Dance Band Encyclopaedia
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Born: Barnsley, Yorkshire, February 20th, 1906.
Died: Rickmansworth, England, January 14th, 1978.
Signature tunes: (for his band) Make Those People Sway
(for the radio show) Carnival
Jack was taught to play the trumpet by John Solomon at the Royal Academy of music and he subsequently worked in circuses, revues, ballrooms and ocean liners. He played at the Birmingham and Hammersmith Palais for Canadian bandleader Bill Shenkman and he toured with a revue called "Stage Struck", playing solo and leading the pit orchestra. He also fronted gig bands at the Hotel Cecil and the Holborn Restaurant and led a quintet called the Metropole Band at the Links Hotel, Ashford, Kent.
Jack was only 19 when he was spotted by Bert Ralton and chosen to play in his Havana Band. Interestingly, alongside Jack in Ralton's band was saxophonist Allen Warren who later became a member of Jack's own band at the Dorchester Hotel. Jack travelled to South Africa with Ralton in September 1926. Ralton was accidentally shot dead in February 1927, but the band completed the tour, being directed by saxophonist Bill Barton, returning to England in June 1927.
On returning to England in June 1927, Jack freelanced for a while, playing for Ambrose and making a few records for Ronnie Munro at Parlophone. He also appears to be on a couple of sessions at Crystalate (Imperial Records) with Syd Roy's Crichton Lyricals, taking some excellent hot solos on "She Don't Wanna", Somebody Said" and "The Baltimore". It certainly sounds like Jack on these.
In August 1927, Jack Jackson got his big break - Jack Hylton's band. By now, Jackson's playing was confident and with more than a hint of the famous Bix Beiderbecke and Red Nichols, though with his own style. He played many fine "hot" solos whilst with Hylton and also sang on occasion, generally using the latest modern "scat" techniques.
Jackson was with Hylton for just over 2 years, leaving in November 1929 to join Howard Jacobs band at the Berkeley Hotel, then to The Savoy Hotel to play in the band first directed by Percival Mackey and then by Arthur Lally. He recorded with both these bandleaders and also free-lanced with the likes of Harry Hudson at Edison Bell. In March 1931, both Roy Fox and Jack Payne were after his services, but Jack Payne won and Jackson spent the next 2 years at the BBC with Payne. He didn't record so many hot solos with Payne, but he was a key player both musically and vocally, assisting in the many comedy aspects too.
In February 1933 he
left Payne to form his own band and herein lies a story, and it may be
just that. Apparently, Jack Payne was wont to pick on a particular
musician at rehearsals to be the brunt of his rather brusque manner. On
this one occasion, the chosen one was Jackson's friend, Poggy Pogson.
Poggy just couldn't do anything right. In the end, Jackson couldn't
stand it anymore; he stood up and said to Payne: "If you don't lay
off him, I'm going to come up there and bash you over the head with this
trumpet". Payne retorted "You're Fired". "Too
Late", replied Jackson, "I quit - come on Poggy" and they
both walked off.
On August 1st 1933, Jack Jackson opened at the Dorchester Hotel with his own band. With him were some old friends from the Hylton days, Poggy Pogson and Chappie D'Amato, along with a host of other top flight musicians including multi-instrumentalist and ace arranger Stanley Andrews. He became immensely popular with the smart set at the Dorchester and the band always set a good dancing tempo as may be heard on his recordings. In December 1939 his moved to Rector's Club, then to the May Fair Hotel in March 1940.
During the war he spent some years at the Ministry of Information drawing cartoons and he also worked as a band booker at Foster's Agency. He wasn't cut out to work behind a desk, it seems, and he made a comeback with a new band at Churchill's in February 1947, opposite Edmundo Ross. He followed this with some theatre work and a spell at the Potomac in October 1947, after which he gave up bandleading to compere a BBC big-band series called "Band Parade". The following year he was given his own late-night record show called "Record Round Up". This was in June 1948 and it ran for over 20 years making him a household name all over again with a new generation and an audience of 12 million.
He also broadcast regularly for Decca on Radio Luxembourg and made many TV appearances, and hosted his own chat-show on ITV in September 1955. In between times he compered band shows at theatres and even appeared as a solo variety act. He emigrated to Teneriffe in 1962, building himself an elaborate recording studio where he recorded his radio shows, flying them to London by jet-plane every week.
In 1973, aged 67, he became seriously ill with a bronchial complaint associated with playing the trumpet, which was aggravated by the climate in the Canary Islands. He returned to Rickmansworth, where his 2 sons ran their own recording studio in an historic mansion which used to belong to Jack. He had apparently aged tremendously, all his energy sapped by the emphysema. He made a remarkable recovery, however, and presented a new radio program in 1975, "The Jack Jackson Show", (I wonder who thought that one up), although he had to rely a lot on the use of an electrical air-compressor for his breathing. For two years he was back on top, but then his health deteriorated. His humour survived, however. When Melody Maker journalist Chris Hayes wrote to him in 1977 asking for an interview, he replied "Sorry, I'm unable to give you an interview as my respiratory organs are not blowing too well of late. It's alright as long as I don't breathe; in fact, I'm thinking of giving it up altogether, but the appalling funeral expenses put me off". Jack died in 1978, just short of his 72nd birthday. He left behind Eve, his wife of 45 years, (who he met in South Africa on his tour with Bert Ralton), and three children, Malcolm, John and Gillian.
The Recordings: At some time in the future, I will list some essential Jack Jackson recordings.