Jay Wilbur & His Band

b. Wilbur Blinco, 1898, Bournemouth, Hampshire, England, d. 1968, South Africa. In 1928, pianist Wilbur led a small band at the Tricity Restaurant in London and that year became musical director for Dominion Records. When Dominion folded he took a similar post with the Crystalate Company, handling their low-cost Imperial, Eclipse and Rex labels. The records were well-made but sold for only sixpence, mostly in Woolworths. Wilbur was immensely prolific, recording hundreds of dance records. He used various names, including the Radio Serenaders, the Aldwych Players, the Connecticut Collegians, the Victory Dance Orchestra, the Hottentots and the Rhythm Rascals and he was responsible for arranging most of the music. In addition to his recording duties he was also active on radio and from 1936 he had a popular series with the BBC, Melody From The Sky, and in 1940 was the first band leader to play dance music over the BBC’s hitherto sacrosanct Sunday airwaves. In the 40s, during World War II, Wilbur led the band on the BBC’s very popular comedy show, Hi, Gang!, which starred the American entertainers Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon. Spawned from the radio show was the 1941 British film, Hi, Gang!, in which Wilbur and his band appear. Wilbur’s bands were not regular groups but were drawn from the period’s large pool of skilled session musicians in London. These included Ted Heath, Joe Crossman and Freddy Gardner. Among artists Wilbur accompanied were the popular father and son organists, Charles D. Smart and Harold Smart. Wilbur later emigrated to Australia and then to South Africa, leading bands in both these countries. Strict tempo dance music was Wilbur’s forte, along with a gently, cocktailish piano style and he steadfastly ignored the swing music concepts that were all around him, choosing instead to stick to what he knew and what he did best.

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