William Henry (Debroy) Somers (1890-1952) was a British lyricist, composer, musical arranger and band leader.
Multi-instrumentalist and bandleader William Henry Somers was born in Dublin, Ireland, on April 11, 1890. The son of a band sergeant in the First Gloucestershire Regiment, he learned music at the Chelsea Military Academy and studied piano with Michele Esposito at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in 1904. Somers moved to London in 1910; the following year he enlisted in the Royal Irish Rifles, Second Battalion, and specialized on the oboe at the Royal Military School of Music.
After surviving the Great War, Somers withdrew from military service, returned to London, and became chief arranger and director of light music for the Aeolian/Vocalion company, participating in his first recording sessions as conductor of the Vocalion Dance Orchestra and the Venetian Dance Orchestra. In 1919 Somers decided to begin calling himself "Debroy." (The exact reason for this name change is open to conjecture; some say he wanted to identify with a black jazz musician named "DeBroy." The name is not uncommon in India; it appears, like Somers, to have originated in Ireland.)
Somers next worked as arranger and musical advisor for the visiting Bert Ralton & His New York Havana Band at London's Savoy Hotel. When Ralton returned to New York, Somers assumed full leadership of this ensemble and then formed the considerably larger Savoy Hotel Orpheans in 1923. The Orpheans, featuring the Starita brothers, banjoist Pete Mandel, and violinist Jean Lensen, played the London Hippodrome, performed over the radio, and made phonograph recordings for the competing Columbia and HMV/Plum labels. Riding a crest of popularity, the band hit the road for a national tour (as Debroy Somers & His Orchestra) and settled into a pattern of regular appearances at the Alhambra and the London Coliseum.
In April 1926 Somers left the Orpheans to concentrate on writing arrangements. By the beginning of 1927 he was leading his own dance band under his own name, and had permanently crossed over to become a Columbia recording artist. Somers' biggest hits for that label during this period were a pastiche of themes from Sigmund Romberg's The Desert Song and an adaptation of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto as well as medleys of Christmas songs and popular American ditties. During the 1930s, Debroy Somers & His Orchestra broadcast on both Radio Luxembourg and its competitor Radio Normandy, where they were sponsored by the Horlicks malted milk mix company.
Somers and band appeared in numerous motion pictures, including Picadilly (1929), Royal Cavalcade (1935), and Stars on Parade (1936). Somers also composed music used in the film Rose of Tralee (1936). Although the Debroy Somers recording band ceased to exist in 1941, the leader remained active throughout the 1940s conducting theatre and dance ensembles; he presided over The Lisbon Story at the Hippodrome in 1943 and Latin Quarter, a revue staged at the London Casino in 1949 involving a pit orchestra, 16 additional violinists, and three rumba bands, one of which was stationed in the lobby.
Somers worked as staff arranger and conductor for Columbia Records until his death at the age of 62 from a cerebral haemorrhage in St. George's Hospital in Knightsbridge, London, on May 16, 1952. (Info from AMG)