jabw_vintage/report no. 38

Let us tell you about......

Jay Whidden

this page submitted by Terry Brown, 6 June 2007
last updated 6 May 2012vintage@r2ok.co.uk

Jay Whidden - A Lifetime In Music

researched and written by Terry Brown

Part One - How James Became Jay

The UK has welcomed many American dance band leaders to play here over the years including Roy Fox, Jack Harris and Carroll Gibbons. Violinist Jay Whidden was another. A good looking rangy six footer with a taste for Saville Row tailoring he became the darling of the West End set throughout the latter part of the twenties, leading jazz orientated bands at the Metropole and Carlton hotels. In addition and perhaps less known were Whidden’s efforts as a song and tune smith. This brief biography throws some light on this unrecorded aspect of his contribution to popular music over the years, and also explores Whidden’s involvement in the early talking cinema in the UK.

James ‘Jay’ Whidden was a self confident and natural showman, who was very fond of re-counting his days as a cowboy, born in Livingstone, Montana and how he had the frost bitten finger tips on his left hand removed by the simple expedient of his cattleman father amputating them with a knife, a tale oft repeated in references to him. He poured out such stories of the wild Northwest, horse stampedes, Indian raids and the rest. In reality non of this was true. In fact he lost his finger tips whilst working with his father on the docks of New York.

Whidden’s father William was born in Truro, Nova Scotia around 1853. He married a Gibraltan, Sarah Baggett on 30 October 1876 in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and by 1886 the family were based in Jersey City, just outside New York. Jay was christened James Michael Whidden but was always known as Jim within the family. His actual date of birth is difficult to establish without any available birth certification, (which was not unusual at the time). The 1900 USA census puts his date and place of birth as 19 July 1890 in Brooklyn, New York, showing him as 9 years of age and at school. Jay's draft papers and the US Social security index shows it as 19 July 1886, but for these purposes, Jay had a number of reasons for wanting to appear older than he actually was. To add more confusion a ship's manifest for a trip Jay made much later in his life shows it as 19 July 1889. All of that said, a member of the Whidden family has worked out the birth dates for all of William Whiddens 11 siblings, 7 of whom survived and deduced it must have been 1890, and this is accepted as the most likely date.

Jay seems to have had a reasonably comfortable up-bringing with most of his family in work around the docks and boons of New York City. His father was a caulker and ship’s boiler maker and Jay was destined to join him, but following his accident (probably whilst an apprentice) and the prospect of a life of hard work and long hours in boiler making he clearly set his sights in another direction, the entertainment business. Jay in correspondence with his sister Mary in the 1950's described how he and the other children in the family were entertained by their father William playing Irish jigs on the violin. Its pretty evident that with his fathers help this is where Jay took his first tentative steps as a musician by also learning to play the violin.

As a self taught violinist attuned to improvisation it’s not surprising that he became enamoured of ragtime which became the rage in America in the first decade of the twentieth century. At this time he struck up a close and lasting friendship with composer/lyricist to be Con Conrad, born Conrad K. Dober, on 18 June 1891 in New York.

The teenage Whidden probably first got to know Conrad from his visits to the silent film shows at the Vanity Fair Theatre on 125th Street and the Fox Nickelodeon on Union Square where Conrad at the age of 16 was already an accomplished pianist providing music for the silent films on show. Conrad had been introduced to piano at military school, (from which he dropped out), and first played amateur nights at Miners, a dance hall on the Bowery. Conrad was a precocious and extremely ambitious individual who by 1907 was already getting the occasional gig in vaudeville. Again as another natural improviser Conrad also had the ragtime bug. Conrad inspired and encouraged Jay and they both got to play together to develop and improve their joint attempts at ragtime. They were certainly confident enough in their dual abilities by 1908, which is when Whidden and Conrad became a singing/playing ragtime double act and went on the road.

Their ragtime act travelled around Washington State and beyond, and they made a modest living in small clubs and local theatres eventually ending up playing some of the seedier night clubs in Chicago. Although continually struggling to make ends meet they were determined to make a success of themselves and managed to get a booking at The Majestic Theatre in Chicago around 1909. The Majestic had opened in 1906 and at the time was Chicago’s tallest building. It ran a continuous vaudeville show from 1.30 to 10.30 at night, 6 days a week, with 12 to 15 vaudeville acts appearing each day. Whidden and Conrad’s act was seen by the Chicago Examiner’s theatre critic Ashton Stevens, who wrote at the time, ‘There’s genius in these boys, bringing to Vaudeville something new and something fine’. Following this success they became regulars on the B. P. Keith Theatre circuit, which would at last give them regular well paid work and a modicum of success. They spent the next few years touring in various vaudeville shows and performances built around the ragtime craze.

Con Conrad and Whidden began to collaborate on songs together, very early on, and had one of their very first efforts, High Jinks, a ragtime two step, published as early as 1910. Others followed and when two of their numbers, Dingle, Dingle, Dingle and Down In Dear Old New Orleans, (for which Joe Young wrote the lyrics) were introduced with great success in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1912, Conrad began to consider penning songs and even producing for the theatre, rather than performing as his long term forte. In the meantime ragtime propelled by the popular songs of Irving Berlin and others, was now crossing the Atlantic and one of the first London productions to feature the new craze was actor/manager George Grossmith’s ragtime review ‘Everybody’s Doing It’. Based on the words and music of Irving Berlin and others it opened at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, London on 14 February 1912.

Back in the US, at some point during these early years Jay was married, probably before he was 20. Jay had two children from his first marriage, Edward born on 25 July 1907 and Mary born on 1 December 1910. In late 1912 Conrad and Whidden decided to try their luck in the newly emerging ragtime scene in the UK. They pooled their resources including the money earned from their Ziegfeld songs and left by tramp steamer for London. Sadly, Jay's wife did not share the same vision and refused to go with them. This whole area of Jay's life remains to this day an extremely sensitive topic within the family because later in his life, Jay married for a second time, (bigamously).

Whatever the difficulties Jay's departure may have caused both he and Conrad were as determined as ever to hit the big time. Shortly after arriving in London they were signed to appear in Grossmith's review, ‘Everybody’s Doing It’, which was still playing to full houses after nearly a year. James Whidden appears to have aquired the name 'Jay' at this time. He and Conrad made their debut in the show in January 1913 and the boys were an undoubted hit. Billed as ‘the greatest exponents of Ragtime of the moment’, the Morning Post declared, ‘Conrad and Whidden are artists of real distinction and humour‘, the Evening Standard said, ‘Don’t miss Conrad and Whidden at the Empire, they set the audience afire with enthusiasm for the wonderful velocity of their ragtime rhapsodies’ and the Times reviewer noted they were, ‘a very vivacious pair’.

