Google+ Followers

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Billy Merrin born 22 February 1900

Billy Merrin (22February 1900 – 24 July 1980) was a British orchestra leader, composer and arranger.

William Herbert Merrin was born at Nottingham.  In his early years he studied the banjo, mandolin, piano and much later alto saxophone. He started out as a clerk in a local warehouse. When the First World War came, he went into the Royal Naval Air Service, where his talent with the piano and the banjo and as a vocalist was much appreciated by his comrades.

After demob from the R.N.A.S he formed a novelty dance group with bookings around Nottingham & Birmingham. After writing a musical play, he formed a long association with the Alan Green Band, providing musical arrangements and doubling on banjo, piano, alto saxophone and vocals.  Billy formed his own band the Commanders in Nottingham in 1931. 
Because of various broadcasts he became very popular. The Commanders recorded for various record labels in the early 1930s - recording over 80 sides for Sterno and Plaza during 1934 alone!  Crystalate's nine-inch Crown records first went on sale in Woolworths in September 1935.  One of the main dance bands featured was Billy Merrin and his Commanders. He was famous for his two signature tunes, "Troubles are like Bubbles" and "Cheerio", both composed by him. His talents as with the piano, the banjo and as a vocalist made him known as the undisputed 'King Of The Midlands'. 

He discovered singer Ken Crossley at a Nottingham crooning contest. Ken had previously worked as a bricklayer on building sites. The BBC paid tribute to Billy Merrin in 1939 with a life story  "From Banjo To Baton".   

A fairly successful songwriter, Billy ran a music publishing business, appeared as a solo artist and later in the war years played summer seasons at Herne Bay, Kent, UK.

From 1951 he teamed up with his singing protégé Penny Nichols and toured variety theatres for nine years.

In 1960 he was musical director of the hit revival of "No No Nanette".  In 1962 he took the touring version of the Black & White Minstrel Show to Australia and New Zealand.  Three years later back in England he wrote the entire score and conducted the orchestra for the Harry Worth Show.  Once the season ended he retired to Brighton.  He died 24 July 1980  at the age of eighty.
(Info scarce but edited from various sources)

A UK Pathescope 9.5mm sound 2 reel "home movie" release of a 1935 cinema short directed by Frank Dormand and featuring Billy Merrin & his Commanders with variety turns from Alice and Jimmy Dey.  Items include "Troubles Are Like Bubbles" (sung by Ken Crossley over the credits);
"March Winds & April Showers" Band intro medley: "Tiger Rag"; "Smile"; "Shine"
Alice Dey (vocals) "Nobody's Sweetheart" Alice & Jimmy Dey (tap dance) "Somebody Stole My Girl""Two Trumpet Toot" Alice & Jimmy Dey (song & dance) "Stylish Steps"
Ken Crossley sings "With My Heart In My Hand" "Cheerio" - finale

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Billy Merrin And His Commanders ‎– Trouble Are Like Bubbles” go here:

1 Trouble Are Like Bubbles
2 No More Heartaches No More Tears
3 Who's Gonna Take You Home Tonight?
4 That's Love
5 Gosh I Must Be Falling In Love
6 My Hat's On The Side Of My Head
7 When A Woman Loves A Man
8 Because It's Love
9 I'm Going Shopping With You
10 Red Sails In The Sunset
11 Sweet Music
12 Dance Your Blues Away
13 You
14 I Can Wiggle My Ears
15 Set Your Heart On Me
16 Look Out For The Sunshine
17 Captivating Rhythm
18 Until The Real Thing Comes Along
19 A Nice Cup Of Tea
20 Bye Bye Baby
21 Cheerio
Bonus tracks
22. Who’se Been Polishing The Sun
23. Ole Faithful
24. On The Beach At Bali Bali
25. Rhythm Of The Rumba
26. We’ll make hay While The Sun Shines
27. When You’ve Got A Little Springtime In Your Heart