Dance Band Encyclopaedia


Al Collins

Home page  Introduction  Label Index  Musicians  Sound Files
Bandleader and violinist.
London, 1899. 
Died:  London, 1964.
Signature tunes: L'Amour Toujours L'Amour                              

Al Collins is a rather forgotten and ignored figure nowadays, probably because of his lack of recording activity. In the Dance Band heyday, however, he played an important part with the Savoy Group of Hotels, spending almost all of his professional life working for them.

Born in London, Al Collins went to America in his teens and remained there throughout the first World War, working as a violinist accompanied by a young Billy Mayerl on piano. Returning to England in 1919, he lead a band at the Piccadilly Hotel for David de Groot for over a year until William de Mornys of the Savoy Hotel group discovered him and put him in charge of a small dance band at the Savoy Hotel. The hotel bands in those days didn't have a name, incidentally.

In 1920, de Mornys placed him in charge of the dance music at Claridge's Hotel. Claridge's was a sedate establishment, requiring dance music to suit and Collins provided it with a five piece band consisting of
Ben Tucker, sax; Collins, violin; Dave Comer (formerly in the old Savoy Quartet), piano; Hyatt Berry, banjo; Sid Racklin, drums. (This was the line-up in 1925 - see photograph) The band was augmented in 1927 by Will Dannan (tenor sax) and Charlie Jones (tuba). 
For the 4 Regal recordings of 1923, the band was augmented to the "normal" recording band size by 2 trumpets, trombone, 2 extra saxes and tuba, possibly using musicians from the other Savoy Bands (i.e. The Savoy Havana Band & the Orpheans).

According to William De Mornys, manager of the Savoy Hotel Group, if any of the rather brash American musicians in the Savoy Orpheans or Havana Band started playing up by jazzing numbers when they shouldn't, de Mornys sent them to Claridges for Al Collins to use; the restaurant manager there would not tolerate any loud jazz, and would complain to de Mornys if any were played at his establishment.

In 1929 - 1930, Collins transferred to the main Savoy Hotel, sharing the musical duties with Arthur Lally and later with Percival Mackey. He only made one recording during this period, a semi-private recording for Columbia.

In 1932, Collins switched to the Berkeley Hotel (still part of the Savoy Group) where he remained for many years, continuing his policy of melodious dance music as is proved by his four Decca recordings of 1936 and the later "Music While You Work" medleys.

Later on he left the dance music scene and played violin for various 'straight' orchestras before retiring to Israel where his son and daughter were living. He soon returned to London where he had an interest in an amateur orchestra right up until his death in 1964.

As mentioned above, he made very few recordings, considering his long career at some of the top hotels. The only commercially issued ones during the pre WWII era were 4 titles for Regal in 1923 whilst at Claridges and 4 titles for Decca in 1936 whilst at the Berkeley. In 1944 & 1945 he recorded several sets of medleys for Decca's "Music While You Work" series.

Acknowledgments: Dance Music At The Savoy Hotel and Signature Tunes, both by Chris Hayes.

Al Collins, MM 0827.jpg (28382 bytes)
Al Collins

Al Collins Claridges Band, 1925.jpg (68312 bytes)
Al Collins' band at Claridge's Hotel

Al Collins & his Berkeley Orch.jpg (109509 bytes)
Al Collins' Berkeley Hotel Orchestra (1930s)

Al Collins band caricature.jpg (101630 bytes)
Caricature of 
Al Collins' Band

Full Discography:

AL COLLINS AND HIS ORCHESTRA: Al Collins-vn-dir: 2t /tb /Ben Tucker and another -cl-ss-as /cl-ts /Dave Comer-p /Hyatt Berry-bj /bb /Sid Racklin-d.                                                                                   London, c. December 28, 1923,

Dirty Hands, Dirty Face
When You And I Were Dancing
A Kiss In The Dark (waltz) (intro: Weaving My Dreams)
Regal G-8210
Regal G-8119
Regal G-8120
Regal G-8119

SAVOY BAND, conductor AL COLLINS: Al Collins-vn dir: 2t/tb/?Ben Tucker and another cl-as/ts/p/g/sb/d.
                                                                                                                              London, December, 1930.

WA-10989 March On (Adapted from Song Of The Blue Shirts) - vOrch  Columbia LO-6

AL COLLINS AND HIS ORCHESTRA: Al Collins-vn-dir: Arthur Lousley-t /Jack Miranda - Harry Hines-cl-as /Ben Tucker-cl-ts /Pat Dodd-p /Len Shevill-g /Ronnie Gubertini-d.                                London, October 31, 1932

Regal-Zonophone rejected
    --        --            --

AL COLLINS AND HIS BERKELEY HOTEL ORCHESTRA: Al Collins-vn-dir: Arthur Lousley - Norman Payne - Bill Shakespeare-t /Bill Mulraney and another-tb /Jack Miranda and another-cl-as /Harry Hines-cl-as-bar-a /Ben Tucker-cl-ts /vn/ Pat Dodd-p/ Eddie Freeman-g/ Al Burke-sb/ Ronnie Gubertini-d/ Suzanne Botterill - Jimmy Leary - Bert Yarlett-v.
                                                                                                                             London, January 31, 1936

With All My Heart - vSB
Moon For Sale - vBY
Old Ship O' Mine - vBY
Moon Over Miami - vJL 
Decca F-5876
Decca F-5875

AL COLLINS AND HIS BAND: Al Collins dir: probably Norman Payne-t/ Mickey Lewis - Jock Scott-as/ George Pallat-ts /Abe Walters-p/ Maurice Smart-pac/ Alfie Crask-sb/ Ginger Conn-d.                   London, April 3, 1944

This Can't Be Love / This Years Kisses 
San Francisco / Jingle Bells
Music, Maestro, Please / I've Got A Feelin' You're Foolin' 
The Love Bug Will Bite You / Mama, I Wanna Make Rhythm  
Decca MW-267
Decca MW-275

                                                                                                                            London, August 1, 1944

Me, Myself And I / Mine Alone
A Little Bit Independent / Let Me Whisper
Everything's In Rhythm With My Heart / White Sails 
Did Your Mother Come From Ireland? / The Masquerade Is Over
Decca MW-339
Decca MW-352

                                                                                                                           London, October 26, 1944

Ain't Got A Dime To My Name / Frankie And Johnny
Sweet And Lovely / I Surrender Dear    
A Bench In The Park / It All Depends On You
I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight? / Poor Little Rich Girl  
Decca MW-373
Decca MW-375

                                                                                                                           London, January 31, 1945

Swinging On A Star / Choc'late Soldier From The U.S.A.
Dance With A Dolly / The Trolley Song 
Tico-Tico / Ten Days With Baby 
If You Ever Go To Ireland / Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes
Decca MW-302
Decca MW-303