Album of gramophone records, 1941-1947

Catherine Tackley

Published June 2024


In many ways, this item is unexceptional – some popular 1940s discs on the Parlophone label recorded by one of the leading dance bands of the era, stored in a record album with a ubiquitous design. But what makes this item special is the apparently careful curation and storage of a specific selection of discs by a single bandleader, Geraldo, who one would therefore assume was much admired by the original owner.



Geraldo and His Orchestra

Geraldo (Gerald Bright), having studied at the Royal Academy of Music, spent much of his formative professional years in the northwest, including work in Liverpool and Blackpool, which culminated in him leading a band at the Hotel Majestic in St Anne’s-on-Sea. His big break came in 1933 with his Gaucho Tango Band at the Savoy Hotel in London. Expanding the band’s forces and remit, he remained resident at the Savoy until the early years of the Second World War. Dance bands were at the centre of popular entertainment in Britain at this time. As well as performing at London’s top hotels, they provided music for dancing in halls across the country, accompanied acts in cabaret clubs, presented ‘band acts’ in variety theatre, broadcast as mainstays of the BBC’s entertainment output and recorded prolifically. A position at the upper echelons of the profession was hard-won and maintaining this required both creativity and entrepreneurialism from musicians to ensure that they remained in the mainstream. Although in effect dance bands usually played ‘covers’ of popular songs, each band had specific qualities in their presentation and musical style which often attracted loyal fans. 


Wartime entertainment

The Second World War was profoundly disrupting to the burgeoning music industry, and the stylistic basis of British mainstream popular music changed almost overnight. Many dance band leaders were forced to disband due to musicians enlisting, only for them to reform within the Forces in bands such as the Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra (known as The Squadronaires). The musicians in these bands often enjoyed more musical freedom than in their peacetime employment. In particular, the recognition of the importance of popular music as a morale-booster in wartime served to loosen the resistance to American swing, particularly from the BBC, especially now America was an ally. This tendency was exacerbated by the arrival of Americans and American musicians in Britain, notably Glenn Miller in June 1944. Aside from upbeat dance music played by big bands to lift the spirits, the war provoked a trend in the opposite direction towards sentimental ballads, often with orchestral-sounding arrangements. Indeed, big bands like Glenn Miller’s were actually part of larger units which could provide a full orchestra. Alongside this, the idea of popular music for listening, as well as dancing, came to full fruition; for example, dance bands such as Geraldo’s featured in the BBC’s ‘Music While You Work’ programmes designed to support those working in wartime factories. Geraldo maintained a band through the Second World War which was an important part of the BBC’s dance music output at this time, as well as entertaining the Forces under the auspices of the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), at home and on a two-month tour of the Middle East.



Stylistic diversity and eclectic taste

The discs in this collection were recorded in the period from 1941 to 1947, so beginning at the height of the Second World War and extending into its aftermath, exhibiting many of the characteristics of popular music of this period. Stylistic diversity without recourse to extremes is the most striking aspect of this small sample. This not only evidences this as a key aspect of Geraldo’s vast recorded output but also indicates the eclectic taste of the original owner. Some of the sides draw on repertoire which had been recorded by American bands such as Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and the Casa Loma Orchestra (including ‘Frenesi’ [F1824], ‘Blues in the Night’ and ‘Moonlight Cocktail’ [F1914]) and have a classic big band orchestration. However, the arrangements on these sides are original and Geraldo does not necessarily adopt out-and-out swing, often retaining a 2-beat feel in the bass. However, the pairing of ‘Kentucky’/’So o o In Love’ (F2120) is a good demonstration that the band had mastery over the big band swing idiom. Some sides, such as ‘Does She Love Me (Yes or No)’ (F1842), adopt a swing feel and big band brass but use woodwind prominently, principally flute and bass clarinet, instead of saxes until the final chorus. The final disc in this selection chronologically offers ‘If This Isn’t Love’/’Near You’ (F2271), which are both essentially ballads. However, the soundworld of the accompaniments of these sides is quite different, the former using orchestral woodwinds and strings, the latter, a big band, albeit muted brass and subtone saxophone solo.


The golden age shines on

Today’s dance band aficionados tend to be interested in dance music of the interwar years, but these records show an important continuation of dance bands beyond the Second World War which was crucial to the ongoing development of British mainstream popular music and entertainment. This collection calls into question a well-established assumption that the Second World War marked the end of a so-called ‘golden age’ of British dance bands. History, and perhaps especially popular music history, is rarely so clear-cut. Indeed, it is possible to identify a clear continuation from dance bands such as Geraldo’s through to the British swing bands as well as light music and easy listening of the 1950s and 60s. These records represent a style and period of British popular music which is easy to overlook – not all of these sides are currently easily available digitally. Perhaps most importantly, superb musicianship is evident throughout this diverse selection of music; the arrangements are carefully crafted, full of interest, and impeccably performed.


Professor Catherine Tackley (née Parsonage) was Head of the Department of Music at University of Liverpool from 2016 to 2022. She currently holds a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust for the project ‘The British Dance Band: Music and Musicians in the Mainstream’ and is on research leave until Autumn 2025. 

Catherine has a PhD on early jazz in Britain and was formerly Head of the Centre for Jazz Studies UK. She is a Visiting Professor at the Open University, having developed her career there since 2008, as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Professor, Director of Research and Head of the Music Department (2014-2016).

Copyright Information

Please refer to the copyright information given on the Greatest Hits Exhibition main page. Gramophone records by Geraldo and His Orchestra are reproduced here for purposes of illustration in support of exhibition for non-commercial public benefit and education. Use of images seeks to remain proportional, insubstantial and fair. Limited quotation is provided for the purposes of criticism and review, as permitted by Section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988). If you are a rights holder and feel copyright has been infringed, please refer to our Takedown Statement and Procedure.