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Reg Pursglove

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Bandleader, violinist and arranger.
 North London, 21st November, 1902
Died:  Southend-on-Sea, 15th March, 1982

Reginald Pursglove was a very highly regarded violinist, arranger and bandleader from the 1920s onwards. He was a student at the Guildhall School of Music. On leaving there he went straight into music-hall and brass band work.

Around 1924 he joined the Boston Orchestra at the Savoy Hotel. The Boston Orchestra were directed by saxophonist Howard Jacobs and included pianist Carroll Gibbons, both of whom hailed from Boston, Massachusetts. I don't know how long the band lasted; they made only one recording session (for HMV) in January 1925.

In October 1926, a new band was formed for playing at the Savoy Hotel called
"The Sylvians". This band was directed by Carroll Gibbons and included some members of the old Boston Orchestra, including Reg who, as with the Boston Orchestra, was the sole violinist in the band. They made a handful of HMV records during October to December 1926.

In January 1927, there was a general shuffle within the Savoy Hotel's bands and Gibbons took over the
Savoy Orpheans. The new-style band had a 3-man violin section, led by future bandleader Sydney Kyte and including Reg, along with Teddy Sinclair. Over the next 12 months this band made many recordings for HMV. At he end of 1927 there was a major policy change of the music at the Savoy and the Orpheans, Sylvians and Havana Band all had their contracts terminated.

At the start of 1928, Reg Pursglove joined Ray Starita's band (once more as sole violinist), playing at the Ambassador's Club in London. He remained with the band until the summer of 1929 and during this time he started doing free-lance work for Bert Ambrose. Ambrose was the top-paying dance band leader at the time, with a first-class orchestra at the prestigious May Fair Hotel. While the band he used at the May Fair was relatively small - probably 9 or 10 musicians, for radio broadcasts and recordings he augmented it with a 3-man violin section. On and off for the next 10 years, Reg was the mainstay of this string section, along with Ernie Lewis and, generally, Eric Siday. Reg was also the backbone of the string section used by HMV's house dance band (called the "New Mayfair Dance Orchestra" - nothing to do with the hotel, incidentally), and recorded with them at various times from 1928 until 1935. The director of these sessions was initially Carroll Gibbons who was succeeded by Ray Noble until the latter left for America in 1934.

In 1930, Reg formed his own band, though I haven't yet discovered where he played until late 1931 when he started at the newly-opened Malmaison Restaurant in Stratton Street, Mayfair, London. He used the name "Gene Arthur" while leading his band there. I don't know the origin of this name, or the reason for using it, unless he (or the management) felt it was a bit "snappier" than his own name! He and his band were very popular here; so much so that when the management decided a change was needed and cancelled his contract, the patrons of the restaurant were so outraged that the management had to bring Reg back to appease them! In early 1933, the Malmaison closed and subsequently re-opened under the new name of "The Blue Train", and with a new band. Reg and his band also played at the Embassy Club and Quaqlino's Restaurant, but I don't know exactly when this was.

Note: The magazine "Radio Review" dated December 7th, 1935 states "The personnel of Reg Pursglove's band at the Embassy is as follows: Reg Pursglove (violin & leader); Freddy Gardner, Chester Smith & Johnny Walker (saxes); Slim Wilson (piano); Joe Young (guitar); George Senior (bass); Maurice Zafer (drums).

I don't know if Reg continued leading a band at this time, or whether he found he had enough to do with the free-lancing for radio and records. From 1931 to 1933, he was part of Jack Payne's string section, presumably for radio & records only. Jack led a show band and would be touring the country. It is unlikely that Reg would be touring with Payne if he had his own band to look after. In the late 1930s he also recorded with Billy Ternant and Lew Stone's bands. Both these leaders had no regular band at the time; Ternant was part of Jack Hylton's organisation and Stone was involved with film and stage work. The recordings were made using "pick-up" bands, composed of top-class musicians who could sight-read and would need little rehearsal time to produce a perfect performance. As Reg was so sought-after for records and radio performances (always live in those days), he was obviously a first-class sight reader with an excellent tone and technique.

During and after the second World War, Reg was involved with the BBC's "Music While You Work" radio shows, also making some recordings under his own name for Decca's "Music While You Work" series in 1943 and 1944. He also made some Regal Zonophone recordings in 1946 with a band known as "Reg Pursglove and his Music Makers".

Savoy Orpheans, sm 1927.jpg (149661 bytes)
The Savoy Orpheans in 1927; Reg Pursglove is violinist on the left.