Dance Band Encyclopaedia


Home page  Introduction  Label Index  Musicians  Sound Files
Following a discussion on the British Dance Bands group (click here to find the group), I have put up this web page in an attempt to list all the books which are relevant to enthusiast of British Dance Bands and popular music of the inter-war period. I am still not sure about the best way to organise the list, but I for now I have split it into two sections:

Section 1: Books about a single artist; mainly biographies or autobiographies, listed alphabetically by the artist's surname.

Section 2: Books generally about popular music of the 1920s-40s. These are listed by the author's or publisher's name.

Few, if any, of these books are still available. If you are looking to obtains copies of any of them, I suggest looking at local second-hand book-fairs or bookshops, searching on "Ebay", or looking at book-selling websites (see below). Some stallholders at the record fairs mentioned elsewhere on this site sometimes sell books as well as records.

Here are some links to websites that sell second-hand books:

Music Books R Us
Book FInder
Used Books

If you know of any books I've missed, then do email me with the details.

Thank you to members of the British Dance Bands Yahoo discussion group for suggesting the idea and particularly to the following for helping with book information and scans: Peter Wallace, Brian Willey, Barry McCanna, Ray Pallett, Joe Moore, Gordon Howsden

Page created: January 4th, 2009.   Last updated January 03, 2016

Section 1: Single Artist books, listed alphabetically by artist surname.

