REVIEW: The Band that Jack Built, Great Hall, Lancaster University

Jack Hylton (second left) meets the Queen and Prince Philip at the Royal Command Performance at Blackpool Opera House in 1955.
Jack Hylton (second left) meets the Queen and Prince Philip at the Royal Command Performance at Blackpool Opera House in 1955.

MARTIN WIDDEN writes...Jack Hylton was Britain’s best-known bandleader of the 1930s.

There are few people left who will have heard his broadcasts because the band ended in 1940, when several members were called up to fight.

But those of a certain age will have grown up in homes where 78s were regularly played on wind-up gramophones, often featuring Jack Hylton and his Orchestra as the backing.

After the Second World War, Hylton became a successful showbusiness promoter and impresario, with famous artists like Shirley Bassey and Morecambe and Wise on his books.

Last Thursday, being exactly the 50th anniversary of Jack Hylton’s death in 1965, his remarkable life was celebrated by a concert in the Great Hall of Lancaster University, given by the Piccadilly Dance Orchestra.

The concert was entirely of arrangements for the Jack Hylton Band, chiefly from the 1920s and 1930s.

Jack Hylton was born in Bolton in 1892, the son of a cotton-mill worker.

His musical education began when as a boy he went along to the local pub with his father, who moonlighted as a singer in the evenings.

Sometimes Jack would sing in his own right. He learned to play the piano to accompany his father and soon he started playing in a band. When he arranged music and made sure his name was on the records they made. This was his start on the road to fame and fortune.

Hylton’s band became one of the most popular in show business in the 1920s and 1930s, providing backing for many famous artists.

Following Jack’s death, a televised gala concert was organised in London in his honour under the title ‘The Stars Shine for Jack.’

This raised a considerable sum which funded the construction of the Jack Hylton Music Rooms at the new University of Lancaster.

The university became the custodian of the archive of the musical arrangements and other papers for Jack Hylton’s band, all of which are housed in the university library.

The Picadilly Dance Orchestra specialises in period arrangements in the style of bands of the swing era, so they were ideal for last week’s tribute to Jack Hylton.

They don’t usually include strings, so six violins were recruited specially for the occasion.

The band’s performance was very faithful to the Jack Hylton sound.

The director, Michael Law, also performs as a singer with the band, exactly catching the light 1930s style.

Overall this was an excellent evening of nostalgia which will have been enjoyed by all, whether or not they remember the Jack Hylton Band.