[Dixielandjazz] Re: Ray Noble + Al Bowlly

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Apr 5 16:37:09 PDT 2004

> From: Len Nielsen <lennielsen at telus.net>
> Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Ray Noble with Al Bowlly
> I started looking for other versions of the tune and one that I found
> was by Al Bowlly and Ray Noble. I didn't expect too much from this
> version as I kind of remembered Ray Noble from the fifties as a big band
> leader and the music behind the Edgar Bergen TV show of that time. I
> think I had him pegged as a 'Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye' type. You
> know, quality music but not a lot of pizzazz. I was really surprised at
> how jazzy and swinging their sound is on this tune. They have many good
> solos and the rhythm sections puts out a good strong steady beat
> throughout. I have not seen them mentioned on the list and wondered if
> there are any fans out there and if so, can you tell us about any other
> recordings they made in a jazz mode?

Len & List Mates:

Ray Noble, a distinguished English gentlemen and a wonderful musician, band leader,
songwriter, perhaps his early works are somewhat unknown. His recording of Cherokee,
which he wrote among other songs, (see below) was a watershed event for jazz in the
1930's. A very tough bridge in those days. He had great jazz musos in the band (see
below), like Pee Wee Irwin and Bud Freeman.  Anyway, Cherokee was the chord base in the
1940s, for Charlie Parker's Ko Ko which is THE seminal be-bop tune. Ray Nobel? He swung
his ass off while making lots of money too. That is the best of all worlds.


b. Stanley Raymond Noble, 17 December 1903, Brighton, Sussex, England, d. 2 April 1978,
London, England. The son of a part-time songwriter and musician, Noble attended choir
school, Dulwich College and Cambridge University before studying at the Royal College of
Music. In 1926 he won a Melody Maker arranging contest and worked for music publisher
Lawrence Wright and Jack Payne's BBC Dance Orchestra before becoming a staff arranger at
HMV Records, eventually succeeding Carroll Gibbons as Head of Light Music. He conducted
the company's New Mayfair Orchestra and New Mayfair Novelty Orchestra before forming his
own sweet-swing studio band which included top musicians Freddy Gardner, Alfie Noakes,
Bill Harty, Tiny Winters, Max Goldberg, Nat Gonnella, Lew Davis and the most popular
vocalist of the 30s, Al Bowlly. Bowlly's vocals on songs such as "Time On My Hands",
"Close Your Eyes", "How Could We Be Wrong" and "Lazy Day" are considered outstanding
examples of the orchestra's substantial output, alongside the singer's interpretations of
Noble's own compositions. Noble wrote his first hit song, "Goodnight Sweetheart", in
1931, and during the early 30s, followed it with "By The Fireside", "I Found You", and
"What More Can I Ask". One of his biggest successes, "Love Is The Sweetest Thing"
attracted much attention because of the similarity of its first five notes to the first
five of the British national anthem, "God Save The King".

Ray Noble's ensemble was the first British band to become popular on records in the USA,
and, having had hits there since 1931, including "Lady Of Spain", "Love Is The Sweetest
Thing" and "The Old Spinning Wheel", Noble went to the USA in 1934, taking with him
drummer/manager Bill Harty and Al Bowlly. Glenn Miller assisted him in organizing an
American orchestra which included, at various times, future leaders Claude Thornhill,
Charlie Spivak, Pee Wee Irwin, Will Bradley, and soloists Bud Freeman and George Van Eps.
They had hits with "Isle Of Capri", "Paris In The Spring", "Let's Swing It", "I've Got
You Under My Skin" and "Easy To Love" (with Bowlly on vocals), along with Noble's own
songs, "The Very Thought Of You", "Love Locked Out" (lyric by Max Kester), and "The Touch
Of Your Lips". In 1936, after the orchestra's very successful engagement at New York's
Rainbow Room, Bowlly returned to England, and in the following year the band broke up,
re-forming later in the 30s.

Noble subsequently went to Hollywood. He had been there in 1935 to appear in The Big
Broadcast Of 1936 in which Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman sang his song, "Why The Stars
Come Out Tonight". This time he appeared as a "silly ass" Englishman in the Fred Astaire
movie A Damsel In Distress, and later duetted with Astaire on the record version of his
eccentric dance, "The Yam", and accompanied him on songs such as "Change Partners", "Nice
Work If You Can Get It" and "A Foggy Day". He also backed singer Buddy Clarke on his US
number 1, "Linda", and "I'll Dance At Your Wedding". Noble continued to have successful
records in the US until the end of the 40s with songs such as "I've Got My Love To Keep
Me Warm", "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "By The Light Of The Silvery Moon".

Recordings of his compositions "Cherokee" (by Charlie Barnet) and "I Hadn't Anyone Till
You" were highlights of the Swing Era. After returning briefly to England in 1938 to play
in variety, Noble worked consistently in America, playing musical and comedy roles on
George Burns and Gracie Allen's radio show, and later through to the 50s, with
ventriloquist Edgar Bergen on radio and television, sometimes playing stooge to Bergen's
famous partner, Charlie McCarthy. When the latter series ended in the mid-50s Noble
retired to Santa Barbara, California, subsequently spending some years in Jersey in the
Channel Islands.

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