Alan Louis Breeze (9 October 1909 – 15 January 1980) was an English singer of the British dance band era and regular entertainer on the post-war BBC radio programme the Billy Cotton Band Show.
Alan was born in the East End of London. He was commonly known as the "man with the sunshine in his voice ". But not many people know that whilst he could literally sing anything from opera to a tongue twisting comedy pop song with perfect diction, he in fact, could hardly speak being afflicted by the most terrible stammer.
His father, Louis Breeze, was a concert & oratorio singer & a member of the famous D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. His mother, Isobel, was a teacher with the old London County Council & the family included two older brothers & a sister.
At the beginning of his career, Alan sang in working men's clubs, restaurants & even theatre queues! Eventually, he started dubbing at film studios, recording songs for actors who couldn't sing & it was during one session that he met a band leader called Billy Cotton. Although he didn’t know it at the time, this meeting was to change his life & make him one of the best known & best loved big band singers of the 20th Century.
He joined the Billy Cotton Band show in 1931 after Bill was agonising with his Musical Director over the problem of choosing a male singer for the band. The vast spectrum of music covered by Big Bands in those days meant that they simply couldn't find one person to perform this task and the band couldn't afford to hire three male singers.
Whilst Bill was discussing this with his MD, Alan happened to stop by chance, outside The West End Theatre where Bill was appearing and began busking to the waiting theatre queue to earn his bus fare home to the East End. Bill shouted in exasperation, “What I need is someone like that geezer singing outside " . The conversation stopped as they scrambled to open the dressing room window and look below.
There, was an emaciated young man with glasses, singing his heart out and weighing at most, 8 stone. When he finished, Bill whistled down and shouted " Hey you! ..... You down there with the glasses”.
Bill called him in for an audition and afterwards he said to Alan, “O.K. son, I'm going to give you a week’s trial ". Alan replied “Oh.......0h.....Oh .... Oh “and Bill, getting bored, took that as an O.K.!
Alan Breeze often laughed and said he remained on a week’s trial for the next 40 years. He never had a contract with Bill throughout the whole of their association and never missed a show. He stayed with the band until the end of 1969. During that period, Alan became one of the most popular vocalists of the time, entertaining audiences on radio, television & in theatres all around the country. In these days of nostalgia, his recordings are still regularly heard on the radio & it was this ongoing popularity that prompted his daughter Olivia to present a tribute show “The Breeze and I” to Alan's life & career with the Billy Cotton Band.
Alan was highly adept at using different accents. Seen above with Kathie Kay, who sadly passed away in 2005, he was classically trained but swapped it for a life of variety. Sadly, when he grew older, his contract was terminated by Bill Cotton junior who was Head of Light Entertainment. It was a sad parting for Alan and Billy senior who allegedly went their separate ways in tears. The background dancing girls in the above photo were known as The Silhouettes.
Alan met his wife Rene, a dancer, in the 1930s and they had three daughters, Olivia, Melodie and Michele. They moved to the Buck in 1958 partly to provide an opportunity for their son Graham to became a farmer. Tragically he was killed four years later in a tractor accident just before his 21st birthday. Alan owned The Buck Inn and farm from 1958 to 1975.
When not singing with the Cotton Band, Alan was host of the delightful Flixton Buck Inn on the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk. East Anglia’s very own corner of the West End. Not only was Alan a famous landlord, but his pub was full of stars. Household names who were his friends and perhaps appearing up the road at Great Yarmouth and staying with their mate.
Behind the bar Alan and Rene were the hosts with the most and their pub became one of the best loved watering holes in the area. They made sure everybody got the same “Breezy” welcome. From dustmen to famous singers and comedians, everyone got the same warm welcome. Where else could you sit next to Russ Conway or share a laugh with Harry Secombe? After 16 years at the Buck they decided to retire and moved to Hingham in Norfolk.
Alan died on Jan 15, 1980, at the West Norwich Hospital, Norfolk.
(Info edited from various sources including Memory Lane, Wikipedia)