The MP3 above was produced on 19th March 2017 from the aluminium EKCO disc entitled “Ambrose Medley” dated 25th December 1937. This is a remarkable medley of songs which was broadcast “live” on Christmas Day by Bert Ambrose and his Orchestra.
During the 1930s Ambrose switched between the Embassy Club and the Mayfair Hotel, returning to the Mayfair in 1936 under a contract that allowed broadcasting. So it is not certain whether the performance took place in the Mayfair or BBC Broadcasting House.
The first song is country ballad “Eleven more months and ten days more” about a lad’s adventures in jail after conviction for drunkenness. An HMV pressing from my grandfather’s collection of 78s confirms Ambrose recorded it 6 years earlier in 1931 at the Mayfair with crooner Sam Browne. But the 1937 singer is NOT Sam Browne, resembling “cheeky chappie” George Formby instead. This is a mystery since there is no evidence the legendary Lancashire comic ever performed with Ambrose nor ever sang that song. So this must be presumed an impersonation.
The second song is the seductive “Serenade in the Night” which Ambrose recorded on the Decca label in 1936 at the Mayfair with Sam Browne. But for the second time the singer is NOT Sam Browne. Only two ladies are known to have sung with Ambrose that year. One was the brassy Evelyn Dall who recorded the song "Jeepers Creepers" in 1939, the other was 20 year old Vera Lynn who Ambrose had just discovered. The plaintive vocals cannot be Dall's so they can only be a young Vera Lynn's. Her future fame would be secured with Ambrose.
The third song is a novelty jazz number “Gimbal hits the Cymbal” performed by Ambrose’s Jewish drummer Max Bacon in his Yiddish accent. Ambrose and Max previously recorded it at the Mayfair on the Decca label in 1933.
Although the medley appears improvised, a lost British Lions film of 1937 suggests not. “Calling All Stars” is a “musical” of a type which was popular after the arrival of “talkies” by showcasing the talents of radio stars for a cinema audience. Ambrose, Dall, Browne and Bacon all headlined the film’s cast, noting Lynn had yet to join the band. A film transcript from Graham Newnham at www.pathefilm.uk reveals all three tunes featured in the movie. This suggests that Ambrose simply re-performed the film’s songs as a medley for the national BBC radio audience that Christmas, albeit with "newbie" Vera Lynn replacing Sam Browne. Her association with Ambrose brought her more than fame since she would marry one of his instrumentalists. It seems incredible that 80 years later Vera Lynn will turn 100 tomorrow. Her rendition of "Serenade in the Night" was never released so it is likely we are the only people alive to have heard her sing it ... apart from herself of course.
Greenbank Records, Plymouth, England