Artist  Book Details Synopsis Image
Sylvester Ahola The Gloucester Gabriel
by Dick Hill
Published 1993 by Scarecrow Press
Billy Amstell Don't Fuss Mr. Ambrose
by Billy Amstell
Published 1986 by Spellmount Ltd
137 pages Hardback
Billy Amstell's recollections of a top dance band musician's life, notably his period with Ambrose, makes fascinating reading. Includes some good photos, an index and brief notes about the other musicians in Ambrose's band.
Jimmy Blades Drum Roll
by James Blades
Published 1977 by Faber and Faber Limited
264 pages Hardback
Along with his brothers Tommy and Cris, Jimmy Blades had a long career as a symphonic percussionist, but didn't forget his time in dance bands during the 1920s and 30s when writing his autobiography.  The dance band period was just one small part of his life, so there is a lot of non-dance band detail in the book. Includes a few photographs and an index.
Al Bowlly Al Bowlly
by Sid Colin & Tony Staveacre
Published 1979 by Elm Tree Books
160 pages Hardback
A book about the life of the famous crooner, written by someone who knew him. The book also includes a full (nearly 50-page) discography and a number of fine photographs.
Al Bowlly Goodnight Sweetheart
by Ray Pallett
Published 1986 by Spellmount Ltd
187 pages Hardback
Ray's book, subtitled "The Life and Times of Al Bowlly" covers the whole career of this still very popular British crooner. It includes a number of good photographs of musicians and bands which were associated with Al, along with some family photos.
The last 50 or so pages include a discography (alphabetically by song title), a list of LP re-issues, a filmography, and an index to the book.
Billy Cotton I Did It My Way
by Billy Cotton
Published 1970 by George C. Harrap
192 pages hardback
Billy Cotton's autobiography which includes a number of photographs and an index.
Billy Cotton The Greatest Billy Cotton Band Show
by John Maxwell
Published 1976 by Jupiter
150 pages hardback
A very interesting book covering the whole career of Billy Cotton. Includes many good photos, including some of his early band. Indexed.
Herman Darewski Musical Memories
by Herman Darewski
Denny Dennis I'll Sing You A Thousand Love Songs
by Mike Carey
Published 1992 by Pinnacle
Betty Driver Betty - The Autobiography
by Betty Driver (with Daran Little)
Published 2005 by Granada
Vivian Ellis I'm On A See-Saw
by Vivian Ellis
Published 1953 by Cedric Chivers
259 pages hardback
Autobiography of Vivian Ellis. Ellis wrote many songs, usually for shows, many of which were recorded by dance bands of the period. Includes a handful of photos and an index.
George Elrick Housewives Choice
by George Elrick
Published 1991 by Mainstream
207 pages hardback
George Elrick's autobiography.
Roy Fox Hollywood, Mayfair and All That
by Roy Fox
Published 1975 by Leslie Frewin
Quite an interesting book, though I always feel that Roy spends too much time name-dropping from his period in Hollywood and not enough time on his British dance band career, which is now he made his money and fame. Having said that, it is a good read. There are a few photos in the centre of the book. No index.
Roy Fox The Memory Lane Tribute to Roy Fox
by Wemyess Craigie & Ray Pallett
Published 1982 by Memory Lane
35 page softback booklet
The major part of this booklet is a full discography of Roy Fox's British recordings.
In addition, there are articles about Roy Fox himself and on his vocalists and also a few photographs.
Harry Gold Gold, Doubloons and Pieces of Eight
by Harry Gold
Published 2000 by Northway Publications
Reedsman Harry Gold's autobiography includes some good photographs of bands with whom he worked.
Nat Gonella Georgia On My Mind
by Ron Brown (with Cyril Brown)
Published 1985 by Milestone
163 pages Hardback
Written by Ron Brown, a personal friend of Nat's for some years,  this is the definitive story of Nat Gonella's life and career. The book includes a number of photographs and an index at the back.
Nat Gonella The Gonella Discography
by Ron Brown
Published 1987 by Ron Brown
Despite the title, this is much more than a discography as it contains plenty of text and photographs.  
Nat Gonella A Life In Jazz - Nat Gonella
by Ron Brown and Digby Fairweather
Published 2005 by Northway Publications
An essential update on Nat Gonella's 1985 biography "Georgia on My Mind".  
Norman Hackforth And The Next Object...
by Norman Hackforth
Published 1975 by Angus and Robertson
211 pages hardback
Hackforth was the mystery voice heard by millions on the radio in the programme "Twenty Questions", but his career reaches back to the beginning of the 20th century and he composed a number of songs recorded by British Dance Bands. Perhaps of only slight interest here, it is worth picking up a copy should you see one. Includes a handful of photographs in the centre of the book, and an index.
Henry Hall Here's To The Next Time
by Henry Hall
Published 1955 by Odhams Press Ltd
240 pages Hardback
Henry Hall covers the whole of his life and career, as one should in an autobiography. A very good read. Includes some fine photographs. No index.
