#8 My Top Ten British Big Bands…No 7…Ted Heath

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Considered the most successful band in Britain during the 1950s, it remained in existence long after he died, until 2000. All the best musicians wanted to play in the Ted Heath band, probably because he paid the musicians a lot more than anyone else did at the time, you have got to respect the man for this alone.

In 1947 Heath persuaded impresario Val Parnell, uncle of the band’s star drummer Jack Parnell to allow him to hire the London Palladium for alternating Sundays for his Sunday Night Swing Sessions. The band caused a sensation and eventually played 110 Sunday concerts, ending in August 1955, consolidating the band’s popular appeal from the late 1940s. These concerts allowed the band to play much more in a jazz idiom than it could in ballrooms. In addition to the Palladium Sunday night concerts the band appeared regularly at the Hammersmith Palais and toured the UK on a weekly basis.

In April 1956 Heath arranged his first American tour. Heath contracted to play a tour that included Nat King Cole, June Christy and the Four Freshmen that climaxed in a Carnegie Hall concert on 1 May 1956. At this performance, the band’s instrument truck was delayed by bad weather. The instruments finally arrived just minutes before the curtain rose. The band had no time to warm up or rehearse. There were so many encore calls at the Carnegie Hall performance that Nat King Cole had to come out on stage and ask people to leave.

I’ve put Ted Heath in at number 7 because I can only just remember him on the TV,  this is a personal list purely from my point of view, however I can now understand the popularity of the big bands. Ted Heath was the Beatles of the 50’s in selling American culture back to America, and kept it alive and kicking.

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