Al Bowlly's In Heaven

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That Was A Voice, That Was A Band

Al Bowlly 1899-1941

Al Bowlly was the most popular vocalist in Britain during the 1930s, making more than 1000 recordings between 1927 and 1941. Al was born on January 7, 1899 in Mozambique to Greek and Lebanese parents, raised in Johannesburg, South Africa and killed by the explosion of a parachute mine outside his flat in London on April 17, 1941. Al Bowlly showcased a range of material unsurpassed by any contemporary other than Bing Crosby. He was also a true international recording artist. He gained his musical experience singing for a dance band led by Jimmy Liquime in India and Singapore during the mid-1920s. Just one year after his 1927 debut recording date in Berlin, Bowlly arrived in London for the first time in 1931, as part of Fred Elizalde's orchestra. That year, "If I Had You" became one of the first popular songs by an English jazz band to become renowned in America as well, and Bowlly had gone out on his own by the dawn of the '30s. During the next three years, he recorded over 500 songs and appeared with orchestras led by Ray Noble and Lew Stone. A visit to New York in 1934 with Noble resulted in more success and their recordings achieved popularity in the USA; he appeared at the head of an orchestra hand-picked for him and Noble by Glenn Miller (the band included Claude Thornhill, Charlie Spivak and Bud Freeman, among others).

During the mid-'30s, such songs as "Blue Moon," "Easy to Love," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "My Melancholy Baby" were sizable American successes -- so much so that Bowlly gained his own radio series on NBC and traveled to Hollywood to film The Big Broadcast of 1936, which also starred one of his biggest competitors, Bing Crosby. He had successful throat surgery in the USA but was to have further difficulties with his voice late in his career. He returned to live in London in January 1937, appearing with his own band, the Radio City Rhythm Makers, as well as the orchestras of Sydney Lipton, Geraldo and Ken Johnson. Partnered with Jimmy Messini, Bowlly also branched out onto the London stage during the early '40s with an act called Radio Stars with Two Guitars. It was his last venture before his death in 1941.

Al Bowlly remains one of the most highly regarded singers of his era because of the sincerity with which he could deliver a lyric.

Al Bowlly's In Heaven
(Richard Thompson)
 

Well we were heroes then, and the girls were all pretty
And a uniform was a lucky charm, bought
you the key to the city
We used to dance the whole night through
While Al Bowlly sang "The Very Thought Of You"
Now Bowlly's in heaven and I'm in limbo now

Well I gave my youth to king and country
But what's my country done for me
but sentenced me to misery
I traded my helmet and my parachute
For a pair of crutches and a demob suit
Al Bowlly's in heaven and I'm in limbo now

Hard times, hard hard times
Hostels and missions and dosser's soup lines
Can't close me eyes on a bench or a bed
For the sound of some battle raging in my head

Old friends, you lose so many
You get run around, all over town
The wear and the tear, oh it just drives you down
St Mungo's with its dirty old sheets
Beats standing all day down on Scarborough Street
Al Bowlly's in heaven and I'm in limbo now

Can't stay here, you got to foot-slog
Once in a blue moon you might find a job
Sleep in the rain, you sleep in the snow
When the beds are all taken you've got nowhere to go

Well I can see me now, I'm back there on the dance floor
Oh with a blonde on me arm, red-head to spare
Spit on my shoes and shine in me hair
And there's Al Bowlly, he's up on a stand
Oh that was a voice and that was a band
Al Bowlly's in heaven and I'm in limbo now

Let Me Tell You About Al Bowlly
Al Bowlly 1899-1941

related internet links

A list of other contact
and information websites
for the collector of 78rpm
records

scroll down to HMV IM-800
and see the label to
Al Bowlly's last but one recording

scans of Al Bowlly
album covers that are
available on CD

ten mp3 recordings
a real find this, plus
other information on
Al Bowlly

with the Lew Stone Band
fourteen more mp3 recordings.
amazing stuff!
 

with the Ray Noble Orchestra
a further 15 mp3 recordings
a real listing pleasure

Al Bowlly's recording career,
track by track

The Dance Band Years CD 2000 [click for larger]
58340 2000

HMV Sessions, Vol. 2: 1930-1934 [click for larger]
Dutton Vocalion 6010 1999

The Very Thought Of You. 2001[click for larger]
President 540 2001

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