Photo by Dennis Matthews
was the Guv’nor. Ronnie Scott
Harry Hayes won a school scholarship at eleven years old, for which his father rewarded him with a soprano saxophone. He made fine progress and at 16 gained his first steady professional engagement at the Regent Dance Hall in Brighton where Benny Green’s father, Dave, was in the band. At 17 he was good enough to play at the famous Kit Kat Club in the Haymarket, Piccadilly, with American bandleader Al Payne, and in 1927 at 18 years old joined a mixed Anglo-American band led by Fred Elizalde at the Savoy Hotel.
For two years Harry sat in front of famous American bass sax player Adrian Rollini, an experience he always swore to have been invaluable to him as a young musician.
After the Savoy a succession of jobs followed, at Ciro’s Club, The Cafe de Paris, Spike Hughes big recording band, with Maurice Winnnick, Louis Armstrong on his first European tour, Sidney Lipton at Grosvenor House and Geraldo back at the Savoy Hotel in 1938. When the war began in 1939 the Geraldo band became the BBC Dance Band, doing at least nine broadcasts weekly. Harry was featured and became well known. He joined the Welsh Guards Regimental Band together with his friend George Evans—army musicians were allowed to play with civilian bands up to the end of 1942.
Harry was discharged in late 1944 and became a much in demand session player, particularly at the EMI studios in Abbey Road. The man in charge there asked Hairy if he would like to record with a band of his own, Harry said yes, and formed the band that caused a sensation in 1944 to 1947.
The band opened the Churchills Club in Bond Street, Mayfair, and almost at the same time Harry opened his first musical instrument shop in Shaftesbury Avenue. The band was kept going and stayed at Churchills for nearly two years, after which it played at various West End establishments. Harry moved to Soho with his shop until 1958 when he moved to Fulham.
In late 1947 he had a band at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket, and also played at Winston’s club, where he stayed for eight years until retiring from playing in 1965. He also came top of eight Melody Maker polls for alto saxophone during this period. He had no less than three shops in Fulham and sold these in 1985 to move to Surrey, near to his daughter. He played at the Birmingham International Jazz Festival in 1992. Harry was granted the Freedom of the City of London in 1988.
Harry Hayes died on 21st March , 2002, aged 92
1943, I fell in love with Johnny Hodges, then Harry Hayes when I heard
him at one of the jazz concerts that used to be held during the war to
keep up morale.
tenor man Aubrey Franks was with Harry in Geraldo's band. They used to
do broadcasts with the concert orchestrathe dance band plus strings.
When the strings were featured, the saxes would get forty or fifty bars
March 27th, 2002
I went to Harry Hayes' funeral this afternoon, a good turnout. Ken Mackintosh was there, 82 and looking good. Also Stan Reynolds, Tommy Whittle, Henry MacKenzie, Roy Willox, Bill and Gracie Geldard, Harry Klein and many others.
thought there was one beautiful moment. Harry's record of Drop Me Off
at Harlem was playing, and as they brought in the coffin Harry's solo
burst out of the ensemble with that wonderful sound. For a moment it was
as if he was alive again.