Albert Alick Bowlly [Al Bowlly] was born to Greek and Lebanese parents who had met en- route to Australia. They moved to South Africa and their child was brought up in Johannesburg! After a series of odd jobs across South Africa, including being a barber and a jockey! At the same time Al gained his musical experience singing for a dance band led by Edgar Adeler on a tour of South Africa. That tour expanded to Rhodesia, India and Indonesia during the mid-1920s but in Surabaya, Indonesia Al fell out with Adeler and was fired from the band. After a spell with a Filipino band in Surabaya he was then employed by Jimmy Liquime in India. Al worked his passage back home by busking and, in 1927he had a date in Berlin, where he recorded Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” with Edgar Adeler.
Albert’s next move was to London for the first time as part of Fred Elizade’s orchestra. That nearly didn’t work as Al foolishly frittered away the fare money sent to him by Elizalde! However – that year “If I Had You” became one of the first popular songs by an English jazz band to become well known in America as well. First, however, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 resulted in Al Bowlly being made redundant and returning to several months of busking to survive.
In the USA a male singing duo began performing together in 1925. In late 1926 they were recruited by Paul Whiteman to join his band. They were called The Rhythm Boys and were now three as, in 1927, pianist/singer/song writer Harry Barris had joined the pair of Al Rinker and one Bing Crosby. They made a number of recordings with the Whiteman Orchestra and released singles in their own right with Barris on piano. In May 1930, after three and a half years with Paul Whiteman the ‘Rhythm Boys’ moved on – and we’ll come back to them later.
Let’s end this session with two individuals whose names still ring in Britain today.
Noel Coward was stage struck from childhood and, by the age of 20, was already writing plays. By 1923 he enjoyed his first West End success with ‘London Calling’ and over the next 20 years, enjoyed continues success.
Our other is Gertrude Lawrence who had many similarities to Noel Coward. Her multi-talent was ‘discovered’ by the time she was 18. She made her name in Coward’s ‘London Calling’ in 1923 and then shared top billing with Beatrice Lillie in ‘Charlotte’s Revue’ in New York in 1924. A true product of ‘the revue’ she had that ‘star’ quality that made her popular across the entertainment spectrum.