Conrad and Whidden as an act were seen as ‘the genuine article’, real Americans, real Ragtime. It’s reported they were paid a salary of £200.00 per week, an enormous amount at the time. It may have been purely the showman in Whidden, but it was at this time that Jay began to rise to the English expectations of what a real American was, by becoming a Montana cowboy, perhaps based on the myriad of silent western films that hit these shores weekly. Another possibility which some of the family feel is more likely is that he wanted to distance himself from his now estranged wife by erasing his New York origins.

Although flush with success and making good money Con Conrad’s mind remained on developing his writing and producing abilities rather than performing. On the crossing over to the UK he already had in mind bringing over a successful American production to show the Brits how to do it. With the success of their London debut he didn’t have too much difficulty in persuading Jay to consider the possibilities of production as a money making enterprise and the pair took there first steps in that direction during the run of ‘Everybody’s Doing It’. Conrad, (using his American vaudeville contacts), with Jay, arranged to bring over from the States, ‘The Honeymoon Express’ a musical comedy which featured a famous chase between an automobile and train in the second act, (literally done with smoke and mirrors). Although some sources credit Conrad with producing the American version of ’The Honeymoon Express’ which starred Al Jolson, it was in fact the English version that Conrad with Whidden produced. ‘The Honeymoon Express’ opened at the Oxford Theatre of Varieties on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road in London on 13 April 1913. The show had a successful run and went on tour.

Meanwhile the boys completed their run in ‘Everybody’s Doing It’ in June 1913, and went into another ragtime review, ‘Step This Way’, which opened the same month at the London Pavillion. Over the balance of 1913 they were again touring provincial halls, including the Hippodrome in Plymouth and then Conrad and Whidden with their 'Ragtime Rhapsodies', turned to touring abroad in both South Africa and Australia, not getting back to the UK until late 1914. At some point, at this time, (and it's proved impossible to track down exactly when), Jay was joined in the UK by his sister Mary and his two children. Confirmation is provided by the manifest of the 'Lusitania' which show's Mary and the two children leaving Liverpool on 3 October 1914 and arriving back in New York on 9th.

Back in London the boys decided to produce yet another American import, 'The Million Dollar Girl’. Following rehearsals and the normal work associated with theatrical production, it opened at the Victoria Palace on 16 May 1915 to further acclaim. At the same time Jay began writing songs, producing solo, If You’re Going Back To London and Somewhere In Dear Old England, and in collaboration with Fred E. Cliffe, In Lonesome Land, Back Once Again, Patriotic Patrick Muldoon and Change That Rag Into A March Refrain, all written in 1915. Cliffe would later become more successful in the 30’s as a long standing songwriter for George Formby Jr.

Although firing on all cylinders and working very well as a team with the kind of financial rewards they could have only dreamed of, the war was becoming problematic. The Germans began to blockade Great Britain from February 1915 and the liner Lusitania was sunk by the Germans on 7 May 1915. Con Conrad needed to return to the States for a spell on personal and business matters and realised that this would soon become virtually impossible as war time restrictions on travel kicked in. If he was to to return, he would have to do so very soon. Whidden realised that Conrad's return, would probably mean he would not be able to get back to the UK until hostilities had ceased. Whidden accepted this and knew it would mean an inevitable split, because he had decided to remain in the UK. They parted sadly but amicably and Conrad returned to America in mid 1916 to move into full time producing, song writing and publishing.

Conrad, once back in the US became a partner in The Broadway Music Corporation and by 1918 associated with publishers Shapiro and Bernstein. Within a few years he was to gain worldwide success with songs, Margie in 1920 and, Ma, He’s Makin’ Eyes At Me (1921) and along with song writing he eventually became a producer for some of the big Broadway shows of the twenties. He went on to become one of Hollywood’s top songwriters and won an academy award for best song as co-writer of The Continental for Fred Astaire’s film ‘Top Hat’, in 1934. He also managed the great Crosby rival, Russ Colombo for a number of years. Conrad died on 28 September 1938 in Van Nuys California.

Part Two - After Con Conrad

Following his split with Conrad, Jay decided to obtain a new partner. He teamed up with an American pianist, Billy Kuming to create a very similar act to the one he had with Con Conrad. From 1915 into 1916, Whidden continued song writing, working with composer/lyricist Terry Sullivan for publishers, Francis, Day and Hunter. They produced, You Must Change Your Name To O’Reilly, and An Old Fashioned Place Called Home. As the First World War progressed, Whidden continued working with Billy Kuming, as Whidden and Kuming. They appeared from the autumn of 1915 into 1916 at the London Pavillion and later into 1917 at the London Palladium, which was principally a variety theatre at this time. They also toured extensively around the Moss Empires circuit. Whilst still on the boards Jay worked with ‘Dai Jenkins‘, (probably a pseudonym) during 1916/17 writing such long forgotten gems as, When It‘s Honeysuckle Time in Maryland, Oh I Wish I Had My Old Girl, and I‘m In Love With A Soldier And A Sailor. Jay eventually broke up the act with Kuming in the autumn of 1917, and Kuming dissapeared into obscurity, although I note he made a recording for the Duophone label in the early 20's. Jay, became a single turn, billing himself as, 'The Versatile Violinist, Entertainer and Composer In New Songs and Compositions' and appeared in review at the Palladium from December 1917 with raconteur/comedian Wilkie Bard, male impersonator Ella Shields and entertainer/comedienne Wish Wynne

Jay was getting far more serious about his song writing efforts and struck up a working partnership with Harry Carlton. During 1917/18 they produced a string of titles for Bert Feldman’s Music Publishers including ragtime novelties, Oh You Jack in the Box, Raggedy Doo, That Dizzy Dippy Band, That Jasbo Jungle Band and The Agricultural Walk, comedy numbers, You Oughtn’t To Do it, Up To The Top He’d Pop, and You're Just A Great Big Cuddly Kid. They also wrote ballads such as, Some Afternoon, If You Were A Rose In Cupid‘s Garden, I Don’t Want To Go Back, and Goodbye No-man’s Land, which was successfully introduced by Dorothy Ward a mainstay of British music hall and variety for three decades, and one of Panto’s best, ’Principal Boys’.

Bearing in mind the First World War was still raging at this time, Jay as an American citizen was required to register for the draft. Jay did so on 23 August 1918. His draft card records him as a 'music hall artist/violinist' in the 'theatrical business', in 'England and Australia'. His date of birth is shown as 1886 rather than 1890. Fortunately for Jay he was never required to don khaki with the War over in November 1918.

