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Bob Manning

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Drummer & vocalist.
Real Name:
Benjamin Manning
 November 12th 1900
Died:   September 15th 1979

Drummer and occasional vocalist, Bob Manning was born in 1900 and is best known for his long association with Jack Payne's Band, from the start of the BBC days in 1928 until 1933. A brief outline of his career based on his known recordings and on his own notes show show this was just one small part of a very busy and varied career.

1917: Played at the Holborn Empire. Unfortunately, Bob doesn't say what the orchestra (or show?) was that he was playing in.
1919: Bob took a band to Antwerp to play at the Gaite-Cabaret for the 1919 Olympic Games.
1921: Joined the Midnight Follies Orchestra playing at the Hotel Metropole. Other members of the band include Tom Smith (trumpet); Jesse Fuller (trombone). Later the band included John Firman (piano) and was led by Bert Firman (violin). Even later, Ted Heath (trombone) was a member. I suspect the photo (see right) is from the very early period when Bert Firman first joined. Note that Jack Howard's name is still on the bass drum! Howard directed the band prior to Firman's involvement.
1924. The band recorded for Zonophone Records as The Midnight Follies Orchestra.
Bob says among the first records were "Teasing The Floor" and "Horsey Keep Your Tail Up" (Zonophone 2451) and that he subsequently played for Jay Whidden's band, also at the Hotel Metropole.
January 1926. Bob was a member of the first band at the Ambassador's Club. This was supplied by Pervical Mackey but directed by Sam Raitz, the saxophone player.

1926-27. Bob was present on a number of recordings for Zonophone Records which were under Bert Firman's Direction. At the time he was playing at the Carleton Hotel where Bert Firman's brother, Sam, was directing the band.
June 1927 onwards. He was in the band playing for "Blue Skies" at the Adelphi Theatre, which starred "Whispering" Jack Smith; (opened June 24th, 1927)
Early 1928. Bob was a member of George Fisher's Kit-Cat Band  (at the Kit-Cat Restaurant). They recorded for HMV as "The Rhythm Band".
March 1928. Bob Joined Jack Payne's newly-formed B.B.C. Dance Orchestra as drummer and was also a member of the vocal trio, along with Jack himself and pianist/arranger Bob Busby. Jack Payne and the band left the BBC in 1932 to concentrate on stage work, travelling both Britain and Europe.  
August 1933. There was a general reorganisation of Payne's band and a number of musicians left to form The Barnstormers, including Bob Manning. They changed their name to The Masterkeys in January 1934. Bob left the band in March 1934. 
November 1933 on.
Bob played in the pit orchestra at the Palace Theatre in "The Gay Divorce" starring Fred Astaire.
September 1936 on. He also played in the pit orchestra again at the Palace Theatre for "This'll Make You Whistle" which starred Jack Buchanan, opening on September 15th.

Dates unknown: From Bob's notes: He says he played at the Hippodrome with Percival Mackey's band in "The Jazz Mistress" when Ted Lewis was on the bill (1930?).  He also did many gigs with Vassies and other high toned outfits, such as hunt balls.

Between December 1933 and February 1935, he was present on a number of recordings for "Rex" records, directed by Jay Wilbur, who was the musical director of this record company. Bob's notes say he was  a member of the house band at Crystallate "for years". In addition, he says he made many records at Columbia when Van Phillips was recording engineer, plus "umpteen records at other venues in town". The Columbia recordings will be the Jack Payne items, though it's not impossible that Van used him on his own house band recordings on occasions. 

The accompanying photographs of the Ten Syncopators show Bob Manning as the drummer in this outfit, which appears to be a mock-cowboy band, probably lead by Harry Lester. The news-cutting of the "Frisco Cowboy Syncopators" mentions Harry Lester as the leader. It is difficult to date the photos, but I suspect they are from the mid-1930s (perhaps dating from when Bob left the Masterkeys?) and it seems that Bob was pretty busy at this time!

Bob's final job in the theatre was a run of three years at the Adelphi with "Bless The Bride" (this opened on April 26th, 1947), then "Tough At The Top (opened July 15th, 1949). These were with Louis Levy's Orchestra. Then in 1950/51 he went to Europe playing with "Skating Vanities". 

Bob Manning and his family emigrated to Vancouver in British Columbia,  Canada in November 1951. Bob continued in the music business playing for the Canadian broadcasting company in radio and television as well as playing for fifteen years with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and "Theatre Under The Stars".

Apart from Bob's brother, Bert, who occasionally played drums as well with Jack Payne's band, Bob's son, Benjamin also plays drums.

My thanks to Bob Manning's son, also called Bob Manning, for providing the photograph of his father, and the Ten Syncopators photos and much of the information for this page.  
Also thanks to Pam Vandervelde , Bob Manning's granddaughter, for his birth & death dates and telling me his real name.
The other photographs are courtesy of Steve Paget, Ned Newitt and my own collection.   

Page created: September 24, 2003.  Updated
February 29th, 2004

Bob Manning

Bert Firman's Midnight Follies Orch.jpg (79230 bytes)
Midnight Follies Orch, with Bob Manning, drums.

Bert Firman's Midnight Follies O costume, March 1923.jpg (107168 bytes)
Midnight Follies Orch in the show.
Bob Manning is at the back.

Bob Manning - detail.jpg (30820 bytes)
Detail from above picture, showing Bob Manning.

Bert Firman Midnight Follies Orch.jpg (67751 bytes)
Midnight Follies Orch - Bob Manning in the centre

Sam Firman's Carlton Hotel DB - cartoon.jpg (134438 bytes)
Sam Firman's Carlton Hotel Dance Band

Jack Payne BBC DO, 1928.jpg (116111 bytes)
Jack Payne's BBC Dance Orch, with Bob Manning at the xylophone

Syncopators.jpg (78644 bytes)
The Ten Syncopators.
Bob Manning is 4th from right.

Ten Syncopators.jpg (110452 bytes)
The Ten Syncopators
in action!

synopators in the news.jpg (123383 bytes)