Dance Band Encyclopaedia

Visiting Americans

Isham Jones

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So far as I am aware, Isham Jones and his Orchestra made only one visit to England, for a two-month engagement at the Kit Cat Club in the Autumn of 1925. Since its opening in May of the same year, the Kit Cat had already employed the bands of Vincent Lopez, Ted Lewis and Brooke Johns. Along with the Jones band, they were all booked into the Kit Cat by the William Morris Agency, who were responsible for bringing nearly all the visiting American bands here.

       (A full-page advert taken by Morris in the Variety issue for August 26th 1925 shows an impressive list of clients, which included all the above names and Ben Bernie, Ray Miller, Sissle and Blake and Sophie Tucker.)

       Isham Jones himself was born in Coalton, Iowa on 31st January, 1894, but grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. He was leading his own small band as early as 1912, and moved to Chicago in 1915. There he led a trio for a time at Mahoney’s Club, later leading orchestras at the Green Mill and the Rainbow Gardens. From the early 1920s his orchestra enjoyed a long residency at the Hotel Sherman.

      Subsequent to his visit to London he began to establish for himself a widespread reputation in the USA, being very much in demand up to about 1936. Some of the musicians in his last band during this period, Isham Jones Juniors, went on to become members of the Woody Herman Orchestra, Herman being a member of the Juniors band from the latter part of 1934.

      After the break-up of the Juniors in 1936, Jones decided to devote more time to other matters, but he did front bands on various occasions until the early Forties. He more or less retired from music at this point, and ran his own general store in Colorado, finally moving to Florida in 1955, where he died the following year. In addition to his band leading activities, he was also a composer. Two of his better-known songs were “I’ll See You In My Dreams” and “It Had To Be You”.

      The band arrived here aboard the S. S. “Leviathan”, which docked at Southampton on October 9th 1925. Curiously, two of the sheets of the Passenger List clearly carry the date of 9th September, which puzzled me not a little until I realised it was clearly an error on the part of whoever compiled them! Given that the journey across the Atlantic would have taken at least five days - Variety reported them as sailing on 4th October - the recording session of 2nd October 1925 by the band in Chicago certainly gave them a tight timescale for getting to New York in time to embark.

According to the Passenger List (BT26/805) the musicians in the band were as listed below. As with previous articles, I have listed their ages, and instruments where known:­

JONES, Isham (31) (saxes/leader)                 
LAYFIELD, Arthur (32) (drums)
MUELLER, Joseph (28) (banjo) [Joe Miller]                        
, Guy (42) (trombone)
MAULDING, Harold (29) (reeds)  [Al Mauling]                       
BARGY, Roy (38) (piano)
RAHAM, Herschel (25) (trombone?)  [Bud Graham ?]             
NANASEK, Arthur (32) (sax/violin)  [Artie Vanasek]
MURPHY, Leo (28) (violin)                                     
HIDIKE, Albert (28) (reeds?)  [Clarence Heidke ?]
QUARTELL, Frank (24) (trumpet)                   
KUHN, John (51) (brass bass)

      All gave their address in England as “Kit Cat Club, London”. At least three musician’s wives came over with the band, together with two very young children. Most of the names listed are clearly regular band members of the time. The other names are unfamiliar, but I have shown in brackets who these musicians are likely to be.

      The band opened at the Kit Cat Club 10th October, replacing Brooke Johns and his Orchestra. Variety duly reported on their reception in its issue of October l4th 1925:-



Audience Couldn’t Resist His Music                                                         London, Oct 13

Isham Jones and his band had a sensational opening at the Kit Cat Club Sunday night (Oct 10), although the Chicago idea of dance music was found to be too loud for the room and the orchestra was muted after the first performance.

Jones gave an informal concert for the diners. During his rendition of a dance number the patrons couldn’t resist and took the floor to step.

Paul Whiteman sent a congratulatory cable saying “Go to it; you can ‘t miss”, which Sophie Tucker read to the first nighters.


       Reading the above passage, we are entitled to speculate what their opening number might have been! Sophie Tucker was a frequent visitor to London during the Twenties, and was part of the additional cabaret at the Kit Cat whilst the Isham Jones band were there.

       So far as I can ascertain, the Jones band only played at the Kit Cat, and did not “double” at the Piccadilly Hotel, as was the practice with some other American Bands that came here. Neither do they appear to have undertaken any other engagements, although it is possible they may have played at a private party or two in London. Apart from the apparent excessive volume of the first number they played, their eight-week stay at the Kit Cat seems to have been very successful. During this period, the London Times featured regular entries by the Kit Cat in its Entertainments column, drawing attention to the band during its residency.

     Their last performance was during the weekend of December 5th16th. and Variety in its issue of December 9th 1925 reported:


Isham Jones Returning; Revue Company Sailing

London, Dec 8

 The “Mauretania” carried a full quota of professionals when sailing today (Tuesday). Isham Jones and his Band, Jack Hulbert and the “By The Way” (revue) English company are on the passenger list.



American Dance Band Discography 1917-1942; Brian Rust. 1st Edition (Arlington House, 1978)
Who’‘s Who Of Jazz; John Chilton (Chilton Book Co. 1972)
Public Record Office, Kew (Board of Trade; Inwards Passenger Lists)

Jazz Records, 1897-1942; Brian Rust. 4”. Edition (Arlington house, 1975) British Library; British Newspaper Library, Colindale.:-

      “Variety”; published USA. (Microfilm copies; 1925 issues.)
      “Times “,~
published UK (Microfilm copies; 1925 issues)

….and my thanks to Steve Walker, for allowing me to inspect his issues of “Melody Maker” for 1926 to 1929, and Ned Newitt for the use of the photograph of the Isham Jones band in 1925.


Isham Jones Orch (Ned Newitt).jpg (160593 bytes)