Oscar Rabin Band

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The Oscar Rabin Band was one of the most successful Jazz and British dance bands of the 1950s. Band leader Oscar Rabin played bass saxophone, an unusual instrument then as now. His friend Harry Davis, tall, elegant and good-looking, acted as compère and conductor.


Oscar Rabin formed his first band with Harry Davis, the Romany Five in 1922. They could be seen in those days at the Palais de Dance in Derby. Rabin played violin but over the next decade he formed a full size dance band in which he began to play the bass saxophone. The band was expanded during the 1930s. At this time, the character actor Sam Kydd began his career as the band's M.C. By the time of the Second World War, they had become one of the most widely known of British dance bands, touring throughout the country.

Oscar, short and fat, never did front his own band, nor was he regarded as anything more than a workaday musician. His role was to run the business side of the band. His partner Harry, who occasionally played guitar, was very good with audiences. (Harry's daughter Beryl Davis became a professional singer, and moved to the USA.) However, the combination of the two men was a successful one and audiences took to them. Ex-band member Roy Bull has recalled: "My memories of the Oscar Rabin days are all very pleasant ones, as Oscar himself was one of the most kind people I have ever met, and certainly the best bandleader for whom I ever worked."

Key players[edit]

The band always maintained a high standard, with a particularly strong saxophone section. A few good key players stayed with them for a long time. People such as: Ken Mackintosh (Alto Sax); Bobby Benstead (Trumpet); Ken Wray (Trombone); Eric Jupp (Piano / Arranger); Kenny Clare (Drums); Cecil Pressling (Alto Sax). Band numbers were generally around 15, with 2 or 3 vocalists, mostly made up of constantly changing journeymen musicians.

However, occasionally better known instrumentalists joined the band, such as Don Rendell (Tenor Sax); Jimmy Deuchar (Trumpet); & Arthur Greenslade (piano / arranger). Trombonist Ken Wray would later play with Ronnie Scott's Big Band. Vocalists over the years included Dennis Hale (who died in a car accident in South Africa after touring there with Jack Parnell's band; Marjorie Daw (who married the band's drummer, Kenny Clare); Bernard Manning; Marion Davis, who, as Marion Keene, had a successful television and show business career; Mel Gaynor; Pattie Forbes; & Johnny Worth, who became a successful songwriter under the name Les Vandyke;

Departure of Davis[edit]

In 1953, Harry Davis left the band and the UK, breaking up a partnership that had lasted for 30 years, and went to live with his daughter and her husband in California. David Ede, who had been with the band for around five years and was a good alto and clarinet player, took over. He was a fine arranger and also formed a vocal quartet in the band. It was asked to do a three-month stint at the Lyceum Ballroom on the Strand, in central London, which residency eventually lasted over five years. A residency at the time involved six afternoon and six evening sessions a week.

Later history[edit]

In the late 1950s through the early 1960s, the band was resident at the Wimbledon Palais under the direction of David Ede and the management of Oscar's son, Bernard. Personnel included Arthur Greenslade (piano), Sammy Stokes and then Ron Prentice (bass), Freddy Adamson (drums), Don Sanford (guitar), and the usual impeccable saxes line up included Cecil Pressling (alto), Rex Morris (tenor), David Ede (alto and tenor), and Don Honeywill (Baritone). The vocalists were Ray Pilgrim, Colin Day and Lorie Mann, with Mike Redway taking over from Colin and Barbara Kay taking over from Lorie. This was the period of the Rabin Band's longest running BBC radio series, the highly successful "Go Man Go", which ran weekly for 4 years.

Some time after 1957, Brian Haden also joined the band playing the alto sax and clarinet after previously being in the Kirchin Band.

The band was disbanded in the mid-1960s after the untimely death of David Ede, who was drowned in a sailing accident off Blackpool. But the Rabin name in music was carried on with the Mike Rabin Band, led by Oscar's grandson.

External links[edit]