Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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HALL, Henry

(b 2 May 1898, Peckham, London; d 28 Oct. '89, Sussex) Trumpet, piano, composer, bandleader. Jack Payne (1899-1969) became a national figure leading a dance band on BBC radio for four years, then left; Hall was chosen to replace him. He had studied at the Guildhall School of Music, later ran 32 bands playing up and down the country in railway station hotels, replaced Payne '32. "It's five-fifteen and time for Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra' and his own hesitant microphone style ("This IS Henry Hall speaking') became an institution, with very high musical standards and a fair amount of jazz feeling. His theme "Five-Fifteen' was based on the notes B-B-C; he had a separate closing theme "Here's To The Next Time' (also the title of his autobiography '57). He instituted an unscripted Henry Hall's Guest Night '34 with guests like NoČl Coward, Gracie Fields, Bob Hope and Danny Kaye over the years; he hired Benny Carter to come from the USA '36 to write for the band ("I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket', "One, Two, Button Your Shoe'). Payne had featured knockabout comedy; Hall's novelty vocals (often by drummer George Elrick) were more sophisticated and above all musical. Aware that children would be listening, he programmed stuff like "Here Comes The Bogey Man', "The Sun Has Got His Hat On' and "Teddy Bears' Picnic', probably the biggest-selling kiddy record of all time; the arrangements and the playing were always good enough to keep the parents happy too. At one point he was getting 35,000 letters a year and broadcasting eight times a week. The BBC abolished the resident dance band Sep. '37; they toured in variety and disbanded '39, but the Guest Night remained a radio feature until long after the war. Hall later went into theatrical management, prod. hit West End shows.