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Hello again, We're on the radio again,
We know we're honest when we say that when we play
That it's gonna getcha!
In such a way that it won't upset—cha,

You'll agree, we've lots of personality
And as you'll recognise the style we need not tell you
The name's Geraldo,
Let's call it just the band you prefer,

Signature tune, played and sung on every performance by the entire band.
Words and music by George Evans. Click for vocal part.)

Arthur Birkby
Ron's Pages

Geraldo portrait
Wartime orchestra 1944
Recording in 1945
Concert Orchestra in 1969

One of the most popular and successful of British Big Bands and Concert Orchestras.

Geraldo formed his first orchestra under his own name of Gerald Bright and played a five–year residency at the Hotel Majestic, St Anne's–on–Sea, then disbanded and toured South America to study Latin–American rhythms. On his return to London he changed his name to Geraldo, took his colourful Gaucho Tango Orchestra into the Savoy Hotel and stayed there for 10 years, and over two thousand broadcasts.

He later formed a conventional dance orchestra, Geraldo and His Sweet Music. At the outbreak of World War II he was appointed Supervisor of Bands for ENSA, and toured Europe, the Middle East and North Africa with his own orchestra.

Over the years, most of the UK's top musicians played with Geraldo's orchestra, including Ted Heath, who played first trombone in the orchestra before leaving to form his own band. One of the stars of the original band was drummer Eric Delaney, who also formed his own band later on.

Ron Simmonds
Geraldo's signature tune, sung by the whole band, was as well—known as any popular song of the day. Just before I joined the band I learned that there were no vocal parts to this song. It had been handed down by word of mouth over the years. Freddy Clayton, for many years first trumpet in the band, kindly supplied me with the words. When we sang it on my first broadcast with the band I realised that I was the only one who knew them.

Geraldo, talking to Tony Brown after a Festival Hall concert in 1969
I've never had such a reaction before, during, and after a concert. And as you might know, I've done plenty. The telephone hasn't stopped ringing and the letters are coming in with every post. When, they ask, are we going to do another? It certainly indicates that there is an audience waiting.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my career.. I've been asked before about my most exciting experiences and I shall number this among them in future. This has been about the most worthwhile venture since the war years. In 1943. we went out to entertain the troops in North Africa and Italy—and that was a job that was so worth doing. It may sound egotistical, but they appreciated us so much. There's hardly a day goes by when I don't encounter someone who was there—in the desert or somewhere—when we did our long tour. Among the many shows we put on was one in which we combined with the RAF and military orchestras in Cairo. That was at the Giza University. We did the first performance in Egypt of the "Warsaw Concerto".

The present Lord Douglas—he was Sir Sholto Douglas then, Air Officer Commanding—has never forgotten us. He even went so far as to lay on a 'plane to take the band down to PIFORCE in Iraq. I hated flying. I still hate flying, as a matter of fact, although I'm a fatalist about it. We had a shocking experience out there. While flying from Tunis. to a concert in Bari in Southern Italy, one of the engines on the Dakota conked out and the pilot had to make a belly landing. Luckily we were over Sicily and we came down in a muddy field south of Palermo and skidded along. We finished a couple of yards from a mountain.

You might say that we were almost killed by kindness. In those days, if someone wanted a lift by air, the crew used to say: "Sure—jump in." They didn't seem to think about the weight.
Well, Air Marshal Cunningham was waiting at Bari to meet us and we just didn't show up. We didn't realise at the time what a close shave we'd had, but looking back . . . that kind of experience makes one fatalistic.

Getting back to the Royal Festival Hall concert, I thought that the audience would be composed entirely of older people drawn by nostalgia. But no. The upper terrace was full of youngsters. This really floored me. Is it because they've never had the opportunity of hearing really good dance music played by a concert orchestra? Probably most of them haven't had the chance of hearing some of the fine standards that we played.

The Bernard Ebbinghouse arrangements were so good. He's a brilliant boy—and so underrated. I know because he has been doing orchestrations for me for years and years. As modest as they come and such a nice person.

We worked hard to make this a success. Owing to the indisposition of my secretary I had to do all the organising myself. When I took this on I thought: We have all those beautiful orchestrations in the library; all we'll need is a few extra parts. Then I started examining the scores. I realised that, however good they were, they would inevitably sound dated.
I was rather bulldozed into the project, really. I often go with my wife to the symphony concerts at the Festival Hall. And often I found myself in the next box to John Dennison, the General Manager of the hall.

