Grahame N's Web Pages

Billy Merrin
& his


GB Dec 1936 Sturt-Stross Productions .,... A Fidelity Distributors Ltd Release
...... Directed by:Raymond Stross ............. Camera: Ray Fogwell ...... Editor: Ted Mason
...... Musical Director:Billy Merrin .... Recorded by:L.B. Buckley .... New Fidelity Noiseless Recording
...... with Billy Merrin & his Commanders; vocalist Peggy Dew (Rita Williams?);
...... comedian Ronald Frankau; Jessie, The Child Impersonator and The Dorchester Girls.

Released by Pathéscope on 9.5mm optical sound as T.9305 (2 reels) - April 1938
9.5mm running time is just over 18 minutes - probably uncut from the 35mm cinema original

Also Released by Pathéscope on 17.5mm optical sound as T.7305 (2 reels) - December 1937

Billy Merrin and his Commanders (dance band)
with Peggy Dew (Rita Williams? - vocal) and The Dorchester Girls (dance troupe):
      "You Gotta Have Swing" 
The Dorchester Girls acc. The Commanders:
      "The Show's The Thing" (music: Merrin) 
The Commanders & Billy Merrin (vocal):
      "Miracles Sometimes Happen" (music:Ray Noble words:Alan Murray[Stranks]) 
Ronald Frankau performs a comedy satire on crooners with song (acc.The Commanders):
      "Give Me A Mustang And Rifle" (music:Monte Crick words:Ronald Frankau) 
* "Jessie"(child singer and tap-dancer):
      "Is It True What They Say About Dixie?" (m&w Irving Caesar,Sammy Lerner & Gerald Marks) 
Finale with The Dorchester Girls
[*Jessie also does impressions of Cicely Courtneidge, Zasu Pitts & Jimmy Durante]
Billy Merrin & his Commanders at Ramsgate 1936
"Miracles Sometimes Happen" & "The Show's The Thing" issued on 78rpm record Crown 285 11Nov36
Band line up probably: Billy Merrin - dir/vocals; Wally Talbot/Fred Brooks - trumpet;
 Ted Taylor - trombone; George Wright/Norman Barker - clarinet & alto-sax.;
 Les Williams - tenor sax./arranger; Roy Wallis - piano; Sydney Delmonte - guitar;
 Harry Preston - string bass; Jack Burrows - drums; Rita Williams - vocals

1. Billy Merrin was born at Nottingham, UK on 22 February 1900. In his early
   years he studied the banjo, mandolin, piano and much later alto saxophone.
   After demob from the Royal Naval Air Service after the first world war he
   formed a novelty dance group with bookings around Nottingham & Birmingham.

   After writing a musical play and 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.
2. 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.
3. He discovered singer Ken Crossley at a Nottingham crooning contest.
   Ken had previously worked as a bricklayer on building sites.
4. The BBC paid tribute to Billy Merrin in 1939 with a life story -
   "From Banjo To Baton".  
5. 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.
6. From 1951 he teamed up with his singing protegé Penny Nichols
   and toured variety theatres for nine years.
7. 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.
(Extra info. with grateful thanks to Maurice Trace, Alex Gleason & Bob Francis) 

Watch my 9.5mm print on You Tube: 01Jan2013

There are two excellent CDs of Billy Merrin & His Commanders, released on the Vocalion label.

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Created Oct2000 ...... Updated 29 November 2014 ...... 95flmdanceshow ....... © Grahame .L. Newnham MM
01Jan2014 9.5mm film copy uploaded to You Tube and link added / 29Nov2014 - 17.5mm ref. added