Author: Tolley, Trevor
Date published: September 1, 2010
Journal code: IAJR
The records sold on the Crown label in Britain had no connection with Crown Records made in the United States. They were 9-inch records, sold in Woolworth's for sixpence from 1935 to 1937. Crown records emerged in September 1935, succeeding Eclipse records in Woolworth's. Eclipse records were only eight-inches in diameter, and included nothing of jazz interest.
There had been a large number of cheap labels sold in Britain in the twenties, the hey-day of the gramophone, such as Imperial, Dominion, Regal or the famous 'unbreakable' Duophone. They included 8-inch records from Broadcast - marketed as 'long-playing' records. They were not 33 rpm records, like the Victor L-16000 series of 1931 or so; but 78 rpm records with close grooves, playing as long as some 10- inch records. These earlier cheap series had all disappeared when the loudspeaker radio superseded the gramophone as the principal form of home entertainment, and also with the coming of the economic depression.
Crown were the cheapest of the cheap series of records available in Britain in the late 1930s. These included Regal Zonophone, made by EMI, the conglomerate of Columbia, HMV and Parlophone. 10-inch Regal Zonophone sold for a shilling.
Rex, also 10-inch records, likewise sold for a shilling. Rex records were made by the Crystalate Gramophone Record Company, located in Tunbridge Wells in Kent, until Decca took over the record division of Crystalate in March, 1937. Crystalate had made Imperial records in the twenties. Crown records were also pressed by the Crystalate Company. They were of very good quality. Indeed, after May 1936, Crystalate produced the records issued on the British Vocalion Swing series, with the beautiful black, red and gold labels that were among the finest ever produced. When Decca took over the record division of Crystalate in May 1937, Crown records ceased to appear; though Rex continued.
Many of the Crown recordings were by leading British dance bands and artists, recording under pseudonyms. A few records were dubbings of American recordings: Crown 235 was The Scene Changes by Dick McDonough and his Orchestra; and Crown 266 was Did I Remember by Jack Shilkret and his Orchestra. The music director for Crystalate was Jay Wilbur, who joined the firm in June 1930, first directing the issues on Imperial, and then those on Rex from September 1933. He was well known in those days as the leader of a popular dance orchestra. After the summer of 1935, he evidently assembled the players who made the few Crown recordings of jazz interest, drawing on musicians who regularly played for him. They appeared first under the name of The Rhythm Rascals and later under the name of The Swing Rhythm Boys, evidently with the expectation that "swing" had become an attractive word with the British public they were seeking. The first of these recordings, Temptation Rag and Tiger Rag was the seventh record issued by Crown. A full list is given at the right. The jazz records on Crown are comparatively rare, because they were not sold in a market, the particular record shops, that jazz collectors frequented. It is a mystery why they chose so many old tunes from the 1920s for a popular market in the 1930s.
The Rhythm Rascals : Jay Wilbur directing: Billy Farrell t; Paul Fenoulhet t/tb; Ted Heath tb; Danny Polo cl as bar; Cyril Graham cl, as; Freddy Gardner cl, as, ts, bar; Cecil Norman p; Jack Simmonds g; Dick Ball sb; Max Abrams d; vocal trio. London, June 19, 1935:
H1 11-2 Temptation Rag (Henry Lodge) Crown 7
H1 12-2 Tiger Rag Crown 7
Jay Wilbur directing: Max Goldberg t; Paul Fenoulhet t, tb; Ted Heath tb; Jack Miranda, Frank Johnson and possibly George Melachrino cl, as, ts; Freddy Gardner cl, as, ts, bar; Cecil Norman p; Jack Simmons g; Dick Ball b; Max Abram d; Sam Browne voc. London, November 19 1935 :
H-3 18-1 Nobody's Sweetheart v SB Crown 89
H-319-1 Bugle Call Rag Crown 89
London, January 6 or 7 1936; Gerry Fitzgerald (voc) :
H375-3 (1)The Music Goes Round and Around v GF Not Issued
H376-2 Talking It Over Not Issued
London, February 27 1936 :
H440-1 Dinah v SB Crown 160
H441-1 My Sweetie Went Away v SB Crown 160
Cyril Graham cl, as, voc; Johnson out (?) London, April 8 1936 :
H493-1 Keep Smiling v CG Not Issued
The Swing Rhythm Boys : Jay Wilbur dir. Max Goldberg t; Paul Fenoulhet t, tb; Ted Heath or Sam Acres tb; Cyril Grantham, Jack Miranda cl, as; Freddy Gardner cl, as, ts, bar; George Smith cl, ts; Pat Dodd p; Jack Simpson g; Billy Bell sb; Max Abrams d; Ronnie Hill voc.
London, July 9 1936:
Is It True What They Say About Dixie? v Crown 212
Let's Talk About Love v Crown 212
London, Aug 19 1936 :
You Can't Pull the Wool Over My Eyes v Crown 227
Maybe v Crown 227
London, Sep 10 1936 :
Somebody Stole My Gal v Crown 236
Some of These Days v Crown 236