Tommy Handley Tommy Handley
by Ted Kavanagh
Published 1949 by Hodder and Stoughton
Perhaps of only peripheral interest here, it does include some good photos and interesting detail about radio of the period.  
Ted Heath I Haven't Said Thanks
by Moira Heath
Published 1998 by Moira Heath
The story of Ted and Moira Heath  
Chick Henderson The Chick Henderson Story
by Frank Wappatt
Published 1990 by Printability
Spike Hughes Second Movement
by Spike Hughes
Published 1951 by Museum Press Ltd
340 pages Hardback
One of a series of books written by Hughes, many of which hardly (if at all) mention his dance band career, as though he was somewhat ashamed of it! This book, however, does cover his Jazz career, though it is very wordy and there are no photographs to break up the text.
Leslie Hutchinson Hutch
by Charlotte Breese
Max Jaffa A Life On The Fiddle
by Max Jaffa
Published 1991 by Hodder & Stoughton
Long associated with the Palm Court, Jaffa's first professional job was with bandleader Jack Harris. Max recalls those early days with the dance bands in his book.
Edmund Thornton Jenkins Edmund Thornton Jenkins
The Life and Times of an American Black Composer
by Jeffrey P. Green
Published 1982 by Greenwood Press
At first glance, you may wonder what this book is doing here. Well, Ed Jenkins did play in some British dance bands in the early 1920s, such as Jack Hylton's Queen's Dance Orchestra. As such, this book is only of minimal interest here. Indexed, with only a couple of photos.
Mary Lee Forever Francie - My Life with Jack Milroy
by Mary Lee
Published 2005 by Black and White
Louis Levy Music For The Movies
by Louis Levy
Published 1948 by Sampson Low, Marston & Co
182 pages hardback
Vera Lynn Vocal Refrain
by Vera Lynn
Published 1975 by W.H. Allen & Co. Ltd
Vera's autobiography
Vera Lynn We'll Meet Again
by Vera Lynn
Ivor Mairants My Fifty Fretting Years
by Ivor Mairants
Published 1980 by Ashley Mark
386 pages Softback
This book shows what a hugely varied career Ivor had. It it well-written though with quite a lot of technical details. Some good photographs as well. No index.
Jessie Matthews Over My Shoulder
by Jessie Matthews
Published 1974 by W.H. Allen & Co. Ltd
238 pages Hardback
Jessie Matthews' autobiography including many photographs and covering her private life and career.
Billy Mayerl Marigold
The Music of Billy Mayerl
by Peter Dickinson
Published 1999 by Oxford University Press
280 pages hardback
A book detailing Billy Mayerl's career, including his period in the 1920s with the Savoy Havana Band. It also cobes his compositions (including a full list) and a discography of records on which he plays. Some nice photos in the centre of the book and an index. The original book comes with CD containing excellent transfers of his solo piano records.
Jack Payne Signature Tune
by Jack Payne
Published by Stanley Paul & Co.
Jack Payne and
Peggy Cochrane
We Said It With Music
by Peggy Cochrane
Published 1980 by New Horizon
142 pages hardback
The story of Peggy Cochrane and Jack Payne with a foreword by Frank Chacksfield
Donald Peers Pathway
by Donald Peers
Published 1951 by Werner Laurie
Victor Silvester Dancing Is My Life
by Victor Silvester
Published 1958 by Heinemann
Victor's autobiography doesn't have much in it about dance bands, but does have good details about ballrooms and dancing.  
Skyrockets Stairway To The Stars
by Chris Hayes
Published 1947 by Promise Press Ltd.
The story of the Skyrockets Orchestra as told to Chris Hayes in 1947 and including individual biographies and photos of the musicians in the band. Reprinted in the early 1990s.  
Lew Stone A Career In Music
by Kenith Trodd
Published 1971 by Joyce Stone
Kenith Trodd had only just started on a biography of Lew Stone's life when, sadly, Stone died. As a result, this book has little biographical detail, but consists mainly of press cuttings and photographs. Includes a full discography of Lew's recordings and some information about the arrangements he wrote for other bandleaders.
Lew Stone A Modest Maestro
by Tony Staveacre
Published 2010 by Tony Staveacre
128 pages paperback
After nearly 30 years, Tony Staveacre has managed to do what Kenith Trodd was frustratingly unable to do - to write the story of Lew Stone, with valuable assistance from Lew's widow, Joyce.
Leslie Thompson Leslie Thompson - an Autobiography
as told to Jeffrey P. Green
Published 1985 by Rabbit Press
220 pages plus photos, hardback
Thompson was a Jamaican-born trumpeter who played with British dance bands in the 1930s. A lot of detail about his life, probably not all of interest to dance band people, but some good photos included.
Valaida High-Hat, Trumpet and Rhythm
by Mark Miller
Valaida Snow was an American variety artist who visited Britain in the mid-1930s and also recorded for Parlophone with a choice group of British musicians. As such, she is technically outside the remit of this list, but is included here because of her recordings.  

