From The Stage December 17th 1931
The panto season saw Wee Georgie Wood in Dublin, Will Fyffe in Belfast, Dorothy Ward and Shaun Glenville in Leeds, George Formby went to Liverpool in Dick Whittington, Randolph Sutton to Derby.
Other provincial dates saw Jack Buchanan at the Liverpool Empire in Stand Up and Sing (from Dec 24th), Marie Lloyd Jr at the Birmingham Empire, and Billy Merson in Cinderella at the Glasgow Pavilion. Max and Harry Nesbitt made a first appearance at the Eastbourne Hippodrome, while at the Oxford New, old timers in Vintage Variety included Marie Kendall, Harry Bedford, and Tom Finglass.
In London, a top bill at Shepherd's Bush included dear GH Elliott, The Houston Sisters, and Teddy Brown.
Norah Blaney and Gwen Farrar were at the Victoria Palace with new songs by Rowland Leigh, mixed in with old standards. One critic found "an unneccesarily depressing note" in Trafalgar Square Blues, while conceding "the Blaney-Farrar turn is a joyous interlude." One other in the show was Archie Pitt in Looking for the Leaks.
In court was Andre Charlot, once known for his famous revues. He owed over £40,000, with very little in the way of assets.
The story of one of the great singers of the early electric era, by his son Vaughan.
Harry made some fine records with hot accompaniments, the best perhaps being the 1930 recording of "Just Imagine"
issued on HMV B3647. My own favourite is his 1929 "The One I love can't be bothered with me" on HMVB3427.
My father, Harry Shalson, was born in Hackney, London on May 10, 1898 to
parents Henry and Mary Ann. He had one younger brother, Len, and a sister,
The family had a piano in their home that his mother played, but young Harry
showed no particular interest in music, and consequently neither took piano
lessons nor had any other formal musical training. Apparently, when he was
eight or nine, he started to amuse himself by vamping chords on the piano
and picking out simple melodies by ear. His piano technique was entirely
self-taught, therefore, as was his style of singing, though over the years
he learned both to read and write music. When he died, he was still
receiving royalties from the Performing Rights Society on more than 200
songs that he had written over thirty years earlier while he was “in the
Going back to his childhood, his father ran a public house in Hackney, and
by his early teens Harry regularly earned “pocket money” playing piano and
singing in the pub on weekends. Somewhere during this time he also acquired
a part-time job at a local movie theatre accompanying the silent films of
the pre-“talkies” era.
Little is known of his early family life or schooling, except that he left
home in his late teens when his parents separated.
The earliest record I have of his professional engagements is playing with
Clarke’s Hawaiians in Hendon in 1919. From then until 1924 he had
engagements in various clubs (including Desti’s, Jade’s, The Riviera,
Murray’s and the Portman Rooms among others) as well as a number of the
popular “Palais de Dance” of the day. In 1922 he played with a jazz band
called the “Manhattan Five” and subsequently formed a band of his own that
was billed as “Harry Shalson’s Novelty Jazz Band”. Perhaps his most unusual
venture during that period, however, was the formation of “The Versatile
Three,” a singing trio with which he performed in “black face” in late 1923.
(no connection with the Winner recording group - ed.)
In the spring of 1924 he was invited to perform at a royal command
performance before the King and Queen of Norway and continued playing in
Oslo from May through September. He returned to London and resumed the “club
circuit” (Jimmy’s, The Golden Square, the Mayfair, the Ambassador’s etc.),
both as a solo artist and with a number of bands, such as Van Straten’s
Ambassadors Orchestra, Arthur Hetherington’s Piccadilly Players, and Bert
Ralton’s Original Havana Band.
The recording phase of his career appears to have begun in 1925 with
Columbia Records and Imperial, playing with Bert Ralton’s Band and Ronnie
Munro and his Dance Orchestra. By 1926, Imperial was billing him as
“England’s First Whispering Vocalist,” (undoubtedly a comparison to
“Whispering Jack Smith” on the other side of the Atlantic) which title later
evolved into “England’s Whispering Baritone.” From there he moved to
Brunswick and HMV. Unfortunately, other than a 1928 list of Brunswick
releases and a similar 1931 list from HMV, I do not have details of how long
he recorded with each company, nor how many recordings he made, although I
have been able to compile a list of some 64 titles from various sources.
