#9 My Top Ten British Big Bands…No 8…Bert Ambrose

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The era that I’ve been researching is the mid 1940’s to 50’s which was extraordinary time for British big bands, but when you start digging you find all sorts of things and I became fascinated, in the back story of  Bert Ambrose. He was born in Warsaw (Poland) 1896 when it was part of  the Russian Empire. The family were Jewish and moved to London and in 1911 his father was registered as a Dealer in rags and Bert (Benjamin) as a Violin musician student.

He began playing the violin while young, and travelled to New York   with his aunt. He began playing professionally, first for Emil Coleman at New York’s Reisenweber’s restaurant, then in the Palais Royal’s big band  After making a success of a stint as bandleader, at the age of 20 he was asked to put together and lead his own fifteen-piece band. In the mid-1950’s he made appearances in London’s West End and a number of recordings with MGM.

The discovery of the talented young singer Kathy Kirby whom he heard singing at the age of 16 at the Ilford Palais continued his career as a promoter. It was during the recording of one of Kirby’s television programmes at the Yorkshire Television studios that Ambrose collapsed, dying later the same night in Leeds General Infirmary, in June 1971.

When I started reading about Bert Ambrose, I got the sense of a man, with drive, determination, and dedication to his art. I think he was one of the band leaders who was lost in a historical sense, with the upsurge of Rock N’ Roll in the mid 50’s.

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