Dance Band Encyclopaedia
(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
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.
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:
Isham (31) (saxes/leader)
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:-
ISHAM JONES LONDON HIT
Resist His Music
London, Oct 13
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
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.
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:
Jones Returning; Revue Company Sailing
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)
my thanks to Steve
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.