THEY CALLED HIM AL

When I was writing about lyricist DOROTHY FIELDS and composer BERNICE PETKERE in my previous post (TWO TO GO), I had no thought of using it as a segue toย this post ….but that was before I discovered that tomorrow is the birthday of a music man who sang at least a half dozen of Fields’ 1930s songs, including ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET (sung in the previous post by Diana Krall), not to mention the Petkere song CLOSE YOUR EYES (sung in the same post by that very man). They called him Al.

The ‘another-world-ago’ Al is this world’s forgotten man, except by a relative handful of Golden Age music devotees around the world (primarily in America and Great Britain). His name was ALBERT ALICK BOWLLY (Jan 7, 1899-Apr. 17, 1941), heard here in a recording of a Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern song from the film JOY OF LIVING:

Did you notice from the above dates that Bowlly had his life taken from him at a relatively young age? This was the tragic result of a WW II German air raid (one of many) on London in the early 1940s. But while he lived, who was this troubadour they called Al?

Away from the bandstand he was a vagabond. He was a jazz mad musical nomad who traveled from his childhood home, South Africa, to London and all stops between in search of musical perfection with whatever band would have him. He plied his trade as a guitarist, a banjo, concertina and ukulele player, a pianist and occasional singer of songs. He took America by storm. The story of his musical meanderings, highs and lows, could only have happened in the thirties. –Roy Hudd, British author, comedian, actor, and expert on the history of music hall entertainment

Listening to Diana Krall in the previous post — as well as CLOSE YOUR EYES vocalist Al Bowlly — we are taken by their way with a song, their Joy of Living the songs they sang…. as further evidenced by this rendition of the Rodgers and Hart classic, BLUE MOON:

Here is one of his few appearances on film:

For those interested in learning more of the story of Bowlly’s nomadic life, there’s an excellent bio called THEY CALLED HIM AL, by Ray Pallett, with Forward by Roy Hudd. As for this go-around, we’ve come to the last dance — it’s time to call it a day. I bid you a reluctant Au Revoir.