Jay continued performing, particularly at the Palladium, and remained with Harry Carlton into 1919 writing song after song for Bert Feldman, including When You Hit That Road To Home Sweet Home, Big Chief Sandy Mac, Because I’ve Got You, Kelly‘s Come Back, Little Susie Sunshine, Tiddly-Winkey-Pops, Fuzzy Wuzzy Woo, If Marriages Were Made In Heaven, and Down On That Old Plantation. Whidden also wrote with Clifford Grey, A Southern Wedding Morn.

At the same time Whidden continued hisown efforts with The Crazy Fiddler and Every Little Bit Of You in 1919. Following another brief return to the US via Mexico in April of that year, he was back in the UK during 1920, where songs poured forth, I Am Longing To Be Longed For, Over And Over Again, Oh Boy What A Wonderful Girl You’ve Got, Toddlin’ The Tidals, I Often Wonder, Everyone Does That Hoola Hoo, Hello Dear Old Virginia, Malabar and The Jazz Picker. He continued with his solo act, with frequent return trips to the Palladium, sharing the bill into late 1920 with the likes of comedian Ernie Lottinga and singer/comedienne Gertie Gitana.

Jay then entered into a short collaboration with the great music hall composer/lyricist Fred Gordon, (real name Llewellyn Williams). Although not out of the question this is unlikely to be the ‘Dai Jenkins’ Whidden had been working with in 1917 as Gordon was conscripted in January of that year. Gordon was author of such music hall classics as, Who Were You With Last Night (1912) and Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty, (1916)). During 1921 the two produced, Oh You Paree, The Song Birds Concert In The Trees and Rio Grande. In the same year, Whidden on his own wrote, Somewhere There’s Someone, Just Weaving My Happy Dreams, and Frisco Days.

In 1921 Whidden spent another short spell in the USA and travelled to Australia, (during which Whidden penned the song, Nobody Sighs, Nobody Cries Over Me). Whidden over the course of his career visited, performed and stayed in Australia for several periods and a branch of his family lived there. Although most of Whidden’s ancestors left the UK for America, when the good ship Samuel Plimsole, of Aberdeen, sailed from the Port of London to Sydney, New South Wales, on 1 February 1874, it had amongst the group of immigrants on board bound for Australia, Thomas Whidden, Mary Ann Whidden, (wife) and daughter Adelaide Whidden. Its unclear what if any contact Jay had with the Australian branch of his family and it may be just co-incidental, but Whidden wrote a song at this time whilst travelling to Australia called, Adelaide.

Whidden was back in London in early 1923 still in variety, this time at the Alhambra theatre, sharing the bill with comedian Charles Austin and the music hall great, Little Tich, ( Harry Relph). He continued his efforts as a song writer producing, The Best Looking Girls (Get The Worst Looking Men), with previous partner Harry Carlton, and a portentous title in collaboration with E. Fields, Cabaret. Although his song writing output up to then had been prodigious, it was becoming clear that the sort of success being achieved by his former partner Con Conrad back in the US, was not going to come his way and it was time to take stock and consider where exactly his career was going. He remained working in variety well into 1924 and then took another break to the US, returning in 1925.

Part Three - The Flappers Delight

Now tired of the variety treadmill and realising he was unlikely to be the next Irving Berlin, Jay was on the lookout for something more prestigious where his abilities as a musician and performer could be brought together. As the twenties began to ‘roar’, Whidden with his brassy ‘Montana cowboy’ persona, wide experience and fine track record as a performer, producer and musician on Broadway and in London, finally secured an offer that seemed to fit the bill. He was contracted as Music Director for Gordon Group Hotels and one of his first tasks was to put together a band for dancing at the Hotel Metropole on Northumberland Avenue off Trafalgar Square in London. In addition he would accompany and contribute to the ‘Midnight Follies Review’, the hotel's cabaret.

The Metropole had opened in 1885 and in its launch brochure stated it was ‘Particularly recommended to ladies and families visiting the West End during the Season; to travellers from Paris and the Continent, arriving from Dover and Folkestone at the Charing Cross Terminus; to Officers and others attending the levees at St James; to Ladies going to the Drawing Rooms, State Balls, and Concerts at Buckingham Palace; and to colonial and American visitors unused to the great world of London’. It ceased to operate as a hotel in 1936 and was leased to the UK Government. It was until recently occupied by Ministry of Defence officials and it has now been sold for development as an entertainment complex to a group which includes Hugh Heffner, who apparently intends to install a new Playboy club on the premises.

When the ‘Midnight Follies’ originally opened in November 1921, The Entertainments Protection Association representing London’s theatres initially objected on the grounds it would impact adversely on theatres and appealed to the London County Council licensing authority to rescind its license. The council permitted the Follies to go ahead as long as the performers did not wear theatrical costumes, no scenery was used and that no more than six performers appeared at the same time ! Fortunately most of these restrictions had been removed by late 1923.

The hotel was firmly aimed at the ‘well heeled’. A 1927 guide to London records a ‘Follies Dinner’ which included dinner, dancing and the follies show would set you back £1, 11s and 6d, which was the average weekly wage at the time. The hotel since its opening had always been popular with visiting wealthy Americans and the management team were suitably impressed not only by Whidden’s nationality but also his personality, chutzpah and experience and he was engaged. By the time Whidden took up his job late in 1925, what had begun as a small cabaret because of the Council’s restrictions, had expanded into an all-star review with headliners from all over the globe. Following the departure of the previous incumbents, Sydney Bliss and his Metropolitans, Whidden engaged some of the best UK sidemen available for the Follies band including Tim Cave, (for a short period), Freddie Pitt, Ben Oakley, and Nigel Newitt. The band set up was quite large for the period consisting of usually 10 or so players with two trumpets, trombone, brass bass, 3 reed players doubling on saxes and clarinet, piano, banjo, drums, with Whidden on violin.

With a determination to provide the most up to date sounds for London’s night life elite, the band populated its repertoire with hot dance music and became very successful with the bright young things of the day. Although not the greatest of singers Whidden provided vocals when required. His abilities as a producer/composer/song writer were also put to good use in the Follies, as he performed in, wrote for and produced many of them himself. A surviving example of a ‘Follies’ programme for 1927 has the billing as, ‘Starring Elsa Macfairlane, Basil Howes, Jay Whidden and Zoe Palmer. Words and Music by Jay Whidden‘.

