Dance Band Encyclopaedia
Paul Specht - Part 3
Three: The lido Venice and Canadian Club Orchestras, and the Kit Cat
have been unable to trace any incoming ship on which they sailed, and
it seems very likely they did not come to England first. Details of
exactly where they played and when are rather sketchy, but they appear
to have opened their tour in Brussels in October 1924. From there they
moved to Berlin, where they played for about eight weeks. At the
beginning of 1925 they appeared in Paris, but this engagement seems to
have been terminated rather suddenly, for reasons unknown. They then
moved on to London; according to Melody
Maker they played at the Empress Rooms. Following this, they
returned to Europe, and in the Spring of 1925 were playing in Rome. At
the end of this engagement they apparently returned to Berlin, where
the band broke up in about June, 1925. (1 can only assume Work Permits
were granted for the English part of this tour.)
has been stated in several editions of “Jazz
that the Lido Venice band visited London in 1924, and even made
records for Columbia whilst they were here. I have been unable to find
any reports of their appearance here until early 1925, although
recordings may have been made then.
May 1925 the Kit Cat Club opened in London, and Vincent Lopez and his
Hotel Pennsylvania Orchestra
were brought over to play on the opening night. (This visit is covered
in detail in a separate article),
are reports that Specht was asked to bring over his band for this
event; but that Work Permits were refused. Variety
for June 10th, 1925 carried a banner headline “RETALIATION
FOR ENGLAND” which referred to permits being denied to Specht,
and musicians in America working without hindrance” (sic).
It was also suggested that the American State and Labour Departments
were inquiring into the matter of “British
Labour Unions discrimination against Americans “.
By their issue of July 1st, Variety
had toned down their reporting somewhat, stating “... in the Paul Specht matter which concerned the Kit Cat, it is said that
the American Ambassador will not make a protest to the Foreign
is interesting to note that the July 1st issue of Variety
also carried another item, “ENGLISH
BAND IS OFFERED DATES IN
AMERICA, Keith-Albee Wants
Any Feeling “.
The article reported that Hylton and his band had been offered this
trip in an attempt to alleviate some of the feeling that American
bands were keeping the English bands out of work. The William Morris
Agency had also offered Hylton a concert tour. In the event Hylton was
officially unable to accept either of these offers in view of his
heavy workload in England over the coming months. He himself took an
advert in Variety to
publicise this fact, thanking the American bookers for their offers.
It is equally likely he knew very well he would not be able to play in
America because of AFM opposition.
December of 1925, Variety in
particular had started to name Hylton as leading the objections to
visiting American bands. This was unfair and inaccurate. Hylton was
not against American bands working in England, provided they were good
bands, and later on it was through his efforts that bands such as the
Ellington orchestra played here. It may well be he had objections to
Specht in particular, however, as has already been seen.)
Specht was certainly not prepared to let matters rest, and commenced
lobbying in America for reciprocal measures against the English,
although even Variety suggested
his radical attitude might prove to be a hindrance.
some point during this period, Specht was appointed Musical Director
for the Piccadilly Hotel and Kit Cat Club. Specht’s own account of
this, given several years later, was that he was responsible for
supplying three bands a week for a period of one year to both these
establishments. Since all American bookings to the Kit Cat Club at
least handled by the William Morris Agency, whose English agent was
Fosters Agency of London, it is difficult to determine exactly what
his duties were. Quite apart from which, he was hardly ever in England
December 23rd, 1925 reported on “Specht
's plan to circumvent British labour embargo on musicians ", and
referred to him coaching Canadian bands to be sent over to England
under his management. The first of these visitors was to be the “Royal
Canadian Orchestra, which will carry his name and sails Dec 28 on the
Majestic to open in London. The Specht unit opens at the Kit Cat and
will also double in vaudeville. It is his 17th
Orchestra to go to
set out elsewhere, the reason for bringing over a Canadian band was
that Canadians were regarded as British citizens and therefore no Work
Permits were required. The quoted figure of 17 orchestras is
impressive but may not be totally accurate, in that “bands within a
band” may have been treated as separate units.
Specht’s Canadian Club Orchestra, as it was billed in England,
needed little coaching from Specht or anyone else. According to Melody
Maker for February, 1926, they were “A
ten-piece combination, its members, who are all Canadians, between
them account for thirty-five different instruments. There are three
vocalists in the outfit,
and the leader can sing and extemporise on the spur of the moment a
song about anyone or anything he notices. Art Christmas, the first trumpet, is also a red-hot “dirt”
sax. player, and the whole crowd is about as lively a bunch as one
could wish for.”
article also stated the band had been playing for four years, and was
the official orchestra for the Government House at Ottawa. It was the
only band which had been allowed
to use the Canadian Government Crest, this being equivalent to a Royal
Warrant in England.
The band duly arrived here on board the “Majestic” on January 3rd 1926. The Passenger List (BT26/825) showed:-
Christmas is presumably Art Christmas; I have been unable to find out
his full names. Many of the Christian names listed above differ from
published discographies, but were presumably taken from Passports, and
should therefore be correct.
these musicians was included one “Gypsy
Rhoumaje”, aged 17, and listed as “Dancer”. Her entry was
crossed through on the List, which normally indicates that a passenger
did not actually sail. Whether she was supposed to be part of the
Canadian Club outfit is unclear, but the Times
in early February 1926 reported her as working at the Piccadilly
Hotel, so she must have arrived on an earlier or later boat.)
band duly opened at the Kit Cat Club, and scored an immediate success
with a new number they bad brought with them. This was “Clap Hands!
Here Comes Charley”, and within 24 hours many bandleaders in London
were trying to get hold of the band parts. However, the English agent
for this song was the Lawrence Wright Music Co. who stated it would
not be released here for another ten days or so. Almost inevitably, by
the time it was put on sale, most bandleaders already had their own
“private” copies, either by taking it down at the Kit Cat Club, or
perhaps even borrowing the Canadian Club parts.
in England the band recorded for Columbia, presumably through
Specht’s influence with that company. It is suggested in some
quarters that one or two English musicians
played on these recordings, notably Julian Vedey, a drummer and later
on the Editor of Rhythm, a rival to the Melody
Maker. Also mentioned in this respect is Harry Hayes (Alto. Sax.).
Although Vedey is on record as saying he worked in a Specht band prior
to starting Rhythm, it is
not clear whether this was actually the Canadian Club outfit.
least two of the records by this band seem to be extremely rare; of
one of them only one copy is known to exist.)
It seems the band wanted to stay in England, but had to return to Canada at the end of 1926, to play at the opening of the Regent Theatre in Ottawa in January 1927. However, Art Christmas stayed and worked here for many years, apart from a trip home in 1929/30.
well as the personnels suggested above, there is a further report that
Fred Morrow (reeds), having left the Lido Venice band when it broke up,
returned to America and then came to England as part of the Canadian
Club outfit. I have been unable to confirm this, and in any event it
seems unlikely. The whole point of Specht’s sending over this band
(all Canadian citizens) was to get round the permit restrictions. Adding
an American player would hardly help his cause!
This brings us to a convenient point to pause before proceeding to the next instalment, which covers the visit of Specht’s own orchestra later in 1926. And also the matter of the Willis-Vaile Bill.....
here for: Part
Four: Paul Specht and his Orchestra; 1926.