About Me

It was 10.30am, on a cold Sunday morning, in November 1964, when I drove into the car-park of the Gay Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, on the outskirts of Birmingham. The audition was the first one I had ever been to, and the only song I was sure about was ‘ My Love and Devotion’, sung by Matt Monroe.

Perhaps it was the fact that I accompanied myself on the piano, that helped things along, plus the persuasion of one of the finest trumpet players in the country, Harry Smart, that finally convinced Brian Pearsall to give me the job; and in the February of 1965, I joined the band.

Over the Christmas, I’d learnt the whole of the vocal-pad and a number of new ‘pop’ songs, and with a lot of help, patience and understanding from all concerned, I started to learn the trade. I will always be in debt, to Brian and Harry, for the confidence and trust they had in me which, in turn, gave me confidence in myself and the determination not to let them down. The female vocalist, at the time, was Nina Martin. She was my initial ‘guiding-light’; a great personality and, looking back, one of the finest singers, if not the finest singer, I’ve ever worked with……. and I’ve worked with a few .

Within a year, we were in the BBC Recording Studios, at Carpenter Road, Birmingham, Brian having assured the producer, Michael Ford, that I was the vocalist he wanted for the programme. Michael must have been satisfied with the result because it went out on the radio, a few weeks later, and was followed by more recording work. Gradually, other producers offered me sessions with various BBC House Orchestras in Birmingham, London, Manchester and Glasgow.

When the Carpenter Road Studios eventually closed, things moved to Pebble Mill, close by, which incorporated the Television Studios, making Pebble Mill the most important recording establishment, outside of London, and a major centre for the BBC in Britain.

Around this time, the Pearsall Band moved to Coventry Locarno, in the Precinct, and radically, almost overnight, changed into a ‘Pop Band’, and I was doing all of the Tom Jones, Engelbert, Beatles and Rolling Stones numbers, laced with Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Country and Western artists; you name it, we did it. It was all an excellent experience for me, as it widened my vocal range, style and technique, and developed an ability to interpret lyrics and appreciate the way in which a song is delivered to the greatest effect, both on stage and in the recording studio.

Towards the end of the 60s, I was introduced to Johnny Lambe. John was an established and talented trumpet-player with the Midland Radio Orchestra, and was looking to start a band of his own. My name was mentioned, as a possible vocalist, and it all came together, a few months later, at The Hen and Chickens Pub, situated at Causeway Green, on the ‘Birmingham to Wolverhampton New Road’ (or so it was called at that time). We met, every Sunday morning, at around 10.30am, in the ballroom which was situated behind the pub, for a couple of hours of rehearsal. Two hours of pure magic and relaxation, after a week of blasting out the latest influx of ‘pops’, from the Hit-Parade. You emerged with a feeling of ‘rebirth’, at the end of it, your faith in music once more restored! It wasn’t long before large audiences of music-lovers gathered there, each Sunday, and the Johnny Lambe Orchestra was born. In the space of a year or so, it went from The Hen and Chickens, to Fairfield Hall, Croydon and the Chichester Festival Theatre, with radio and television in between; such was the band’s ability and popularity.

Although it was primarily a ‘Glen Miller’ band, in style and line-up, we played and performed many other well known compositions and songs, associated with the Big-Band era. Eventually, not only being in demand for concerts, but dances, as well, we had to include some of the more tuneful ‘pops’. Singing these, with the’ Lambey-Band’ behind me, trumpets screeching , bass-guitar racing and Johnny Clelford on drums, was an experience that I will never forget. ’Fantastic ‘ doesn’t come close! I will be eternally grateful, both to Brian Pearsall and Johnny Lambe, without whom ‘David Brandon’ may never have been. May God bless them both, for the excitement and delight they brought to the lives of thousands of people, in their time….. and to mine.

I was very fortunate, during the period that I worked with the BBC House-Orchestras. I came into contact with some of the greatest musicians and Musical Directors of the day: Brian Fahey, in Glasgow; Malcolm Lockyer, in London and Norrie Paramor, in Birmingham. I could remember listening to them on the radio, when I was a youngster, so it was unbelievable to be working with them! Above all, they were amongst some of the nicest and most modest people I have ever met; and professional to the core!

One of my greatest friends, in the music business, was the late, Jack Newman. Jack was a man of great vision and business acumen. The Jack Newman Orchestra was the finest line-up of musical talent in the country, and in the week previous to my recording session with them, they were backing Frank Sinatra, during one of his concerts over here, in the 70s. It would take a whole book to cover the Jack Newman Story, so suffice it to say, at this point, that working with his orchestra was one of the highlights of my singing career, to date.

When the Johnny Lambe Orchestra eventually disbanded, a number of the musicians joined Syd Lawrence, over the following years, with some eventually going south, to London and the BBC Big Band. I joined Gary Allcock’s ‘Midland All-Stars Big Band’, for a while, still continuing the BBC work, until when, in 1979, I was offered the job of Compere at the Kings Theatre Club, Great Bar, Birmingham, with its resident musicians: The Colin Campbell Trio. Once again, it was a real pleasure to be working with three top professionals. Colin Campbell: ‘Pebble Mill at One’ pianist, composer and arranger; John McCulloch: Midland Radio Orchestra – a phenomenal bass-player/cardsharp(!) and the accomplished Andy Jervis ( formally with the Syd Lawence Orchestra) on drums. An unforgettable three years of entertainment, laughter and enjoyment. The audiences seemed to have a good time, too! Well, they kept coming back for more.

Following ‘The Kings’, in 1983, I moved up to the north-west, working in Education, but once again continuing the BBC sessions until the threatened changes in policy, that had been promised for years, eventually became reality and brought session-recording, as we had known it, to an end and the dreaded ‘ disc jockeys’ completely took over.

In 1995, the last broadcast I was involved in was with Tony Harrison and ‘The Gentlemen Players’. It was handy, being up-north, as we recorded the sessions at ‘Strawberry Studios’ in Stockport, just up the M6, from me. This was a great 1920s-style line-up of twenty musicians, playing music which was popular during the 20s and 30s, with vocals of the time, sung in the style of the time. All were arranged by Tony, a very accomplished pianist and arranger, and were very well received ; a sad but very pleasant way in which to end my professional connection with the BBC and the wonderfully talented people who arranged the music and played in the Orchestras.

These days, it’s a case of trying to keep good music alive. ‘ LOVERS SONGBOOK ‘, the album I’ve just released, hopefully goes some way towards doing that: Colin Campbell’s arrangements and music…. and me. Michael Buble is the only mainstream hope we have now, but they’ll dumb him down too, if he allows it to happen! We’re fast becoming a niche-minority in the midst of the development of ‘modern sounds’, where the only opinion passed by ‘celebrity’ judges and critics, about a voice or performance is: ‘I could feel your pain’. For crying out loud, what’s that all about? There must be an agenda there somewhere, I suppose. But then, perhaps it’s just me feeling pushed out!

Anyway, that’s the story, so far……. short version! If you remember the Gay Tower Ball Room, Coventry Locarno, the Johnny Lambe Orchestra or any of the people and places I’ve mentioned, and you’d like to share your memories….. (printable ones only! ) then please get in touch at info@musicscene.org.uk  And if you’d like to listen to some tracks from the album, just click on the buttons! Plenty of free music on ‘Listen to Me’.

Thank you, to those of you who spent some of your leisure-time, listening and dancing to the music we made over the years. Hope we were able to pass on to you, some of the happiness and good times that your support allowed us to have. And for those of you for whom this is new, I hope I can go some way towards directing you to what we call ‘good music’. Thank you for your visit.

David Brandon.