You can get a real feel both for the period and the Follies themselves, as the ITN/Pathe archive have a filmed item from the Metropole which originally appeared in Eve’s Film Review issued on 11 March 1926. Although silent we see a packed dance floor, views of the very smart clientele, and some of the acts from the Follies for which the dance floor was cleared. The statuesque figure of Whidden can be seen to the left of the frame leading the band vigorously with his violin and obviously having a great time.

The band began broadcasting in December 1925, shortly after Jay’s arrival. The B.B.C. with its new Daventry transmitter had decided to expand the number of dance band relay locations, which up to November 1925 had been the exclusive preserve of the Savoy Hotel and the Savoy bands. The Follies band was soon tickling cat’s whiskers in London and the South East, usually after 10.30 PM. Whidden as Music Director for the Gordon Hotel Group, also organised bands and entertainment for its other hotels including the Brighton Metropole and affiliated hotels on the continent. Between editions of the Follies, Whidden took the band, and on occasions acts and complete numbers from the Follies, for periods from a week to two months to patrons in Dieppe and Ostend and more glamorously Cannes and Monte Carlo.

With his popularity firmly established Whidden signed an exclusive Columbia recording contract, and Jay Whidden & his New Midnight Follies Band from the Hotel Metropole, as they were billed cut their first sides on 11 March 1926. The bands first issued sides were, Dreamy Monterey and I’m Still In Love With You, both recorded on April 21st 1926 with Whidden providing the vocal on the latter as on the vast majority of his records. One interesting innovation of Whidden’s was to invite the classically trained Italian harpist Mario Lorenzi into his line up. The April 1926 edition of Melody Maker noted a live relayed radio broadcast of Jay’s Band from the Prince of Wales Playhouse, Lewisham and the writer was especially impressed by Lorenzi’s solo, Yes Sir ! That’s My Baby. Although mainly performing alto sax or clarinet with the band, Lorenzi’s harp can first be heard on record on I Don’t Want Nobody But You recorded on October 12th 1926, one of the earliest appearances of a harp on a dance band recording. Whidden also recorded one of Lorenzi’s song collaborations written with Arthur Young, Then All the World is Mine on October 21st 1926.

Titles from his Follies Band Columbia output of particular interest to jazz aficionados include, Up and At ’Em issued on Columbia 4087 recorded August 12th 1926 and Hanging Around issued on Columbia 4448 recorded on May 5th 1927. During Whidden’s tenure at the Metropole, his band issued some 80 plus sides for Columbia. Whidden was also a key player on the society house party circuit and he and his band were frequently hired to perform for private balls and party’s around the UK and on the continent.

Jay was re-united with his old partner Con Conrad in October 1926. Conrad was in London to oversee the London premier of the musical ‘Mercenary Mary’, at the Hippodrome, as producer, and he was staying at the Metropole. He set up offices for a short period in New Bond Street and did a number of cabaret performances at the piano at the Casino de Paris. Conrad took up an offer to appear for one week from 22 January 1927 at the Florida Club in Bond Street and invited Jay to appear in his mini cabaret, ’Froth Blowers In Florida‘. No doubt Conrad took the opportunity to talk over old times and wish Jay well with his new found success. Conrad made several radio broadcasts during his short stay, before returning to the States at the start of February 1927.

'Jay Whidden's Carlton Hotel Band. L to R, Jay Langham (sometimes known as Jay Langner), George Gibbs, Dave Roberts, Bert Read, Al Shaw, Jay Whidden, Arthur Niblo, Julien Vedey, Bill Mulraney. Photo courtesy of Mike Thomas'.

Riding on a wave of success, Jay hooked up with band agent, arranger and booker, Al Davidson and they took out a full page advertisement in the January 1927 Melody Maker to advertise a new service, a sort of 'teach yourself how to be a succesful band leader' enterprise for aspiring band leaders. Davidson had his own New Claribel Band and also managed a small jazz group from Glasgow, 'The Five Omega Collegians'. The pianist/arranger for this group was future band leader George Scott Wood and Jay recommended the Collegians to his managers for a short residency at the sister Metropole Hotel in Brighton, where they appeared with some success. George Scott-Wood would figure again later in the Whidden story in 1929. During February 1927 Whidden toured the provinces, then returned to London to see in the new edition of the Follies show which opened 14 March 1927 with, according to the Melody Maker, arrangements by Al Davison.

Whidden was still writing at this time and managed to get one of his songs, World Of Love into ‘The Blue Mazurka’, which opened at Daly’s Theatre on 19 February 1927. A romantic operetta, the score and songs were by Franz Lehar, so it was something of a coup to have it included. Jay then took a more substantive step back into the theatre when he was invited to appear in a ‘new musical entertainment’ entitled ‘Blue Skies’ which opened at the Vaudeville Theatre on June 27 1927 for a run of six months or so. Produced by Archibald De Bear and Clifford Whitley it was a cabaret/review in three parts, the second of which was a ‘reproduction’ of the Midnight Follies featuring Follies regulars Elsa MacFarlane, Zoe Palmer, Basil Howes and of course Jay Whidden. The move to appear in this show ended his direct association with the London Metropole, although for a time he remained involved with the provision of dance music at the Brighton Metropole.

‘Blue Skies’ was built around the songs of Irving Berlin, but Whidden contributed numbers of his own for the Follies section including, If You’ll Let Me, Romany Rover, Chinatown Butterfly and The Locket On Her Garter. The main stars of ‘Blue Skies’, were ‘Whispering’ Jack Smith and Josephine Trix as well as South African’s Max and Harry Nesbit. ‘Whispering’ Jack Smith prior to the opening of ‘Blue Skies’ was appearing in the Metropole Follies and recorded two sides for HMV from the ‘Blue Skies’ show to be, accompanied by Whidden, then still with his Follies band. The sides, Blue Skies and Some Other Bird Whistled A Tune, were recorded on 17 May 1927, but the sides were never issued. By the time Whidden himself recorded a selection from ‘Blue Skies’ first on 31 August 1927, (rejected) and then successfully on 17 September 1927, he used a pick up band consisting of some Follies personnel and musicians recruited for the ‘Blue Skies’ show. The sides were issued on a 12” Columbia no. 9239.

According to the Melody Maker, whilst still appearing in ’Blue Skies’, Whidden took up a new offer from the Carlton Hotel and restaurant on the corner of the Haymarket and Pall Mall, London next to His (now Her), Majesty’s Theatre. The Carlton was built under the auspices of hotelier Cesar Ritz and was designed as a rival to the Savoy. It opened in 1899 and was the largest and most luxurious hotel then in London. It ceased to operate as a hotel in 1939, suffered severe bomb damage during the Second World War and was demolished in 1958. New Zealand House now occupies the site.