He would say: "When are you going to bring that wonderful orchestra of yours to the Festival Hall? There's an opening for that kind of thing." And he kept on about it every time I saw him. In the end. I said to my wife: "I'll say yes. If I get nearer the time and I don't feel like it, I can put something else on. At least, I'll have booked the hall." In the event, Sander Gorlinsky, the internationally famous impresario, put the concert on with me. And he was so thrilled about it. I don't think he's ever been associated with anything quite like this before. Mind you, neither of us will make any money out of it. An 88–piece orchestra, two librarians, all the special arrangements! But it was worth it as an experience. Even the worries.

I'm afraid musicians aren't as loyal as they were. A week before the concert, I had people ringing up to tell me that they couldn't do it. You know, sometimes they don't even ring. If I did this to them they'd be on to the union. I'd have to pay them. You know, once you accept an engagement, you should keep it.

There are compensations, too. Don Lusher rang me on the Monday after the concert. You know what a marvellous musician and what a completely professional person he is. "Gerry," he said, "I must take off my hat to you. This was a most exciting performance. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Please ask me again." They all enjoyed themselves, I'm sure. There was Jimmy Blades up there on tymps. Charlie Botterill. Jack Collier—brilliant bassist.

One mistake I made. If you do Gershwin, you must do "Rhapsody In Blue" and "An American In Paris." I put "American" in the wrong place—at the end of the programme. It should, perhaps, have been the second item in the second half. The finisher should have been the selection from Kiss Me Kate, the outstanding Ebbinghouse arrangement.

That's the essence of the bandleader's art, of course—programming. Balance, that's the secret. I used to spend so much time and thought on it. That was my speciality and I don't think many people appreciated that. It was partly through study, partly knack. Another thing: I never used one arranger. A half–hour's radio programme used the talents of four arrangers. And those arrangers were selected for their ability to do certain types of number very well. I never gave a man something that he didn't specialise in.

I can say this, too: the band helped many arrangers to develop. We were a very good market for them. And they were also able to experiment a bit, because my orchestra was versatile.
Knowledge of programming comes from experience. All kinds of experience. Remember, I started with Light music and gradually combined dance music with that. I had an orchestra at the Majestic, St. Annes, before even Geraldo was born. We broadcast from there three times a week. Gerald W. Bright and his Majestic Celebrity Orchestra. Sounds a bit pompous now, I know, but we had tremendous status in the Midlands and North because of those Northern Region broadcasts.

Just to show how things have changed, we used to go on the air at six in the evening. The news came on at 6.15 and at 6.30 we came back until seven o'clock. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays—like clockwork. We did that for two–and–a–half years. I was as well—known as Gerry Bright in those days as I became as Geraldo later. This is the experience that money can't buy.

At this time Geraldo was providing orchestras for Cunard, and had already made three runs on the Queen Elizabeth II.
Geraldo's Navy? I know about ships' orchestras. I ran away to sea when I was sixteen–and–a–half and joined the orchestra on the Cameronia. We went to New York and I was scared out of my wits. I'd never been away from home before. It broke my mother and father's heart. They were very hurt about it, but it was my salvation, really.

I asked them to let me go and they wouldn't, so I left. When I went to Charlie Black in Liverpool to get a job he said: "How old are you?" I told him I was twenty–one–and–a–half. "Have you got a passport?" asked Charlie. I hadn't, so he told me to go and get one. I went into a Commissioner For Oaths along the road and asked him to fill in the form for me. I told him I was over twenty—one and he signed the form and sent it off.

They didn't have seamen's identity cards then. Musicians travelled as second–class passengers.
It was the greatest move I could have made. It gave me a sense of responsibility and taught me to stand on my own feet and think for myself. My brother Sydney (who is my twin, incidentally) stayed at home and he is very retiring. A brilliant musician, though, and a fine accompanist.

Malcolm Roberts did a great performance at the concert—and Carole Carr has always been a first–class musician. She can sight–read anything. Then there was Clive Lythgoe—a great artist.

But I've always had a bit of a flair for picking singers. Do you remember Monte Rey, who sang with my Gaucho Tango Orchestra? I gave him his name. He started out as Montgomery Fife. After leaving me, he went with Joe Loss. Then there was George Evans. who did a wonderful record of "Skylark", Dorothy Carless, Dick James, Beryl Davis, Denny Vaughan, Doreen Villiers, Len Camber, Jackie Hunter—he went on to work in Musical Comedy and had a part in Dubarry Was A Lady.

Yes, the concert was a great and heart–warming experience. Perhaps we'll do it again next year.

Interview: Copyright © 1969 Tony Brown. All Rights Reserved

Copyright© 2000 Jazz Professional. All Rights Reserved