There's no point in listening to Gerald Walcan Bright's (b.1904; d-1974) recorded musical output for clues as to his influence on the development of rock n roll in England. Better known as Geraldo, the Royal Academy-trained pianist began his professional career performing during silent movies in cinemas (younger readers; see The Artist for reference). He moved to the fledgling BBC radio of the late 1920s, and formed an orchestra named after himself. They became regular performers on live radio, at dance nights at the Streatham Locarno (probably), in short British b-movies and on recordings released as 78rpm records from the 1930s on. During WWII his orchestra played at the still dancing and swinging big hotels in London (Putting on the Ritz during the Blitz). In 1944 Geraldo hired Wally Stott as saxophonist; Wally went on to form his own orchestra and supply the backing for Diana Dors recordings (among others). In 1972 Wally became Angela Morley, moved to Arizona and won Emmys for composing music for Dynasty and Dallas. None of that's why Geraldo was important in the days before Elvis, The Beatles and Rolling Stones, though.
Geraldo's prime contribution to the development of rock n roll culture in Britain was to open, in 1946, a booking agency which organised for British musicians to work cruise liners going to America and the West Indies. Those musicians brought back to London records from New York, San Francisco, Miami and New Orleans. They returned to grey old, ration-confined Blighty wearing suits made in the Land of Plenty—with long drop jackets, wide lapels and turn-up peg trousers. Geraldo's Navy, as Nik Cohn so elegantly put it in Today There Are No Gentleman (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1971), 'provided an invaluable source of supply for all things American.'
|Teddy Boy meets American Look, circa 1954|
|Edwardian style in 1952 outside Cecil Gee's store|
There are many other unsung heroes of British rock n roll, some of whom should make an appearance here, soon-ish. One—Jack Good, deserves a blog all of his own, so maybe that'll be next. It'll not only include Rock n Roll icons (Good put Gene Vincent into black leather), but the cream of British jazz of the 1950s, too. See Lord Rockingham's XI, for clues.