Harry Hayes (23 March 1909 - 17* March 2002) was an early exponent of British jazz, a virtuoso saxophonist and a saxophone teacher of distinction.
Henry Richard Hayes was born at Marylebone, London on March 23 1909, the son of a bookmaker. He won a school scholarship at eleven years old, for which his father rewarded him with a soprano saxophone. He made fine progress and at 16 gained his first steady professional engagement at the Regent Dance Hall in Brighton where Benny Green’s father, Dave, was in the band.
At 17 he was good enough to play at the famous Kit Kat Club in the Haymarket, Piccadilly, with American bandleader Al Payne, and in 1927 at 18 years old joined a mixed Anglo-American band led by Fred Elizalde at the Savoy Hotel, reputed to be the hottest British dance band of its day, at the Savoy Hotel. Although still a teenager, Hayes received the then astronomical salary of £18 a week.
For two years Harry sat in front of famous American bass sax player Adrian Rollini, an experience he always swore to have been invaluable to him as a young musician.
After the Savoy a succession of jobs followed, at Ciro’s Club, The Cafe de Paris, Spike Hughes big recording band, with Maurice Winnnick, Louis Armstrong on his first European tour, Sidney Lipton at Grosvenor House and Geraldo back at the Savoy Hotel in 1938. When the war began in 1939 the Geraldo band became the BBC Dance Band, doing at least nine broadcasts weekly. Harry was featured and became well known. Geraldo's 1940 version of Sweet Sue, featuring a solo by Hayes, is startlingly fiery for the period. He joined the Welsh Guards Regimental Band together with his friend George Evans—army musicians were allowed to play with civilian bands up to the end of 1942.
Here's "Blue Charm" a lovely composition elegantly performed and recorded in London on October 7th 1946. Personnel includes Leo Wright, tp; Harry H, as; George Shearing, p; Alan Ferguson, g; Bert Howard, b; Billy Wiltshire, d. taken from above Proper 4CD Box Set .
Harry was discharged in late 1944 and became a much in demand session player, particularly at the EMI studios in Abbey Road. The man in charge there asked Hairy if he would like to record with a band of his own, Harry said yes, and formed the band that caused a sensation in 1944 to 1947. He recorded 36 sides for the HMV label.
The band opened the Churchills Club in Bond Street, Mayfair, and almost at the same time Harry opened his first musical instrument shop in Shaftesbury Avenue. The band was kept going and stayed at Churchills for nearly two years, after which it played at various West End establishments. Harry moved to Soho with his shop until 1958 when he moved to Fulham.
In late 1947 he had a band at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket, and also played at Winston’s club, where he stayed for eight years until retiring from playing in 1965. He also came top of eight Melody Maker polls for alto saxophone during this period. He had no less than three shops in Fulham and sold these in 1985 to move to Surrey, near to his daughter. He returned to performing occasionally in the '80s and produced CD reissues of work by his various bands.
His last appearance was at the Birmingham International Jazz Festival in 1992. Harry was granted the Freedom of the City of London in 1988.
Harry Hayes died on 17th March, 2002, aged 92 in Stoneleigh, Surrey, England (Info mainly National Jazz Archive. N.B.The dates given for Harry's death vary from the 17th - 23rd March. I have opted for 17th as given by The Guuardian obit.)