I was now with a top London band and well satisfied with the way things were going for me. But a couple of nights after starting this job, Lou came to me and asked me to sign a contract. In reading its contents, young as I was then I realised I was in trouble and would not be able to sign as there was no get out clause contained in it, on either side and I had the Glasgow job to consider, both for myself and my brother. At the time I did not realise the opportunity I was going to give up.
Lou went on to become very famous at the Hammersmith Palais. Lou offered to write to Alex Freer to try and get me out of the contract to which I agreed. But behind his back sorry to say, wrote to Freer telling him of my position and not to let me out because I thought that if I stayed with Lou Preager it might jeopardise my brother’s job in Glasgow.
So automatically no reply came back, but Lou was kind to me and let me stay in the job until I had to leave for Glasgow. During the time I was with Lou, I worked with him at Ciro’s club, the Kit-Kat club where Roy Fox was resident at the time, and Romano’s Restaurant in the Strand. Romano’s at the time was the home of the top bookies in London.
Incidentally, one night during my stay at Ciro’s, we had the four royal Princes of the day in attendance, which included the Duke of Windsor and the future King George VI. This was a great day and I felt I had already touched the top rung of the ladder so early in my career. So in the late summer of 1932 my brother and I then took the train due North to Glasgow.
The top London bands
Our first task at the Plaza was a fortnight’s rehearsal and payment for that was half wages. I forgot to mention that the Plaza always closed during the summer for about 8 weeks. Alex had secured for my brother and I digs, i.e. bed and three meals a day and it was less than 200 yards from the Plaza. I mention this because Alex, on the morning of the opening day, at our first rehearsal, begged us one and all not to be late. I was the one person in the band that could not make it in time and I arrived 5 minutes after the rest of the band started. I had started badly and I was for the time being at least, in disgrace. During the year the big attraction were the visits to the Plaza of all the top London bands. This included the following personalities:
Lew Stone, Roy Fox, Jack Payne, Henry Hall, Charlie Kunz (C.K was so popular we had 2 sessions for him), and Jack Hylton and others whose names I cannot now recall. During our 2nd year Jack Hylton paid us another visit, this time arriving minus one of his sax players.
My brother heard about this and asked for an audition and duly got the job. This was a great loss to Alex Freer and at the same time a good advertisement in the fact that one of his players had been good enough to get a job with the ‘great’ Jack Hylton. At that time, if I remember correctly, Bert Ambrose was reported in the Melody Maker as earning about £50,000 a year. Can you imagine what that would be worth at today’s prices?