Whidden was asked to set up a band for dancing to replace Leslie Norman’s Carlton Dance Band. Jay's original Carlton line up consisted of Jay Langer, George Gibbs, Dave Roberts, Bert Read, Al Shaw, Julien Vedey, Arthur Niblo, and Bill Mulraney. Whidden opened at the Carlton at a gala event on 4 October 1927 to great acclaim. The line up varied over the next few years, especially for recording, and at times included such luminaries as trumpeter, Max Goldberg, trombonist, Tony Thorpe, reed men Johnny Swinfen and Jimmy Goss and other talented and influential players. The new band made its first broadcast from the Carlton via the BBC Daventry transmitter on 31 October 1927 and were regulars thereafter. Whidden’s new band got together on 8 November 1927 to record for HMV, but the two sides were rejected. Meanwhile, ‘Blue Skies’ finished its run at the beginning of December 1927 and Whidden could devote himself full time to the band and the Carlton.

On 27 January 1928, Jay Whidden and his Carlton band provided the music at an all star charity event to raise money for the victims of the devastating Thames floods which occurred on the night of 7 January when part of the embankment near the Tate Gallery collapsed. The surrounding area was flooded and 14 Londoners were drowned. The event at the New Scala Theatre featured a host of stars.

Whilst the band was settling in at the Carlton Whidden began to look round for a long term recording contract. It was some time before an opportunity arose. Using a slightly expanded Carlton hotel band, Whidden made three sides for the Metropole record label, (no relation to the hotel) in April 1928 but no contract was in the offing. A few more months passed and Jay eventually signed a longer term deal with the Crystalate Gramophone Manufacturing Company to record for its Imperial and Victory labels.

The first Imperial session took place on 16th August 1928, and the first Victory session on 21st August. Whidden’s band was one of the few British based outfits contracted to Crystalate, whose output at that time relied heavily on American sides made by The Regal Record Company mostly from their Banner label. The UK Victory label was a 7” product sold exclusively in Woolworths. Whidden’s Victory sides were usually issued under the name of The Music Masters, (directed by Jay Whidden) and on occasions, the Victory Dance Orchestra and even Jayson’s Dance Orchestra. On Imperial he was Jay Whidden and his Band from the Carlton Hotel, London. Whidden was again determined to produce a sound and content as up to date as possible and over the course of his recording output for Crystalate he used some of the best arrangers around, including, Peter Yorke and Lew Stone. Interestingly and surprisingly an advertisement appearing in an American newspaper in the mid thirties suggests Ray Noble was playing piano with Whidden around this time. The advertisement in the 26 June 1935 edition of the Oakland Tribune for an appearance by Jay’s band, showed Noble (who by then had gone to the States) as a guest artist with the billing, ’Jay Whidden and his Island Band with guest Ray Noble, formerly pianist with Whidden’. Noble would obviously have been aware of this billing, but whether or not what it said was true is another matter.

During 1928, apart from his recording and Carlton Hotel work, Jay and his band toured the UK. Rhythm magazine for November 1928 noted, 'Jay Whidden appeared at the Palais de Danse, Derby, on October 24th, with his famous Carlton Hotel Orchestra. The tremendous ovation accorded to the band is a tribute to Whidden's popularity. They were given a wonderful reception, and it is a very significant fact that the band played from 9 p.m. to 3.30 a.m., almost without a break'.

As far as Jay’s record output at this time is concerned jazz collectors particular seek out Imperial 1982, Virginia (There’s a Blue Ridge In My Heart), ( arranged by Lew Stone), recorded October 19, 1928, Imperial 2024, Louisiana (arranged by Lew Stone), recorded January 14, 1929, Imperial 2053, A Little Dickie Bird Told Me So, (which has a striking and very ‘Bixian’ trumpet solo by Norman Payne), recorded early April 1929, Imperial 2088, When I Met Connie In The Cornfield, recorded June 12, 1929 and Imperial 2157, Come On Baby and Sweet Music, ( both arranged by George Scott Wood) recorded November 11, 1929. On the Victory label, issue 45, All By Yourself In The Moonlight, recorded December 12, 1928 as by The Music Masters, (directed by Jay Whidden), is another sought-after collector's item.

Lew Stone also produced a number of arrangements for broadcasting for Whidden who remained popular on the radio throughout his period at The Carlton. Whidden also introduced a vocal group to perform with the Band. Known as Jay Whidden’s Rhythm Boys, they appear on four sides issued by the band on Imperial recorded on 7 December 1928.

On a personal level, Jay was now very comfortable financially and whilst at the Carlton Jay met Maud Allen a Liverpudlian and fell in love. Jay bought a large house in Hendon where he moved in with Maud and settled down. Nadine Allen, the great niece of Maud who lives in Rainford village near Merseyside, told me Maud was born 6 January 1886 and passed 30 June 1972 in Los Angeles at the age of 86. It's not known exactly when Jay and Maud married or whether or not Maud was aware of Jay's existing marriage but as Jay never divorced, his marriage to Maud was bigamous. They had no children and stayed happily married together for the rest of their lives.

By the summer of 1929, Whidden was again expanding his horizons beyond dance music and cabaret and became interested in the emerging talking picture industry in the UK, which he saw as another possible outlet for his song writing talents. Interestingly this is exactly what his old partner Con Conrad was doing in the States, although it has to be said with considerably more success than Whidden. Jay’s first efforts into writing for the talkies was to help score the film, ‘Woman to Woman’. This remake of a 1923 silent film about a doomed love affair between an English army officer and a French girl during the First World War was an Anglo/American co-production involving the, Gainsborough, Burlington and Tiffany/Stahl companies and was directed by Victor Saville. The film starred Americans Betty Compson and Juliette Compton with George Barraud with the sound sequences actually shot in Hollywood, principally because the early talkie equipment was considered more reliable. Whidden worked on the score from August 1929 with an obscure lyricist called Fred May. Songs they produced and featured in the film include, Sunshine Of My Heart, To You, and Parisienne Doll . The film was released in November 1929, just as Whidden completed his last recording session for the Imperial record label on 18 November 1929. Overall Whidden had issued some 50 sides for the Victory and Imperial labels.

Following ‘Woman To Woman’, he and Fred May started work in September 1929 on what was to be the popular Danish musical star Carl Brisson’s first talkie, ‘Song Of Soho’ for British International Pictures. Brisson played a French legionnaire who whilst helping a friend set up a successful restaurant in Soho is accused of murder for which he is eventually proved innocent. One song produced by Whidden and May for the film, There’s Something About You That’s Different was quite successful and was covered by the Debroy Somers Band and others. Whidden had also re-newed his on off partnership with Harry Carlton for this film, penning Lady Of The Moon and Camille. (Brisson recorded There’s Something About You That’s Different and Camille for HMV (B3295 on 11 December 1929).

