Dance Band Encyclopaedia
Born: circa December 1892, London
Died: April 1957, U.S.A.
Little is known about Jack Howard's early life save that he was born in London as shown above and studied at Trinity College of Music. Just before WWI Jack emigrated to America, allegedly to escape his rather repressive father. It is said he played in a U.S. Army band during the war.
Jack Howard returned to England as a member of Art Hickman's New York London Five in 1920. The band consisted of Clarence Grancey (trumpet); Keith Pittman (trombone); Jack Howard (alto-sax); George Fishberg (piano); George Klein (drums). They played at the Criterion Restaurant Roof Garden in Piccadilly when it first opened. The saxophone was a rare animal in those days when dance bands were dominated by rafts of banjos, and Jack Howard is likely to have been very influential with young players at the time. They recorded about a dozen sides for HMV in 1920 and 1921 and also a solitary side for Winner, which was labelled as by Jack Howard's Metropolitans. This may give a clue as to who was leading the band (Art Hickman was only the sponsor, he didn't travel to England with the band). George Fishberg remained in Britain (changing his name to Fisher) playing in Teddy Brown's Band and leading his own band at the Kit-Cat Club before returning to America in 1929.
According to "The Era" for August 1925, the band also played at the Hotel Metropole, The Embassy Club, The Coliseum, The Palladium and a number of other places as well as playing on the (European) continent.
Jack subsequently formed a band to play at the Metropole Hotel as part of the Midnight Follies show. The story goes that Jack fell off the stage one night when drunk and was dismissed. I tend to take these sort of stories with a pinch of salt, though it could be true that he fell off the stage during the show (which the band took part in) and had to retire briefly. The photograph I have of the Midnight Follies Orchestra (see left) still has Jack Howard's name on it, but the band is led by Bert Firman. If Jack had left under a cloud, the management would hardly have retained his name for the band!
Whatever happened, Firman took over leadership, subsequently making recordings for Zonophone in 1924 as Midnight Follies Orchestra. In 1924, Jack Howard formed a band to play at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for the dances there. He was immensely popular, broadcasting regularly and making some recordings too. During the summer months, the band transferred to the Villa Marina, Douglas on the Isle of Man. Jack's band was quite big, 13-strong at a time when most bands consisted of 10 or 11 musicians, though the recordings only use 11 men.
In the summer of 1927 while playing at the Villa Marina, Jack just walked off the stage in the middle of a number and never returned. Rumours abounded about him committing suicide over a broken love affair, but he was discovered in early 1928 leading a band in Chicago, following which the trail runs cold. He does not seem to have made any more recordings.
Art Hickman's New York London 5: Clarence Grancy -t/ Keith Pittman -tb/ Jack Howard -as/ George Fishberg -p/ George Klein -d. Hayes, Middlesex, December 14, 1920
|Grieving For You
|A Young Man's Fancy
copies of HMV B-1209 may show the song title as Soudan.
Hayes, Middlesex, January 25, 1921
|When My Baby Smiles At Me
|My Sahara Rose
D. Reed-o added on 2nd & 3rd side only. Hayes, Middlesex, March 15, 1921
|The Yodel Dodel Doh!
|Now And Then
|Down The Nile (To Old Cairo)
|On The Streets Of Cairo
Hayes, Middlesex, September 21, 1921
|I Wonder Where My Sweet Daddy's Gone
|All By Myself
|Once In A Blue Moon
Jack Howard's Metropolitans: same personnel. London, circa October, 1922
Jack Howard and his Covent Garden Dance Band: Jack Howard -cl-ss-as-v dir. Frank Wilson and another -t/ Sam Acres -tb/ ------- Allwood -cl-ss-as/ W. H. Brown -cl-ts/ Ben Frankel -vn/ ?Joe Kerslake -p/ C.J. Milne -bj/ Joe Finkel -bb/ ?Julien Vedey -d. London, September - October, 1926.
|Me Too - vJH & ch
|Just A Cottage Small
|Perfume of The Past (waltz)
|That Girl Over There - vJH
|Talking To The Moon
|I'd Climb The Highest Mountain
London, circa October, 1926.
|Brown Eyes In Your Dreams
|Sweet Southern Breeze
|While The Sahara Sleeps
|When It's June Down There