Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

AMBROSE

(b Bert Ambrose, 1897, London; d 12 June '71, Leeds, England) Violinist, bandleader. Led one of the best British dance bands of '30s-40s, employing top musicians, singers, arrangers. Played violin at age five; to NYC in teens, playing at Reisenweber's Restaurant, then sixth violin at Club de Vingt, became leader in six months, stayed three years. Back to London '20, led band at Embassy Club in Old Bond Street, the most glamorous of night spots: no society hostess in London gave a party on Thursday, which was the night everybody went to the Embassy. For the Prince of Wales, Ambrose played a waltz slowly at first, speeding up the tempo when the Prince was successfully whirling: Edward thought it was the best band in the world. After another briefer visit to NYC (lured back to England by a telegram: 'Come back, we need you. Edward P') he added US musicians, began recording, got 10,000 a year to go to the Mayfair Hotel '27 with an Anglo-American band including trumpeter Henry 'Hot Lips' Levine (later on NBC staff in NYC). His most famous band included Ted Heath; Max Bacon, drums; Joe Crossman, alto sax; US clarinettist Danny Polo joined '29 (b 22 Dec. '01, Toluca IL; d 11 July '49, Chicago; Polo first went to Europe '27 and was often credited with introducing jazz to Britain; he ended up in the Claude Thornhill band). Ambrose's band was the first to be signed by Decca UK. He added trombones Lew Davis and Tony Thorpe, making a formidable section with Heath; also Max Goldberg, trumpet; Billy Amstell, reeds; Joe Branelly, guitar; singers Elsie Carlisle, Sam Browne; arrangements by Lew Stone, later reedman Sid Phillips. His weekly radio show live from the Mayfair gained a large following. He returned to the Embassy Club '34-5; then to Ciro's, then Café de Paris; with trombonist George Chisholm (d 6 Dec. '97 aged 82), singer Evelyn Hall; Vera Lynn got her first break with this band. His last dates at the Mayfair were in '39; he went on tour, used an octet in stage shows, recorded with bands drawn from available stars; used singer Anne Shelton. He returned to clubs after WWII and formed a classy big band in the early '50s to record for MGM, with arrangements by Laurie Johnson; further records on Parlophone and Philips were of less interest, concentrating on 'strict tempo' for dancing. He led a small group at Cafe de Paris; then moved into management, concentrating on singer Kathy Kirby, whom he discovered at the Ilford Palais '57. Theme was 'When Day Is Done'. Compilations of '30s tracks still appear.