A nostalgic journey to the past to relive the golden days of entertainment!
Friday, September 19, 2014
BIG BAND BEAT: JACK JACKSON
I had a great friend from Devon, England - Frank Gill (1920-2006) who introduced me to the British Dance Bands. He opened a whole new world to me full of great music and different sounds. In some ways, the British Dance Bands were ahead of their counterparts. I learned a lot about the bands of Ambrose, Ray Noble, and Roy Fox, but one of the last bands I was introduced to was the band of Jack Jackson. Jackson is not as famous as Ambrose is, but he had a wonderful sound. He also was a very interesting personality. Jack Jackson was born on February 20, 1906 in Belvedere, Kent, the son of a brass band player and conductor, and began playing cornet at the age of 11 before playing violin and cello in dance bands. He learnt to play trumpet and worked in swing bands in circuses, revues, ballrooms and ocean liners before joining Jack Hylton's band in 1927. He left Hylton in 1929 and freelanced for a while. Jackson joined Jack Payne and the BBC Dance Orchestra in 1931. On August 1st 1933, Jack Jackson opened at the Dorchester Hotel with his own band. With him were some old friends from the Hylton days, Poggy Pogson and Chappie D'Amato, along with a host of other top flight musicians including multi-instrumentalist and ace arranger Stanley Andrews. He became immensely popular with the smart set at the Dorchester and the band always set a good dancing tempo as may be heard on his recordings. His signature tune was Make Those People Sway, and his regular closing theme tune was Dancing in the Dark. By 1939 he had a regular radio show on Radio Luxembourg. In December 1939 his moved to Rector's Club, then to the May Fair Hotel in March 1940.
During the war he spent some years at the Ministry of Information drawing cartoons and he also worked as a band booker at Foster's Agency. He wasn't cut out to work behind a desk, it seems, and he made a comeback with a new band at Churchill's in February 1947, opposite Edmundo Ross. He followed this with some theatre work and a spell at the Potomac in October 1947, after which he gave up bandleading to compere a BBC big-band series called "Band Parade". The following year he was given his own late-night record show called "Record Round Up". This was in June 1948 and it ran for over 20 years making him a household name all over again with a new generation and an audience of 12 million.He also broadcast regularly for Decca on Radio Luxembourg and made many TV appearances, and hosted his own chat-show on ITV in September 1955. In between times he compered band shows at theatres and even appeared as a solo variety act. He emigrated to Teneriffe in 1962, building himself an elaborate recording studio where he recorded his radio shows, flying them to London by jet-plane every week. His methods of presentation included punctuating records with surreal comedy clips, and using quick cutting of pre-recorded tapes to humorous effect. This was a major influence on later British DJs such as Kenny Everett and Noel Edmonds. In 1973, aged 67, he became seriously ill with a bronchial complaint associated with playing the trumpet, which was aggravated by the climate in the Canary Islands. He returned to Rickmansworth, where his 2 sons ran their own recording studio in an historic mansion which used to belong to Jack. He had apparently aged tremendously, all his energy sapped by the emphysema. He made a remarkable recovery, however, and presented a new radio program in 1975, "The Jack Jackson Show", although he had to rely a lot on the use of an electrical air-compressor for his breathing. For two years he was back on top, but then his health deteriorated. He was affectionately known as the 'daddy of all disc jockeys' during his brief spell (9 months) on Radio 1. His humour survived, however. When Melody Maker journalist Chris Hayes wrote to him in 1977 asking for an interview, he replied "Sorry, I'm unable to give you an interview as my respiratory organs are not blowing too well of late. It's alright as long as I don't breathe; in fact, I'm thinking of giving it up altogether, but the appalling funeral expenses put me off". Jack died in 1978 at Rickmansworth, just short of his 72nd birthday...