Section 2: General books about Dance Bands and Popular Music of the 1920s-40s.

Author/Publisher  Book Details Synopsis Image
David Boulton Jazz In Britain
Published 1958 by W.H. Allen
192 pages Hardback
This does concentrate mainly on American bands, despite the title of the book, but there are references to early British bands plus short notes about British bands current at the time the book was written. Only a few photographs, but interesting ones, plus an index.  
John Chilton Who's Who of British Jazz
First Published 1997
second: 2004 by Continuum
403 pages Softback
Although concentrating on Jazz rather than dance bands, and also covering the whole period from the 1920s onwards, there is a lot of information about several musicians of the 1920s - 40s and this book should be of interest to enthusiasts of the music.
Peter Cliffe Fascinating Rhythm
Published 1990 by Egon Publishers Ltd
264 pages Hardback
A very well-written year-by-year guide to popular songs and recordings of the 1920s and 30s. The book has plenty of illustrations, some I have not seen elsewhere, and is difficult to put down once started.
Includes two indexes; one for songs and one for people.
Sid Colin And The Bands Played On
Published 1977 by Elm Tree Books
135 pages Hardback
A well-informed, sometimes ascerbic book that gives an excellent insight to the London night-club scene in the 1920s and 30s. Excellent photos. A must-read for anyone interested in the dance band music of this period.
Jim Godbolt A History Of Jazz In Britain, 1919-50
Published 1984 by Quartet Books
274 pages Hardback
Despite the "Britain" in the title, this book really concentrates on American Jazz, though with some references to later British musicians such as Humphrey Lyttleton. Includes some photographs and a detailed index. Not much to interest British dance and popular music enthusiasts.
Chris Hayes Dance Music at the Savoy Hotel
Published 1988 by Chris Hayes
72 pages A5 booklet
An A5-sized booklet which details the history of dance bands which played at the Savoy Hotel. Includes how the Savoy Orpheans and Savoy Havana Band were formed as well as other bands which played there before and afterwards.
Chris Hayes Signature Tunes
Published 1989 by Chris Hayes
92 pages A4 booklet
Short biographies of over 200 British dance band leaders and their signature tunes
Chris Hayes Signature Tunes, supplement
Published 1990 by Chris Hayes
20 pages A4 booklet
Additions and corrections to the original booket.  
Chris Hayes Leader Of The Band
Published 1994 by Chris Hayes
Profiles of 10 famous bandleaders: Ambrose, Billy Cotton, Roy Fox, Henry Hall, Joe Loss, Ray Noble, Jack Payne, Harry Roy, Lew Stone and Eric Winstone.  
Chris Hayes Leader Of The Band, volume 2
Published 1994 by Chris Hayes
57 pages A4 booklet
Profiles of 21 famous British Band leaders, not included in the first volume above.  
Chris Hayes Voices In The Air
Published 1995 by Chris Hayes
60 pages A4 booklet
Personal profiles of 22 British dance band vocalists selected from articles which Chris Hayes had written over a 20-year period for Memory Lane.  
Arthur Jackson The World of the Big Bands
Published 1977 by David and Charles
123 pages Hardback
By necessity, this book covers both British and American bands from the 1920s onwards. Well written and with many photographs. Indexed.
Richard Johnson Dance Bands on the Silver Screen
Published 2008 by Memory Lane
A listing of all known films which included dance bands or similar artists; many of these films have not been seen for many years any may no longer exist.
Peter Leslie Big Bands of the 30s
Published 1971 by New English Library
32 pages A4 booklet
This includes some good short biographies and excellent photos of British dance bands of the 1920s & 30s.  
Albert McCarthy The Dance Band Era
Published 1971 by Spring Books
170 pages Hardback
This is a larger format book with lots of photographs. It covers both British and American bands. Indexed. I class this along with Brian Rust's "The Dance Bands" as a must-have book for background information and pictures.
George Nobbs The Wireless Stars
Published 1972 by Wensum Books
154 pages Hardback
A larger format book with lots of good photographs. As the titles tells you, it is more about radio artists than purely dance band ones, but is still of much interest. Includes an index.
James J. Nott Music For The People
Published 2002 by Oxford University Press
Subtitled "Popular Music And Dance In Interwar Britain", this is quite a scholarly book, but contains useful information on the dance band business, though little on specific band or bandleaders.
Ronald Pearsall Popular Music Of The 20s
Published 1976 by David and Charles
171 pages Hardback
A commentary on music of the period, including theatre and music hall and not just confined to Britain. Plenty of photos, though not many of dance band artists and an index.
Brian Reynolds Music While You Work
Published 2006 by Book Guild Publishing
The story behind the popular war-time (and after) radio programme includes some musicians and bandleaders familiar to us from the 1930s.  
Eddie Rogers &
Mike Hennessey
Tin Pan Alley
Published 1964 by Robert Hale
A book of general interest of all aspect of the British music scene from the 1940s to the 1960s  
Brian Rust The Dance Bands
Published 1972 by Ian Allen
156 pages Hardback
Extremely well written in Brian's inimitable style, this was the first book I had about dance bands and it still surprises me with information, 36 years on. It covers British, American and some European bands, with plenty of very good photos too. Artist index.
Keith Skues That's Entertainment
Published 2005 by Lambs' Meadow
A 100-year history of the Masonic Chelsea Lodge whose membership contained many musicians.  
This England This England's Book of British Dance Bands
Published 1999 by This England
150 pages Hardback
Presented in an encyclopaedic style, the book has concise details about 29 well-known bandleaders, and brief biographies of other bands. Plenty of photographs and an index with a year-by-year list of top tunes of the period. Easy to refer to and hard to put down!
This England This England's Second Book of British Dance Bands
Published 2001 by This England
153 pages Hardback
The second book covers some of the lesser-remembered bands and the vocalists, including longer sections for 12 of the top dance band singers. Again, presented in an easy-to-refer to encyclopaedic way and with plenty of photographs and an index.
Sheila Tracy Talking Swing - The British Big Bands
Published 1997 by Mainstream Publishing
247 pages Hardback
Radio 2's presenter of "Big Band Special had played trombone in Ivy Benson's all-girl band and provides an interesting insight into the British big band world, generally concentrating on the 1940s onwards, sometimes sidestepping into the 1930s. Some good photos and an index of musicians.
Julien Vedey Band Leaders
Published 1950 by Rockliff
196 pages Hardback
As a professional drummer from the 1920s and editor of "Rhythm" magazine, Vedey had close contact with the bands of the period and this book contains 28 chapters, each devoted to a different band leader. There are photographs of each leader and an index of other musicians and places mentioned.