Starting in 1927 he began writing, producing and appearing in a number of
reviews with titles including, “Spice of Life,” “Paris Life,” “Midnight
Madness,” Ladies First,” and “Whirl of the World.” These occupied most of
his time (interspersed with occasional club engagements) until 1934. In
addition to composing the music for these reviews, he composed a number of
popular songs with Jimmy Kennedy, including “Tall Timber” (1930) and “Moon
of My Dreams” (1931). From a recording standpoint, his most successful
compositions appear to have been “My Southern Home,” which he recorded on
Brunswick, and “Poor Little Me – Wonderful You,” which he recorded on HMV.
In 1934-35 he teamed-up with Eddie Fields, appearing in Variety together and
composing songs, such as “Live and Let Live.” This was followed in 1935 by a
weekly series of appearances with Chappie D’Amato which lasted until the end
of 1936. I believe these were staged at the Savoy and were broadcast live
over BBC radio.
Two other events were to occur that year that would change the direction of
Harry’s life. First, he met Esme Smith, whom he would later marry and,
second, he was approached by Garland Advertising Service to develop a series
of radio ads for Rowntree’s gums and pastilles. The result of the latter was
the creation of “Sam, the Sweetshop Man” and related patter and songs. More
importantly, it sparked Harry’s interest in commercial radio and the
potential for advertising which led him in such unlikely directions as
sports broadcasting from Wembley and forming Curzon Enterprises, Ltd., a
company specializing in point-of-sale displays.
Thus began a new phase of Harry Shalson’s life as a businessman. He married
my mother, Esme Smith, on December 16, 1939 at Caxton Hall in London. The
following year, with the commencement of the “Blitz,” they moved to
Maidenhead, some twenty miles west of London, and Harry, a quintessential
Londoner, was forced to become a suburban “commuter” taking the train to
Paddington each day.
The war years were a difficult time to start a new venture, and Harry
supplemented the meagre revenues of his fledgling business by composing
advertising ditties, such as “The Meltonian Theme Song” (which he also
recorded for the company).
Eventually, however, the war ended, and Esme gave birth to their only child,
a son they named Vaughan (me!), on January 10, 1946. Concurrently, roughly
mid-way between Maidenhead and London, a novel development was taking shape
in the form of one of the country’s first major industrial parks, the Slough
Trading Estate. For the next eighteen years, Curzon Enterprises thrived on
this conveniently located market, providing point-of-sale displays for
products from a broad range of companies including Aspro, Mars, Horlicks and
In 1963, as Harry passed his 65th birthday, he and Esme decided they would
like to retire to the south coast of England, and they purchased a home on
the seafront in Hove. The house, a regency property dating back to 1828,
required substantial modernization and they travelled back and forth each
week for more than a year to confer with various contractors on the work.
Finally, it was finished. Meanwhile, Vaughan, who was now eighteen, had been
offered a place at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge to study Mechanical
Engineering. In September 1964, therefore, their long-time home in
Maidenhead was sold; Vaughan was carted off to Cambridge; and Harry and Esme
moved into their new home in Hove.
Sadly, less than five months later, on the morning of February 5, 1965,
Harry suffered a massive haemorrhagic stroke from which he died later that
Old Gramophone Societies: Dulwich
Yet another group in London! This one met at the Samuel Bowley Coffee Tavern in Peckham Rye.
The January 1922 meeting sounds a trifle monotonous, being the complete Pagliacci on ten HMV records, sung in Italian with the La Scala Milan Orchestra.
Before each disc was played, the operator of the gramophone, Mr Lewis, introduced it, "thus adding greatly to the general interest."
There was a much needed interval for refreshments, which were free to members who had paid their seven shillings and sixpence sub.
After the interval the rendition of the Harlequin's Serenade "evoked much applause." Also "the remainder of the opera was very much appreciated."
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