pre-war

All posts tagged pre-war

Savoy Hotel

All over the the post war world of the 1920s ‘dancing’ was the major impetus in popular music, especially the popularity of the Fox Trot. Dancing was the force driving hotels and other elite places to provide venues for bands to play and where patrons could dance.

It happened here in Batavia at the Hotel des Indes, and in London, where the initial major influence was the Savoy Hotel.

Note the banjo, soon to be replaced with the guitar.

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. From 1922 dances were broadcast weekly from the Savoy, and many dance bands were formed which had took the hotel name as part of their own. (In Batavia, there was the Tjikini Swimming Bath Orchestra …)

As well as the hotel house bands, record companies had their own in-house bands”. The best-remembered house-band leader was Ray Noble who led the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra at HMV. Not only did he write brilliant arrangements for his band and accompanied top HMV artistes like Jack Buchanan and Gracie Fields, but he wrote many great songs including Goodnight Sweetheart, Love Is The Sweetest Thing, The Very Thought Of You and The Touch Of Your Lips.

By the 1930s, most of the “name” bands had a singer. For example, Ambrose had Sam Browne, Elsie Carlisle and Vera Lynn (still alive at 100) Henry Hall (no relation to Albert Hall), had Les Allen; and Roy Fox had Denny Dennis.

Then there was there was Al Bowlly (1898-1941), killed in a German air raid). He sang with Roy Fox, Lew Stone, but recorded predominantly with Ray Noble, as well as having a very successful ‘solo’ career. Of note to IndoJazzia readers is that he gained his musical experience singing for a dance band led by Edgar Adeler on a tour of South Africa, Rhodesia, India and Indonesia during the mid-1920s. However, he fell out with Adeler and was fired from the band in Surabaya.

This compilation is culled from a triple vinyl collection issued by World Record Club back in 1976.


That is also the name of a very active FaceBook page. Another valuable resource of info is the website run by M.G.Thomas called simply The British Dance Band Encyclopedia. That no recordings apparently exist from pre-war Indonesia is a shame, but at least locals can get some idea of what a music genre briefly heard here sounded like.

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