Henry Hall (bandleader)
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Henry Hall depicted in the mid-1930s
|Birth name||Henry Robert Hall|
|Born||2 May 1898|
Peckham, County of London, England
|Died||28 October 1989 (aged 91)|
Eastbourne, Sussex, England
|Genres||British dance band|
|Occupation(s)||Bandleader, composer, arranger, actor|
|Associated acts||The BBC Dance Orchestra, Henry Hall and His Orchestra, Henry Hall's Guest Night, Henry Hall's Rhythm Entertainment|
Early life and career
His first job was as copyist at the head office of the Salvation Army for which he wrote several marches. During World War I, Hall served with the Royal Field Artillery and played trumpet and piano in the regimental band.
Hall's musical career was slow to start but eventually he was engaged by the London Midland and Scottish Railway to take charge of music throughout their then large chain of hotels, including Gleneagles Hotel, where he had previously led the band.
Hall describes in his autobiography, Here's to the Next Time, that on a Thursday in October 1923 he met a young woman, Margery Harker, while travelling by rail to Dartmoor. Hall mentions that he and Margery were about the same age and had much in common, after discussing the C. B. Cochran production of the musical Little Nellie Kelly and Paul Whiteman's take on "Till My Luck comes Rolling Along", a number from the show. The following day, Henry invited Margery to a dance and proposed to her at the end of the evening. By Saturday, just two days after meeting, the two were engaged and were married in January 1924, at St. George's, Hanover Square, London. Henry and Margery had two children during their marriage, Mike and Betty.
In June 1924, on the opening night of the Gleneagles Hotel, Hall persuaded the BBC to broadcast the event on radio, which began his long association with BBC radio.
The 1930s: broadcasting star
It was from Gleneagles that the BBC took him in 1932 to succeed Jack Payne as band leader of the BBC Dance Orchestra. At 5.15pm each weekday, Hall's radio programme from Broadcasting House gathered a huge following across the nation. His signature tune was "It's Just the Time for Dancing", and he usually concluded with "Here's to the Next Time".
In 1932 he recorded the songs "Here Comes the Bogeyman" and "Teddy Bears' Picnic" with his BBC Orchestra, featuring singer Val Rosing on vocals. The latter song gained enormous popularity and sold over a million copies. In 1934 his popularity was confirmed when his orchestra topped the bill at the London Palladium.
He featured in the documentary BBC The Voice of Britain (1935), the source of the "This is Henry Hall speaking" clip much used in documentaries on this period.
In 1936 Henry Hall made his first feature film and in the same year he was guest conductor of the ship's orchestra on the Queen Mary’s maiden voyage.
In 1937 the BBC Dance Orchestra played at the opening of the Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn. The same year Hall left the BBC to tour with his own band, which comprised many members of his BBC band. He toured the halls of Britain and Europe, and generated controversy by dropping songs by Jewish composers while playing in Berlin in February 1938.
Hall's band was the first to appear on television.
During the Second World War, Hall played for the troops, and gave concerts and shows in factories all over Britain. Many of these concerts came in the form of "Guest Night" broadcasts. From June to November, 1943, "Guest Night" was replaced by "Henry Hall's Rhythm Entertainment" intended to provide radio entertainment for troops overseas.
After the war he developed his show business interests, becoming something of an agent and producer. His BBC work again blossomed as he hosted Henry Hall's Guest Night on the radio and later on television. Hall was also involved in the launch of the television programme Face the Music.
Hall had a son, Michael, who served in the Royal Navy, and later became one of the resident chairmen at the famous Players Theatre in London, founded by actor Leonard Sachs, famous chairman of BBC TV's The Good Old Days, and there was a daughter, Betty.
In 1955, Hall published his autobiography Here's to the Next Time. He dedicated it to his wife, Margery.
A green memorial plaque on the site of his former home at 8 Randolph Mews, Little Venice, was unveiled on 2 May 1996. A blue plaque commemorates Hall at 38 Harman Drive in Cricklewood, London, where he lived between 1932 and 1959.
Hall unknowingly lent his name to a work shift at Frickley Colliery in South Yorkshire. Miners at the colliery who worked the unpopular night shift referred to the shift as Henry Hall's shift or simply Henry's. This was due to the fact that the shift began at 6pm, the same time as Hall started his show on the radio. When he died, the local football club Frickley Athletic, who had close ties with the colliery, marked the occasion in their matchday programme with a page, dedicated to Hall, entitled "No More Henry's".
- Cigarette card no 50 in 'Radio Celebrities' series issued with Wills's cigarettes c. 1934
- Hall, Henry (1955). Here's to the Next Time. Long Acre, London: Odhams Press Limited. pp. 56–57.
- "Hall, Henry R, & Harker Margery" in Register of Marriages for St. George's Hanover Square Registration District, vol. 1a (1924), p. 648
- Gilliam, Laurence D. (11 March 1932). "The Man Behind the New BBC Dance Band". Radio Times (441). BBC.
- "Heather To Betty - 1936". www.spanglefish.com.
- McCarthy, Albert (1974). The Dance Band Era. The Hamyln Publishing Group Ltd.
- City of Westminster green plaques "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "HALL, HENRY (1898–1989)". English Heritage. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- Internet Archive Search: Henry Hall – archive.org (multimedia content in the public domain)
- British Pathé Search: Henry Hall – britishpathe.com
- Henry Hall on IMDb