Whilst all this was going on further personnel changes occurred in the Carlton Hotel Band. During September/October 1929, drummer Jock Jacobson, trumpeter Duncan Whyte and banjoist Vic Andrews joined the band, whereas sax/violinist Ken Warner left. Whidden's most important aquisition was former Omega Collegian, George Scott Wood who joined in October 1929 to become pianist and principle arranger.

Towards the end of October 1929 Whidden again with Harry Carlton contributed music and songs for a Gainsborough film musical, ‘Just For A Song’, with Lilian Davis and Cyril Ritchard as a song and dance couple trying to become a success on the music halls. It also featured Sid Seymour and his Mad Hatters and the great Dick Henderson Sr. father of Dickie Henderson. Carlton and Whidden produced for this film, Jack & Jill amongst others. In November 1929 Whidden was working with arranger Idris Lewis and composer Tom Helmore and others on the score of British International Pictures, ‘Raise The Roof’, another film musical which starred the great British silent star Betty Balfour in her first talkie.

Whilst working for the talkies Jay continued providing dance music at the Carlton as well as broadcasting regularly in the friday night spot. On 16 December 1929, The Silver Rose Ball, with host Princess Marie Louise was held at the Carlton Hotel and Jay and the band provided the music. Guest star Marie Burke, who had played the role of Julie in the London production of ’Show Boat’ sang with the band.

Whidden made his final UK recordings for Decca on 3 April 1930, as Jay Whidden & His Band, with no reference to the Carlton Hotel. The titles recorded are with two exceptions the songs he contributed to the films discussed earlier. Parisienne Doll issued on Decca F1724 is a particularly lively rendition and worth seeking out. Whidden returned to composition during 1931, and worked with Robert Stanley producing comedy songs, Dickie Bird In My Garden, and Hang ‘Em Out On The Old Washing Line, and solo items such as Alma Mia-My Dear, Song Of Disappointed Love, If I Could Turn Back The Clock, Great Days-Army Days, and Sunshine Charlie, which was dedicated to Charlie Chaplin to coincide with the release of Chaplin’s new 1931 film ‘City Lights’.

Further personel changes in the band took place during the first half of 1931, George Gibbs was replaced by George Senior on string bass, and alto saxophonist, Jimmy Goss returned. The constant churn of musicians in a band is usually the first sign that problems are brewing. During the second half of 1931, Whidden himself created an air of uncertainty by reporting to Rhythm magazine that he intended to return to vaudeville. There were also rumours that the Carlton Hotel was about to change their policy on the provision of dance music. During October 1931 Jay announced that he was handing the band over to George Scott Wood for a period as he intended taking a holiday in California, which he did, leaving the UK with his wife on the16th. Within a month, Whidden's band now led by George Scott Wood was no more. Max Goldberg, then with Ambrose told how the Carlton management had a bust up with Whidden's second trumpet Arthur Niblo and decided to sack the band on the spot. In fact after November 1931 dance music did not return to the Carlton until the following year.

Part Four - Back In The USA

With no band to return to Whidden decided to stay in America. He bought himself a ranch and settled in California, where for a period of months into the early spring of 1932 he went back to composition. He worked with Jimmy Matchette, Max Bouquet, (pianist with Al Lyons Band), and Jimmy Dale during this period for the San Fransico based publisher, Sherman, Clay & Co., producing such songs as, Lovely Melody, My Last Romance, Since You Went Away, Could Ya, Would Ya and with Art Levy, Look Up The Sun’s In The Sky amongst others.

But ever the showman, Whidden began to miss his baton and decided to return to the dance band scene. He put together his, London Band, and initially embarked on a tour of California. His band began to grow in popularity and from July 1932, began to broadcast regularly over NBC, as well as local radio stations out of San Francisco and Los Angeles. By early 1933 he had become Musical Director for the Packhard Motor Company broadcasts. Touring, of course was hard work and he was keen to get himself a prestigious residency again, and with his track record he didn’t have long to wait. Following a spell with his London Band in Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel, he took over from band leader Anson Weeks, at the Hotel Mark Hopkins in San Francisco in the Spring of 1933. The 19 story hotel had opened in 1926 and this backdrop suited Whidden down to the ground. Palatial settings, with plenty of California sunshine; where Hollywood’s elite came out to play. Whidden became very popular and apart from providing dance music in the famous Peacock Court ballroom he also found himself in great demand on the society circuit for parties and College proms. At this time, Whidden hired a young singer who had moved to San Francisco following a spell with Ted Fio Rita’s band. She didn't stay long with the band, but then the lady involved, Betty Grable, was of course to go on to bigger and better things in musical films.

In late Summer of 1933 Whidden could be found at the beautiful Miramar Hotel which overlooks the Pacific ocean in Santa Monica, California. He regularly broadcast from there and the great Hollywood star Gloria Swanson was apparently an avid fan. She had a standing reservation for herself and her entourage whenever Whidden & the Band were in residence.

Whidden’s status as a dance band leader did not go unnoticed amongst Hollywood’s film makers and Whidden and his band appeared in a 1933 Universal production ‘Only Yesterday’ which starred Margaret O’Sullivan and John Boles. Directed by John Stahl it was a romantic drama rather than a musical but included sequences set in a hotel and it was here that Whidden appeared. Whidden and the band received an on screen credit. Jay worked fairly regularly for MGM throughout 1933 either with his band personnel or a studio substitute, appearing in crime caper film, ’Penthouse’, with Myrna Loy and Warner Baxter, ‘The Prize-fighter And The Lady‘ with Myrna Loy, Walter Huston and boxer Max Baer, ‘Dancing Lady’ a musical with Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and the first screen appearance of Fred Astaire and 'Today We Live' with Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone, a romantic drama set in London.

From October 1933 Jay moved on to the luxurious Biltmore hotel in Miami. During his time there Whidden again entered the recording studios. Jay Whidden & His Biltmore Orchestra recorded four titles in Los Angeles on 23 October 1933, issued on Brunswick and Decca with vocalist’s Lawrence King, Lee Norton and Loyce Whiteman. Just before returning for a short engagement at the Mark Hopkins Hotel he recorded four more sides in San Francisco on 21 April 1934 again for Brunswick. During the whole of 1934 Jay broadcast regularly over KFI radio out of Los Angeles.

