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Jazz Remembered


Sydney Lipton

by Jeff Duck



Sydney Lipton



In this article I return to discussing an artist from the British Dance Band history of the 1900’s - looking at my past articles for 'Jazz Remembered' I see that this one is somewhat shorter than the others - although in his life span of just fifty years and with a commercial musical career spanning from the early 1930s through to the 1960s, this gentleman became known as an actor, a trained Classical violinist and one of the friendliest band leaders of his time.

Here is Sydney Lipton with his Grosvenor House band in 1932 playing Happy-Go-Lucky You And Broken-Hearted Me in 1932 with Sydney Lipton (violin, director); Charlie Price (trumpet); Bud Hammond (trombone); Jimmy Goss, Victor Boulcott (clarinet, alto sax); Jimmy Shankland (clarinet, tenor sax); Billy Reid (piano, piano accordion); Harry Thorne (guitar, string bass); Jock Jacobson (drums); Sam Browne (vocals).





Sydney John Lipton was born on 14 December 1905 in London’s East End to a musical family. At the age of seven, Sydney started to play the violin and gained recognition by his teacher as a good student and an even better player with big plans to become a concert soloist. The plans for a soloist career were soon shelved after losing the top of his left index finger while folding a deck chair. Sydney also soon realised that he needed to help support the family, so he started working weekends and after school in cinema and theatre orchestras. At the age of seventeen Sydney turned professional playing with the Murray Hedges quintet at Edinburgh’s Palais de Danse. Although a long way from his home turf, Sydney felt that with this move he would gain some great experience and learn a lot about the music industry. The Murray Hedges quintet was booked to play opposite Billy Cotton and his Band at The Regent Ballroom in Brighton.

Along with Clem Bernard (piano) and Joe Ferrie (trombone) also from the Murray Hedges line up, Sydney was asked to join the Sydney and Celia LiptonBilly Cotton outfit on violin for the whole of a season at Southport. The three young lads were right in thinking that they would each gain some good experience from this move. When Billy Cotton travelled down to the Liverpool Rialto for a season, Sydney decided not to go and stayed in Southport as leader of a local Southport band. When the job in Southport eventually came to an end, Sydney returned to London to join the Ambrose line-up for various broadcasts and recording sessions. It was 1928 when Sydney returned to working for Billy Cotton in his London Savannah Band at the Astoria Ballroom on Charing Cross Road.

Staying with Cotton’s band when it moved to Ciro’s Club, this put the thought into Sydney’s mind that there were too many changes and touring for a married man with a young daughter, Celia. Little did he realise at the time that his daughter would be singing with his own band and those of Lew Stone and Jack Hylton a decade later. In the early days of Sydney’s band-leading years his signature tune was I’ll See You In My Dreams, although in later years he would feature two other tunes, Just Dance And Leave The Music To Me and Sweet Harmony.


Sydney with his daughter, Celia.


Instead of touring with Billy Cotton’s band Sydney formed his own band at the Royal Palace Hotel in Kensington and when that contract expired, moved to The Grosvenor House in Park Lane, from where the BBC started regular late night broadcasts of dance music.



This recording of the Grosvenor House band playing Lovely To Look At from 1935 appeared on the Cinecord label. The Cinecord label was manufactured by the British Homophone company and ran for a small number of issues in 1935, ostensibly as a non-copyright record for use in cinemas during intermission. Most titles are from current films and are played by several well-known bands, amongst them those of Billy Merrin, Oscar Rabin and Charlie Kunz. As the records were never intended for public sale, the bands are not credited on the labels; it has been established that this stylish and well-arranged side is in fact by Sydney Lipton's band (then resident at Grosvenor House in Park Lane) with a vocal again by Sam Browne. Freddy Gardner is on clarinet and saxophone and Max Abrams on drums.




With a working time span of thirty-six years (except for his wartime service years) at the Grosvenor, Sydney had some of the best up and coming players in his band. Not only did this band have a strong line-up of players it had just as strong a line-up of vocalists too including his daughter Celia Lipton who was joined by Jack Plant, Harry Bentley and Chips Chippendale, with Cyril Grantham and George Evans adding their vocal talents to occasional guests such as Al Bowley, Nat Gonella and Sam Browne.


Sydney Lipton's band playing Hey! Young Fella with Nat Gonella and Jack Plant.





As the war arrived Sydney signed up first to the Royal Artillery and then later to the Royal Signals. He received a mention "in Despatches” for his service as a motor-cyclist and achieved the rank of Captain. On being de-mobbed Sydney really did not want to return to the Grosvenor, but they made him an offer he could not refuse. On his return to the hotel he re-started the band with a completely different line-up of instruments including more strings, harp and rhythm. About eight months after this re-start, Sydney returned the band to a similar line-up to the one he had before the war, but employing more new and younger musicians.

Through the years, Sydney Lipton made many excellent recordings with Regal, Sterno, Decca, Zonophone and Columbia, although none became great hits. He had also started an entertainments agency before the war based at an office at Steinway Hall near Hanover Square, London, and this became his main interest when he retired in 1967.


Sydney Lipton and his Orchestra


Sydney Lipton and his Orchestra at the Grosvenor Hotel in 1937


I mentioned right at the start that Sydney was also known as an actor, he appeared in Let's Make a Night of It (1937), Looks Familiar (1970) and the TV interview show This Is Your Life (1955). A real cockney at heart, Sydney Lipton was a well spoken, smartly dressed, tall and elegant gentleman who had respect for all his associates and who received the same high respect in return. An ideal front-man with a fantastic personality, stage charisma and character he unfortunately passed away in July 1995 during a visit to his daughter in Florida, USA.


A tribute to Sydney Lipton playing a variety of his music (just over an hour).




Jeff Duck runs CJRO Records in support of charities - click here for more information.



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