Harry Leader (January 28, 1906, London, United Kingdom - January 20, 1987, United Kingdom) was a saxophone player and bandleader from the United Kingdom.
Harry Leader was born in the East End of London on 28th January 1906. He was the son of a Russian trumpeter in the Tsar's Army who became a Professor of Music at St Petersburg Conservatoire. Anglicising the family name, Harry's father set up a grocery store after arrival in this country around the turn of the 20th century. Harry learned to play the violin from his father and, when not assisting in the family business, could be found playing for silent movies.
With the coming of jazz, Harry taught himself to play the saxophone at the age of 14. He later acquired valuable experience playing in clubs in the West End of London, as well as touring. In 1928 he was invited to join Sid Phillips' Melodians, and even took over the direction of the band during a tour of Italy when Sid Phillips had to return to London. No doubt this inspired him to form his own band, which he soon did. Initially it was essentially a combination for recording purposes and Harry made over 12,000 titles m (often under pseudonyms) for Decca's Panachord label as well as Broadcast, Eclipse, HMV and various EMI labels. His biggest hit (recorded on Eclipse 729) was 'Little Man You've Had a Busy Day', which sold 375,000 copies. Indeed, so keen was Harry for this record to be a success he even stood in the streets of London selling it himself!
In the early thirties, Harry Leader played for Teddy Brown as well as for a character known as 'Jack de Yanke' at the Café de Paris. He made his first broadcast with his own band in 1934, commencing a broadcasting career spanning nearly 50 years, during which time his 'line-up' included such famous names as Norrie Paramor, Billy Amstell, Billy Bell, Freddie Gardner, George Chisholm, Nat Temple, Tommy McQuater, Steve Race, Phil Green, Kenny Baker, Johnny Gray, Bert Weedon, Ray Davies and Stanley Black.
Harry Leader's first residency was at the Hammersmith Palais from around 1939 to 1942, after which he moved to the Astoria, playing opposite Jack White until 1955. There followed seasons at Butlin's Holiday Camps until a residency was available at the Regent Ballroom in Brighton, where he stayed until well into the sixties. Harry's original signature tune was 'Memories of You', but this was later changed to 'Music Maestro Please'. During his extensive broadcasting career, Harry contributed to many series that featured dance bands, as well as having his own 'Harry Leader Show' on television in 1947.
Harry Leader was particularly associated with 'Music While You Work', in which he appeared 215 times. His first appearance was on the 10th August 1941 and his last on 13th June 1966. Apart, that is, from an appearance in the revival series.
Harry was also a gifted composer who, with his wife Rona, produced over 350 songs under various aliases, his best-known composition probably being 'Dragonfly'. Other compositions include 'Just Fancy That', 'Washington Square' and 'Dance, Dance, Dance'.
Oner of Harry's claims to fame was the discovery of two leading popular singers, Clinton Ford and Matt Monro. Readers may well remember the occasion of a 'This is Your Life' television show featuring Matt Monro, in which Harry made a guest appearance.
By the early seventies, Harry's broadcasts were becoming infrequent and he moved down to Brighton where he continued to do gigs and to teach the flute, trumpet, saxophone and clarinet (the instrument with which he is most associated).
In 1972 Harry made an LP for strict-tempo dancing. At this time he called the band 'Harry Leader’s Nu-Set' In 1983 he concluded his broadcasting career with a superb programme in the revived series of 'Music While You Work'.. He rallied his musicians, saying: "Come on lads, let's enjoy ourselves, just like we used to in the old days". Well, Harry certainly did! He was dancing on the rostrum in one piece and the overall broadcast had a sparkle which put some of the other bands to shame. Sadly, it was to be his last broadcast and he died on 20th January 1987. (Info edited from a bio on last.fm)