ON THE AIR WITH AL BOWLLY – Ray Pallett (1975)

The 1930’s are considered to be the golden age of radio. Listeners in Great Britain did not listen to BBC programmes, but continental stations, the most popular being Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandy which beamed programmes of popular appeal to Britain. The success of these overseas commercial stations was much due to the fact that the BBC failed on any occasions to give the British people what they wanted to listen to.
Al Bowlly appeared on the BBC as vocalist with a variety of dance bands, some such as Henry Hall and Ambrose with whom he never recorded. He appeared in the late night dance music programmes from 10.30 to midnight with Roy Fox and Lew Stone. Popular gramophone records were seldom played on the BBC, but Christopher Stone, the first D.J , usually played one dance record in his programmes, and often it was Al with Ray Noble.

Christopher Stone

Apart from appearing as a guest on Henry Hall’s Guest Night, he also sung as vocalist with Henry’s band on one occasion in place of the band’s regular singer, Les Allen. Al Bowlly appeared in a variety of programmes over the BBC, including “Hear, Hear” with Archie de Bear, “One Good Turn” with Ray Noble and “America Calling” with Eddie Pola in addition to light

Ray Nobles American Orchestra

programmes such as “Crooner’s Corner” and “Friends to Tea”. In America, where all radio was commercial, he appeared in several programmes, the most well-known being the Coty programme with Ray Noble’s American Orchestra. He also broadcast regularly with Al Goodman and his Orchestra, as well as “guesting” with other American Bands.

On the continental stations, Al could frequently be heard. On Radio Lyons he was heard on Sunday and Tuesday nights_on the programmes sponsored by Hinds Honey and Almond Cream, which he opened with the number, “I kiss your hand, madame”. On Hilversum, AI could be heard vocalising with the Ramblers Dance Orchestra. One of the most successful,programmes for Al was on Radio Luxembourg and broadcast Sunday afternoon at 3.45, sponsored by Black Magic Chocolates. The programme presented “Music in the new sweet manner” with Monia Liter directing the Ace of Hearts Orchestra. Al was introduced as “your singer of romantic songs”. Also on Luxembourg, on Sundays, Al Bowlly was featured regularly in the programme “Symingtons Sunday Night Excursion” with Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch and Marjorie Stedeford, together with an excellent band directed by Harry Carr. Al often starred on Radio Eirann’s popular evening programme “Ten minutes with a star” as well as various variety shows on Post Parisien.

Al With Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch

Television was on the air for three years during Al’s lifetime, and although documentary evidence has yet to be traced, it is believed Al “guested” on T.V. in 1938 and 1939.

Radio played a very important part in the career of Al Bowlly. He broadcast much material which he never recorded — it is a pity that the vast majority of these are now lost in space for ever.

4 thoughts on “ON THE AIR WITH AL BOWLLY – Ray Pallett (1975)

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  1. Thank you for posting this review of Al’s concert. It makes one long to get in a time machine and attend and see him and Monia! Oh to have been there to see him. He must’ve been just wonderful!

    I have made some comments on some of the comments the reviewer made ( who does write with some very old fashioned English reserve).

    “His voice and his deportment were easy, although he has yet to acquire the art of avoiding restless movements of hands.”

    Not “restless” at all! Graceful movements expressing the lyrics and mood of the song (as he did in My Melancholy Baby on the Pathe film). I expect this reviewer was used to people who stood still like statues and did little to interpret the song? I would tell Al to ignore this man and to keep on using his hands!

    “He got into his stride with “Learn to Croon,” using one of two mikes which was definitely superior to the other, and this number suited him down to the ground and produced a warm response from the audience.”

    A rather reserved description. I bet this means that he got a lot of claps and happy smiles from the audience!


  2. For some reason I had to break up my comment into two parts.

    “The next number was “I Cover the Waterfront,” sung leaning against the proscenium arch and without the mike. This is a number in which Al always registers a tremendous amount of sentiment, and those near enough to the stage could plainly detect real tears in his eyes !”

    How very touching! This backs up Ray Noble’s memories of Al often having tears in his eyes after he’d finished singing. If only we had a recording of Al singing this song. I’d love to hear him singing it.

    “When he concluded his last chorus, this time with a very inferior mike, the reception could only be described as rousing.”

    I bet this means he got loads of cheers and clapping that went on for about three minutes!

    “So enthusiastic indeed was the audience that, after taking several bows, he was compelled to come before the tabs and sing yet another number, choosing “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” “

    Only what Al deserved! I bet this means that he got clapping and cheering that went on for over 5 minutes with shouts of “Encore! Encore!”

    “He certainly has no peer among British crooners.”

    Indeed, and no man has met his standard yet and never will! This is because he was a song stylist of great talent with a magical presence, making him much more than a “crooner.” He sang songs of a variety of styles of his era.

    The descriptions of Monia’s playing were nice to read too. He and Al were so perfect in working on a song together as seen in the two Pathe films. They were so in sync with each other.


  3. Oh dear I posted the comments for your post on the concert in the wrong blog post! I hope you’ll be able to delete them and this one as I’ve added a comment on this one below.


  4. Great photographs of Al. He looked like he was having a good time with his co workers! I agree with Ray on how it’s such a shame that these radio broadcasts are a loss. It would be wonderful to hear them. I hope those TV programmes turn up one day!


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Interwar London

Popular Culture in 1920s and 1930s Britain


Information and Resources for Historic-Sound Enthusiasts

Wistful Nostalgia.

Vintage blogger. Al Bowlly admirer. 1930s enthusiast. Fiction writer and artist.

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