Meanwhile there was trouble brewing although at the time I hardly noticed any of the happenings that were taking place, I refer to 1939 onwards, suffice to say I was provincial in my outlook and being young and recently married, concerned myself only with myself.
I was sent during the summer of 1937 to play at the Folkestone Hotel and by the time I had returned to London to start the autumn season, our agent, Mr. Colombo had secured the top job in London, the Mayfair Hotel.
So I was taken out of the Hungaria and put into a newly formed band to play in the Mayfair Hotel under the leadership of Michael Flome. The Mayfair Hotel had become quite established by this time, 1938, and the minimum wage for this type of job was £10 10 shillings-, or three guineas per week and no Sundays. I was in heaven, Sundays off!!!
In a short time, we were doing an average of 3 broadcasts a week, and a once a week recording session for Radio Luxembourg at 9:15am, Sunday mornings sponsored by Top Hat Chocolates. We also made the first recording of the Lambeth Walk with Arthur Askey on Decca Records. I was doing a lot of arrangements for the band, a major one each week. My wages were round about £30 and over per week and for me, things were beginning to swing.
The war years
I think it was around the autumn of 1939 our band was transferred to Romano’s restaurant in the Strand, my second visit there, first under the leadership of Michael Flome and then under the direction of Bill Shulman. After a time and still under the Columbo agency I was transferred to the Ritz Hotel. Nothing but the best for me.
Then as you all know war was declared in September 1939, and thinking all hell was going to be let loose I took my wife and our belongings back to Glasgow and to the home of my wife’s parents who were kind enough to put us up at no charge. I can’t remember the exact date, but sometime during 1939 I got a job at Green’s Playhouse Ballroom and there I stayed with Louis Freeman, (a popular and well known Jewish band leader in Glasgow) until I was called up into the R.A.F round about the end of July 1940.
So I was in the R.A.F from August 1940 until I was demobilised about January 1946. During this time my son Philip was born. I was together with several musicians that had played Romano’s restaurant. So we played in the officers’ mess for all the air crews at Scampton Aerodrome where we were based.
One of the airmen had bought a record of “Sing Sing Sing” made famous by the Benny Goodman orchestra. He belonged to the famous 633Squadron who were the first American airmen to arrive in England. They all signed a copy of the record when we were entertaining them, which they gave to me as a gift.
On my day of each week I went to farmhouses near the Airbases and asked if they wanted any radios repairing. In return for every radio repaired, I was given eggs to send back home which as a commodity at the time was a rarity as were bars of chocolate from the NAAFI canteen.