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Jazz Remembered


Jack Payne

by Jeff Duck


Jack Payne


Jack Payne and his Band playing Hot Bricks in 1928.




I was recently visiting a record shop and looking through a small collection of 78 rpm records when I came across a 1935 recording of I’m Popeye the Sailor Man. The label on the record was in quite bad condition and I could not make out the artist's name. So making a note of the label, REX, and the catalogue number, F1280, on my return home I looked up who the artist was. It turns out that it was Jack Payne who recorded many sides for Rex - well approximately 160 - from April 1934 through to October 1939.

British bandleader Jack Payne was born John Wesley Vivian Payne on August 22, 1899 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England. Jack played piano from an early age, and while serving in the Royal Flying Corps during the the first world war, organised various small bands to entertain the troops. He was a member of “The Allies” - a voluntary concert party group that entertained wounded soldiers around Birmingham. After the war Jack continued with small band outfits and played with visiting American jazz bands at the Birmingham Palais during the early 1920s.

Jack's six piece band was soon expanded to ten players when booked to play at London’s Hotel Cecil in 1925.

Here is a compilation of pictures of the Hotel Cecil and featuring recordings by Jack Payne's Band in 1927.




The person posting the video says: 'Before leading his famous BBC Dance Orchestra, Jack Payne was resident with his band at the Hotel Cecil in London for three years. At the time of making these recordings for Regal, Jack was well-established and regularly broadcast over the BBC from the grand hotel which stretched from The Strand to the Embankment where it stood next to, and dwarfed to some extent, the Savoy Hotel'.

'Many of the illustrations in this video recall the Hotel Cecil itself, which was mostly demolished in 1930 and replaced by the Shell Mex building. The hotel had fallen behind the times and was finding it difficult to compete against the newer luxury hotels in the British capital. Jack himself recalled that even in his time not all guest rooms had running hot and cold water, while the neighbouring Savoy had a third tap for ice water; much demanded by American visitors. Even so, during Jack’s reign as director of the hotel’s dance music, the Cecil was a very popular establishment and the resident Orchestra in the vast Palm Court was a great attraction'.


Jack's band began to be featured in BBC broadcasts and he soon had a grand reputation for dance band music. He was appointed the BBC's Dance Music Director and became the leader of the first official BBC dance band.


Here is a brief British Pathé Preview video of Jack Payne's Band in 1928.





In 1929 this band was featured on the first ever BBC television broadcast. His signature tune was “Say It With Music”.

Jack Payne’s band at the time was said to be and I quote: “Public Property, it is paid for by the wireless licence fees which you and I supply...As such its one duty is to please the masses. It has to be good musically, it has to entertain, it needn’t worry about anything advanced in the way of style and the last thing it need be is rhythmically hot. I think we must all agree that it does its job well and that anything it may at times lack in modern rhythmic stylishness is amply compensated by other qualities more important from the public’s viewpoint, such as musical ability and versatility”.

In 1932 Jack left the BBC and returned to performing in hotels, taking his band on various nationwide tours. Jack and his band also starred in the 1932 film “Say It with Music”, and this was soon followed with another film “Sunshine Ahead”. Jack Payne’s band had three hit waltz recordings, “Blue Pacific Moonlight”, “Under the Spanish Stars” and “Pagan Serenade” which Jack composed. As well as running a theatrical agency, Jack and his band toured Africa and France and Jack made some Jazz recordings with Gerald Wilson in the 1930s.


Jack and the band playing a very fast Tiger Rag in Paris in 1935




Jack disbanded his band at the end of 1937, retiring to his stud farm in Buckinghamshire but it was not long before he returned to music, forming a 20 piece big band the following year. In the latter part of 1939 Jack Payne became the first British bandleader to entertain the troops in France.


Jack Payne BBC Dance Orchestra


The 1940s were good years for Jack, he returned to the BBC as Director of Dance Music in 1941, and added two female vocalists - Carole Carr and Lizbeth Webb - to his orchestra. In the 1950s, Jack decided that a change was needed and he became a DJ, returning to the dance music scene in 1955 to present his own TV programme, “Words and Music”. The programme ran for three series. At the same time Jack was also appearing as a panellist in the TV show “Juke Box Jury” and playing piano on various other TV shows.


Jack Payne and his BBC Dance Orchestra in 1932 playing Love Is The Sweetest Thing, included here to share the valuable archive photographs that accompany the music.




Loved and respected by all in the music industry, Jack Payne built his reputation during the 1930s in the dance band era and this strong reputation stood him in good stead for his later years. Jack wrote two autobiographies, “This Is Jack Payne” (1932) and “Signiture Tune” (1947).

Jack Payne died on December 4th 1969 in Tonbridge, Kent.


Jack Payne Band


Jeff Duck runs CJRO Records in support of charities - click here for more information.

Godfrey King adds : 'Jack presented a hit records BBC TV show (pre - Top Of The Pops and 65 Special) and also a BBC Radio disc program. He had financial problems then returned to the radio... I recall his humble gratitude for the support of his listeners etc. ..... just a personal memory of a pioneer along with Jack Jackson in record presentation styles on radio after their respective band careers were over'.

and Del Pring says of the article : 'Thank you. That was wonderful!'


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