As a close friend of Hollywood it is unsurprising to note Jay’s presence, at the funeral of radio and recording star Charles E. Mack, of Moran and Mack, the famous or infamous, (depending on your point of view), Two Black Crows. The service took place in Newhall, California on 15 January 1934. Mourners included partner George Moran, the great western silent star William S. Hart, Noah Beery, and Harry Carey. Jay played a violin solo as part of the proceedings.

Following his successful residencies, Jay decided to hit the road again. In May 1934 he made his first appearance at Sweets Ballroom in Oakland, as Jay Whidden and his Mark Hopkins Hotel Orchestra and then moved on throughout California. Later that year Jay and his Band shared responsibilities with Harry Jackson & his Orchestra in providing music for the Screen Actors Guild dinner, ball and show in October 1934 at their headquarters in the Hollywood Centre Building. The hosts included, Rudy Vallee, Jimmy Durante, and Dolores Del Rio. He also managed to fit in a number of appearances at the famous Ambassadors Hotel Coconut Grove Ballroom in Los Angeles.

Continuing his tour, Jay hosted a gala dance in the Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento on 7 December 1934 where he appeared as Jay Whidden & his London Band, went on to Tony’s Spanish Ballroom on 11 December in Reno, and then to Hawaii for a season in Honolulu from 22 December 1934 to April 1935, featuring vocalist and blues singer Myrtle Harwin, who had achieved success with Leo Reisman‘s band. After a short break his band returned to Sweets Ballroom in Oakland, California on 27 June 1935 for a short season. Later that month he moved on to open the newly refurbished Lake Tahoe Country Club in Nevada staying on into July 1935. In the autumn of 1935 Jay took a long earned rest and then resumed touring. On 12 December 1935 he was appearing in San Antonio, Texas, and later in December at the Claridge Hotel in Memphis, then on to Galveston and in early 1936 he was in the Paramount Theatre in Van Nuys and then on to Denver, Colorado.

He took time off from touring to appear in another Hollywood film from MGM, ‘His Brother’s Wife’, which starred Barbara Stanwyck and newcomer Robert Taylor. Whidden plays an orchestra leader but is un-credited in the film. Maintaining his connections with the film industry Whidden led a band for dancing before the main show as part of the 55th Annual Actors Fund Benefit which took place at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Hollywood on 1 July 1936. Jimmy Dorsey played in the intermission and amongst the performers taking part were Jackie Cooper, Nelson Eddy, Warren William and Laurel & Hardy.

Whidden toured the Western and North Eastern United States from late 1936 into 1937 with new featured singer, Laurence 'Laurie' Brooks, and a smaller band. This was a long and exhausting tour which was to cover many miles. Heading west they received rave reviews in Denver and Shreveport, and many other towns and cities. By mid August 1937 they had reached Sylvan Beach in New York State and as Jay Whidden and his London Orchestra they proved equally popular. However, they had less success when they headed south returning via San-Antonio where the smaller touring band apparently had difficulty filling some hall's. The tour finally came to an end in late 1937.

Strangely, throughout this lengthy period based in California and touring widely Whidden appears to have written few if any songs. Perhaps he was just too busy to find the time, although he managed to maintain a steady output in similar circumstances whilst in London. He and wife Maud's ranch in California became something of a popular retreat for many of his Hollywood friends. Jay also enjoyed playing at cowboys in his free time.

Jay took a long earned rest at the ranch over November/December 1937, making his first appearance in the new year on 29 January 1938 at the Coconut Grove for the Annual President’s Birthday Ball which featured Shirley Temple, Tyrone Power, and Henry Fonda. In the spring of 1938 Jay was back in Hollywood appearing with Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddie in the MGM musical, 'Sweethearts', as usual unbilled. Jay's band continued regular broadcasts, hotel and ballroom work but he began to tire of touring, and Jay was on the lookout for a new challenge. In late summer of 1938 the opportunity he was looking for arose when Whidden unexpectedly invited to front a band in Melbourne, Australia. Jay of course loved the country and he grabbed the offer with both hands. He completed all outstanding business and disbanded. Singer Laurie Brooks who had already performed in Australia was retained and Jay obtained the services of singer Sylvia Sefton to go with him, and Jay, Maud and the others were on their way to Australia by late August 1938.

It appears he was encouraged to take up the Australian trip by the Australian Broadcasting Company, (ABC). Although they had a National dance band for radio at this time led by Jim Davidson, they also encouraged regionally based bands in each state to contribute to their overall dance band output. To this end ABC had a policy of inviting overseas band leaders to front dance music for broadcasting. Jay arrived in Melbourne in early September 1938. The Australasian Dance Band and Brass Band News (ADBBBN) for that month put Jay on its front cover reporting he was about to be engaged at the St. Kilda Palais de Danse and would open on Saturday 1 October 1938. St Kilda was and remains a popular seaside resort and the Palais was one of Australia’s premier dance halls, associated with many of Australia's top bands and musicians. In an accompanying article, 'Hollywood Headliner Opening At The Palais', Whidden asserted, ' Swing is dead ! Long Live Sweet Swing', he went on to say that, 'swing's super syncopation drove ordinary dancers off the floor'. He explained that sweet swing was a, 'simple melody with a swing tempo' that he'd introduced in the movie, 'Sweethearts', and was now about to bring to the Palais.

Just prior to Whidden taking over, the band there was led by Theo Walters and contained some of Australia's top side men many of whom had originally played with Harold Moschetti's 1937 Palais Band. Theo Walter remained and in effect became joint leader of Whidden's band. Key members of the band included Bernie Duggan on piano, George Dobson lead trumpet, trombonist George 'Dutchy' Turner and Bob Gibson on sax, clarinet and violin. Many of these would become famous in their own right. Geoff Orr who has probably done more than anyone else to bring vintage dance music out of the vaults knew many of the band personally. He told me that Bernie Duggan thought very highly of Whidden and that he'd brought a new style of swinging dance music that generally raised the standard of playing at the time. As part of his new enterprise Jay was also booked to broadcast from 24 October 1938 on Melbourne's 3LO radio station which was to be relayed over ABC nationally.

The band was an immediate hit and Jay also instigated an extremely successful, series of talent shows which received coverage in the November 1938 ADBBBN. Geoff Orr also knew one of Whidden's singers Cyril Mier who was a popular crooner who performed his own comedy songs at the piano as part of Whidden's show. Jay appeared as Jay Whidden & his Sweet Swing Orchestra at the Palais de Danse, Melbourne or simply as Jay Whidden & his Palais de Danse Band on numerous sheet music issues of popular songs that he and the band introduced in 1938. Jay also found time to perform at the Tivoli in Sydney. The band was host to the singing trio The Lester Sisters, Nola, Betty and Olive. Olive Lester became very popular in her own right and went on to have a long career as a much loved Australian entertainer into the 1950’s.

