Tuesday, March 30, 2010


British band leader Ted Heath, was born on March 30, 1902 in Wandsworth, South London and was the most famous and successful big band leader in Great Britain of the 40s, 50s and 60s, recording more than 100 albums and selling over 20 million records.

After playing tenor horn at the age of six, encouraged by his father, the leader of the prestigious Wandsworth Town Brass Band, Heath later switched to trombone.
Earning a living for his family in the tough post-war years he and his brother Harold and three other musicians formed a band that played to commuters coming out of London Bridge Station before winding their way along the streets in London to a spot outside the Queen’s Hall Gardens venue. It was here that Heath’s professional career began as he was spotted on the street and asked to play with the famous Jack Hylton Band who had a residence there. He didn’t last long, not having the experience required, but it gave him the ambition to pursue a career as a professional musician.

His first real band gig was with an American band on tour in Europe - the Southern Syncopation Orchestra - which had an engagement in Vienna, Austria and needed a trombone player. The drummer for this band, Benny Payton, taught Heath all about Jazz and Swing. Heath had to pay his own way back from Austria when the band ran out of money.
He next played with the Metro-Gnomes, a small band fronted by Ennis Parkes, who later married Jack Hylton. In late 1920, Heath again joined Hylton's theatre band.
From 1925 to 1926 Heath played in the Kit Cat Club band led by American Al Starita. There he heard Bunny Berrigan, Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Whiteman when they toured Europe.

In 1928, he joined Bert Ambrose's orchestra at the Mayfair Hotel in London and played there until 1935 when he moved on to Sydney Lipton's orchestra at the Grosvenor House. Ambrose, a strict disciplinarian, taught Heath how to be a bandleader. It was during this time that Heath became the most prominent trombone player in England, renowned for his perfect tone. He played on numerous recordings.

In September, 1939 the war caused the immediate disbandment of the Sydney Lipton Band, which was on tour in Scotland at the time. Heath, his wife Moira and children went back to London. In late 1939, Heath joined Maurice Winnick's Dorchester Hotel band.
During the late 30s and early 40s, Heath also played as a sideman on several Benny Carter's albums.

In 1940, Heath joined Geraldo's orchestra and played hundreds of concerts and broadcasts during the war traveling to the Middle East to play to the Allied Forces based there. He often became one of the "boys" in Geraldo's vocal group, Three Boys and a Girl.
In 1941, Geraldo asked his band members to submit a favorite tune to include in their broadcasts. Heath had composed a song "That Lovely Weekend" after his wife had written him a poem on a rare weekend together amongst his war travels, and he set this to music. Heath suggested "That Lovely Weekend" to Geraldo and it was orchestrated with Dorothy Carless on vocal and was an immediate huge war hit. The royalties from this song and another composition "Gonna Love That Guy" allowed Heath to form his own band.

Heath was inspired by Glenn Miller and his Army Air Force Band and spoke with Miller at length about forming his own band when Miller toured England shortly before his fateful flight across the English Channel. Heath admired the immaculate precision of the Miller ensemble and felt confident that he could emulate Miller’s success with his own set up.
In 1944, Douglas Lawrence was Dance Music Organizer for the BBC's Variety Department. Heath talked him into supporting a new band with a broadcasting contract. Lawrence was skeptical as Heath wanted a much larger band than anyone had seen before.
The Ted Heath Band was first heard on a BBC broadcast in 1944. The band was organized originally as a British "All Star Band" playing only radio dates.
In 1945, the BBC decreed that only permanent, touring bands could appear on radio. So the permanent Heath Band was officially formed on D-Day, 1945.
In late 1945, American bandleader Tootie Camarata came to UK as musical director for the film London Town and commissioned Heath to provide the music for the film. The money from this gig allowed the band to stay alive.

Next, Heath arranged a stint at the Winter Gardens at Blackpool in 1946, a Scandinavian tour, a fortnight at the London Casino with Lena Horne, and backed Ella Fitzgerald at the London Palladium.

Popularity quickly followed and the Heath Band and musicians were regular Poll Winners in the Melody Maker – Britain’s leading music newspaper. Subsequently Heath was asked to perform at three Royal Command Performances in front of King George VI in 1948, 1949 and 1951.
In 1947 Heath took a huge gamble and persuaded impresario Val Parnell to allow him to hire the London Palladium for alternating Sundays for his Sunday Night Swing Sessions. Theatres in London were ‘dark’ on Sundays and not considered a ‘night out’.

This was an inspirational idea and the band played 110 concerts ending in August 1955 during which the band became hugely successful along with regular appearances at the Hammersmith Palais in London and constant touring throughout the UK.

In April 1956 Heath arranged his first American tour. This was a ground breaking reciprocal agreement between Heath and Stan Kenton, who would tour Britain at the same time as Heath toured the U.S. The tour was a major negotiated agreement with the British Musician's Union and the American Federation of Musicians, which broke a 20 year union deadlock.

Heath contracted to play a tour that included Nat King Cole, June Christy and the Four Freshmen that consisted of 43 concerts in 30 cities (primarily the southern states) in 31 days (7,000 miles) climaxing in a Carnegie Hall concert on May 1, 1956. At this performance, the band's instrument truck was delayed by bad weather. The instruments finally arrived just minutes before the curtain rose. The band had no time to warm up or rehearse. They went on stage "cold". There were so many encore calls at the Carnegie Hall performance that Nat King Cole (who was backstage, but not on the bill) had to come out on stage and ask people to leave.

During the tour, Nat King Cole was attacked on stage in Birmingham, Alabama by a group of white segregationists. Heath was so appalled he nearly cancelled the remainder of the tour but was persuaded by Cole to continue. They remained firm friends until Coles’ death and collaborated musically on many occasions.

Heath toured the USA many times to great success and also toured Australia and Europe on several occasions.
The 1950s was the most popular period for Ted Heath and His Music during which a substantial repertoire of recordings were made. In 1958 nine albums alone. He became a household name throughout the UK, Europe, Australasia and the USA.

In addition to Cole, Heath established close personal and professional relationships with Woody Herman, Count Basie, Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Mathis and Tony Bennett. His band members included Ronnie Scott, an early member of the band before going on to open his legendary London jazz club, the pianist Stan Tracey, trumpeters Kenny Baker and Duncan Campbell, sax players Red Price, Ronnie Chamberlain, Don Rendell and Tommy Whittle, trombonists Dopon Lusher and Wally Smith, drummer Jack Parnell. The addition of singers Dickie Valentine, Lita Roza and Dennis Lotis in the 50s gave the band more teenage appeal.

He commissioned scores from all the top arrangers of the era with more than 800 original arrangements as part of the band’s library. Arrangers included Tadd Dameron, George Shearing, Reg Owen, Johnny Keating; Ken Moule and many others.

The Ted Heath Band plays.

Reference - Wikipédia

No comments: