only jobs we could pick up were odd jobs of dock labouring. Wages five shillings a day. You see, it was essential to get work, for my two young pals had homes in the midlands, and they just had to raise the rail fare somehow. I would have liked to have gone home at once, for my home was in London, but we agreed to stick together.

Our dock labouring lasted two days, I think, and then we parted. I went home, wondering what sort of reception I should get from my parents, who had every right to be outraged at my conduct. But with parental affection and tact they never made any comment about my escapade. It was just a black page in my copy-book that was never referred to by anybody.

One has to admire the boys’ tenacity and bravery! Despite getting themselves into a spot of bother, they tried their best to acquire some paid work. Such different times; many 14 year olds were working in full time jobs in those days. Lew’s parents seemed very understanding and patient, regarding his misadventure.

It didn’t put Lew off show business either, thankfully! He got requests to play jazz piano at parties. A business friend of his father’s told Lew that two of his employees were playing piano in jazz bands, and that one was making good money from this, and well known amongst the jazz fans. It got Lew thinking. He met a drummer in a jazz band named Joe Daniels, who told him that a new band was being formed and suggested that Lew join the band. This was a good contact for Lew because Joe was Harry Roy’s drummer. Lew then joined his first dance band.

The whole article can be downloaded to read below, in pdf format.

A short summary of Lew’s career can be read on this website below:

Here is a lovely radio tribute to Lew, which was broadcast on Alan Dell’s Dance Band Days, BBC Radio Two, on the 29th of May 1989. Lew’s birthday is given as May, not June though, so the Wikipedia page for Lew has got his birthday month wrong. ( I added this video after writing the blog post, as I hadn’t seen it then).

Lew seated far left, with The London Aeolian Band, 1925.

The above photograph shows Lew with The Aeolian Band with whom he made his first professional appearance outside of London. The photograph appears in the now out of print book Lew Stone-A Career In Music, by Kenith Trodd, published in 1971. It’s a wonderful book; full of photographs and copies of articles from newspapers and magazine articles printed about Lew during his career. It was very kindly gifted to me by a friend.

I was also fortunate to find this great 45 rpm record on Ebay recently, which dates from 1959.

Here is the fabulous St. Louis Blues! That sax sounds so good, and so does the clarinet.

Serenade For A Wealthy Widow is another great upbeat number.

Music, Maestro, Please is one of the best numbers that Lew recorded with Al Bowlly. Isn’t that saxophone intro followed by that double bass just perfect? So smooth and rich sounding. Al’s voice is, as always wonderful. The boys in the band in this recording are: Lew Stone (director, arranger); Bert Bullimore, Chick Smith (trumpet); Lew Davis, Eric Tann (trombone); Joe Crossman, Ernest Ritte, Dave Shand (clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax); Don Barrigo (clarinet, tenor sax); Bobby McGee (piano, arranger); Ivor Mairants (guitar); Arthur Maden (string bass); Jock Jacobson (drums); Al Bowlly (vocals). It was recorded in August the 15th, 1938. They were using the Bobby McGee arrangement. I think it’s the talented Ernest Ritte on that lead saxophone.

Dark Clouds might be a rather apt song for a not so sunny British summer!

Dark Clouds
I can see you coming in the sky
Go away

Dark Clouds
Hope that you’ll be only passing by
Blow away

I’m with you there Al!

I sometimes in the rush and hurry of my life as a West End band-leader today I think back those days and smile. For my philosophy is that the present is too short for happiness to last, the future nobody can foretell, but the past is always there to be drawn upon for happy memories.’

Lew Stone (28th June 1898 – 12th January 1969).

1930s Magazines · Blog posts

Radio Times, September 8th, 1939.

I recently acquired a 1939 issue of the Radio Times. It’s in rather good condition for its age, considering how thin the paper is. Like most vintage magazines it’s quite large, so it filled up all the space on my scanner, but fortunately the pages have quite a lot of space around the edges, so I managed to get all the text within the scans.

Below is the front cover, showing an atmospheric photograph of Big Ben. Big Ben’s bells are silent at the moment, as he is being renovated, but he’ll be chiming again at the end of next year.

Inside the cover are some cute advertisements.

We’ve got Faddy Florence who doesn’t like what her mummy has served up for breakfast. Perhaps it was kippers or lumpy porridge? Can’t say I blame her for not wanting to eat her breakfast if it was either of those! Rice Crispies comes to the rescue with it’s funny little noises. Before I saw this ad, I didn’t know Rice Crispies were around in 1939. My mum used to buy me and my brothers Rice Crispies in the 1970s.

Then for Florence’s father we have the Aertex underwear! I had a look on Google and this company is still making garments.

As for Mother, well she can have a peaceful night’s sleep on a new Somnus mattress; that’s as long as Husband doesn’t snore of course. Somnus beds are still going too: they are an expensive luxury brand, as they were back in 1939 (today they cost thousands of pounds!). The mattress in the above ad cost seventy two shillings and sixpence, which is a little over the equivalent of £200 in today’s money. Given that an average man’s weekly wage in 1939 was one pound and nineteen shillings, you can get a good idea of how expensive this mattress was! I hope Florence’s father had a very well paid job!

After breakfast, when Florence has gone to school, and Husband has gone of to work, Mother probably has some housework to get on with, unless she is quite middle class, she’ll wait for the maid to arrive and then go out shopping or meet a friend for lunch. I like the second idea much better.

It’s now dinner time, and Father switches on the wireless—

Let’s see what’s on the wireless–

It’s Sam Costa! That will do very nicely!

From looking at the programmes for the week in this 1939 Radio Times I can see that there wasn’t much dance band music broadcasts at this time. Of course this had a lot to do with the war, because a lot of the boys in the bands were getting called up.

Songs from the Shows looks like it might’ve been fun though.

Below, we can get an idea of what the British people wanted to listen to on the wireless in 1939. Somebody with the initial N- from Brereton Cleave, London N.7, was very pleased that The BBC broadcast Fred Astaire songs one Sunday. I most certainly would have given that a listen myself.

And if Mother is at home 5.30 pm whilst the maid is preparing the evening meal, she might have a go at this fun radio game. She could test out her phrases on Father when he gets home from work!