Jay was enjoying as much success as he’s ever had, but then a strange thing happened. Back in the UK in the Summer of 1938 fellow American band leader Roy Fox had just completed a continental tour finishing in London. He suffered from pleurisy and his health broke down and he decided to disband. Interestingly the ADBBBN reported this. The edition for 26 September 1938 has an article headed, 'Roy Fox Sacks Entire Band !' There is no mention of Fox's health problems and as to the reason for disbanding Fox is quoted as follows, 'After all this time, the public are entitled to a change of personnel, or even such a fine bunch as his will lose a lot of pull, because of the general public's tendency to take their idols for granted after a while'. The same piece mentions that he would retain Denny Dennis and Mary Lee plus a few, 'corner men'. Following the disbanding Fox was sent to Switzerland on doctors orders. He was due back in London in late 1938 when as Roy Fox himself put it in his autobiography, ‘Just before I left to return to London, a friend of mine telephoned me from Australia and said a big Palais in Melbourne wanted me to come there to form an Australian band”.

Fox’s recollections are often suspect and it’s unclear as to who the friend who invited him over was, but it is quite likely it was Jay Whidden himself. At the time, late February 1939, Whidden needed to return to the States and required a replacement to front the band. Assuming he was aware of Fox's predicament it's possible that it was he who approached Fox. In effect it was a case of one American bandleader helping out another. However this came about, the Australian music press announced Fox's arrival. The January 1939 ADBBBN reported, 'Roy Fox, celebrated American maestro, who arrived in Melbourne on January 15, will star with his Australian band on the ABC and Palais de Danse, St. Kilda. Mr Fox, is quite sure he's going to like Australia in a big way'.

The February 1939 edition of ADBBBN had a featured article on Fox announcing, 'Roy Fox Gala Opening St. Kilda's Palais, February 28'. The piece went on to describe how, 'There should be a marked contrast to Whidden's style, as Fox likes the more staccato rhythm of the English'. It goes on to say, 'Roy Fox's Band will actually be the same unit as used by Jay, with the addition of another piano, vibraphone, accordian and violin'. 'The popular Theo Walters who has shared so much of the Whidden limelight.....is not included in the Fox menage.......Theo is scheduled for a trip abroad'. 'Vocalists will be Pat McCormack, the Irish singer who accompanied Fox from England, Mavis Curtain and Olive Lester'. The item concluded by noting that, 'Jay's admirers, (and they are legion), will be glad to hear that he will return to the Palais on 1 June for a further season'.

The take over by Fox was amicable, businesslike and problem free. Fox was also booked for a regular ABC radio show ‘Roy Fox’s After Dinner Show’, which was broadcast three times a week. Fox with the same strong line up as Jay was quite successful although his style was not to everyone's taste. Whidden was back in Melbourne by April 1939 and wrote about his days in Hollywood in ADBBBN. On 1 May 1939 he went back into the Palais and Fox left on a tour of Australia.Unfortunately for Fox his tour was not as successful as he’d hoped and after losing money, with stories of un-paid bills and musicians, he left Australia towards the end of 1939, returning to the US as he was unable to go back to London as war had been declared. Sadly neither Whidden nor Fox recorded commercially whilst in Australia, although some of their radio material was put on transcription discs, some of which, it is rumoured are held in private collections.

Whidden continued at the Palais and developed a lavish stage show which showcased the band. His regular broadcasts were amongst the most popular on the air and he dabbled a bit in song writing including, I Turned My Hat And Walked Away which he wrote with Harold Moschetti who, as previously noted, had led the Palais de Danse band earlier in 1937. Whidden's success continued through 1940. In early 1941, the ADBBN reported that Jay would be going back to the US, reportedly for a six month 'sojourn' in Hollywood. Music Maker magazine for 21 April 1941 reported, ' Whidden Will Return To Palais After Six Months In US'. It continued, 'A very large crowd went to the Palais to say 'so long' to Jay, and show their appreciation of his fine work, and about 100 people turned up at Spencer Street Station to see him off when he finally left'. 'Jay will be back at the Palais in October after a six month sojourn in Hollywood, and no doubt the fans will be in even greater numbers to welcome him back'.

This was not to be and after leaving in April 1941, travel simply became impossible with Japan's entry into the war. Jay appears to have started to move into semi-retirement. Jazz archivist Chris Hayes noted that Jay became the entertainments manager of a large aircraft manufacturer, but it has not been possible to confirm this. He was certainly still involved in band work here and there. The ’Rodeo’ edition of The Arizona Daily Star published mid 1942 notes a ’Baile De Las Flores’ at St. Lukes Sanatorium would feature, Jay Whidden’s, ’Music From Out Of The Night’ at 9.00 pm. But it's clear that as the 40's turned into the 50's, Jay began to withdraw from show business completely and settle into a very comfortable retirement.

In his later years Jay and his wife became very actively involved in the Christian Scientist Movement. The last reference to Jay I've been able to find was for an interview on a radio programme, ’Knightwatch’, a Portland, Oregon Music show broadcast in September 1952 during which he reminisced about his colourful life. Jay, passed away on 17 February 1968 at the age of 77, (based on the 1890 date of birth). His wife Maud Allen lived on to 30 June 1972 and left everything to the Christian Scientists when she died. Jay Whidden leaves a legacy of excellent recordings and created a great deal of pleasure for the dancing and listening public for over half a century. Although never a Montana cowboy this was one Brooklyn boy who made good.

A large number of Institutions and libraries in the UK, US and Australia were consulted for this article, too many to list here. But I would particularly like to thank the following people for their generous assistance and advice:

Maud Allen's Great Niece, Nadine Allen and another Whidden family member who prefers anonymity for their input and provision of unique family photos; David Nathan at the National Jazz Archive, (nationaljazzarchive.co.uk), not only for making rare publications available to me but for his wonderful good humour; dance music archivists and experts Mike Thomas and Ned Newitt for their encouragement and support; the Australian Dance Band Internet group, particularly Denis King who introduced me to key members of the group, including Geoff Orr archivist and collector who provided first hand testament and unique photographs; and especially Professor John Whiteoak of Melbourne's Monash University who took time out from his busy schedule to scan material from his personal copies of the extremely rare Melbourne based publication, Australasian Dance Band and Brass Band News.

Copyright Terry Brown

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