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When Ted Heath and his Band came to play in the Black Country in 1954

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 11, 2014

  • Ted Heath and his Band in full swing in the early 50s

  • Ted Heath, at the Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, in January 1954

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WE are grateful to Mr. Harry Hill from Codsall for helping to revive memories Bugle readers might have of Big Band maestro Ted Heath, after sending us a copy of the programme for a concert held at the Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, in January 1954, when Ted and his Band were in town to woo both music diehards and youngsters alike.

During the Second World War the big band sound had been epitomised by the legendary Glen Miller and his Orchestra, a genre of music made popular since the early twenties. The music halls and theatres throbbed with the big band sound and it was Ted Heath who carried the flame of this popular kind of music on this side of the Atlantic.

During the days of the depression after WWI, Ted Heath played with a group of street buskers in London, and by luck one day his services were conscripted by a harassed band leader whose trombonist had failed to put in an appearance. As a young, raw, trombone player, Ted suddenly found himself lining up with a real, live, popular band of day, and Jack Hylton was the harassed band leader in question.

The visits of Glen Miller and other top rank outfits during the war years inspired Ted Heath to produce a band to rival the superb standard set by the Americans, and although the early years were tough when his career as a band leader nearly hit the buffers, he dabbled in song composition and almost overnight hit the jack-pot with two popular numbers, "Lovely Week-end" and "Gonna Love that Guy". From that moment on Ted Heath became a household name on both sides of the Atlantic.

His arrival at the Civic in 1954 coincided with the emergence of Rock & Roll, with the likes of Elvis Presley beginning to make an impression. To help maintain the interest of the youngsters he signed up the likes of Lita Roza, a singer from Liverpool, and Dennis Lotis and Dickie Valentine from his native London to compliment his band which consisted of five saxophone players, four on the trumpets, four on the trombones, a bass player, pianist and drummer, and on that winter evening in January 1954 Ted Heath gave two separate performances, one at 6.15pm and one at 8.45pm, such was his popularity.

If you have any memories of seeing Ted Heath and his band in concert, or any of the other big bands of the time, and would like to share a few anecdotes with other Bugle readers, please contact Bugle House 01384 567678 or email editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk.

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