Jack Hylton

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Jack Hylton
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-09722, Jack Hilton.jpg
Background information
Birth name John Greenhalgh Hilton
Also known as Jack Elton
Born (1892-07-02)2 July 1892
Great Lever, Lancashire, England
Died 29 January 1965(1965-01-29) (aged 72)
Marylebone, London, England
Occupation(s) Band leader, impresario
Years active 1917–1965

Jack Hylton (2 July 1892 – 29 January 1965) was an English band leader and impresario who rose to prominence during the British dance band era.

Early life and career

He was born John Greenhalgh Hylton in Great Lever near Bolton, Lancashire, the son of George Hilton, a cotton yarn twister. His father was an amateur singer at the local Labour Club and Hylton learned piano to accompany him on the stage. Hylton later sang to the customers when his father bought a pub in nearby Little Lever, becoming known as the "Singing Mill-Boy". He also performed as a relief pianist for various bands.

His early career involved moving to London as a pianist in the 400 Club and playing with the Stroud Haxton Band. During the First World War, he moved to be a musical director of the band of the 20th Hussars and the Director of the Army Entertainment Division.

1920s and 1930s

After the First World War Hylton formed a double act with Tommy Handley to little success, also collaborating in a number of short-lived stage shows. He then played with the Queen's Dance Orchestra, wrote arrangements of popular songs and recorded them for His Master's Voice and Zonophone under the label 'Directed by Jack Hylton', his records carrying the new style of jazz-derived American dance music.

After forming his own band after leaving the Queen's Hall in 1922, Hylton became a respected bandleader with a busy schedule, forming the Jack Hylton Organisation to manage numerous dance bands. He first appeared on radio through station 2LO in 1924, cutting HMV's first electric record in 1925. Even though he was not professionally trained for business, he brought his band to success even at a time when the Great Depression hit hard. With his entrepreneurial skills, he managed to sell almost four million records in 1929 according to the Daily Herald of 7 June 1930.[1] His good reputation allowed him to make contacts with famous jazz artists of time, hence the reason he was credited for bringing Duke Ellington to Britain in 1933.[2] This overall success allowed Jack Hylton's band not only to entertain people in Britain, but also abroad.

The band frequently had what were called 'continental tours' which made it famous in various places in Europe, especially in France.[3] He became a director and major shareholder of the new Decca record label in 1931. His band developed into an orchestra and toured America and Europe into the 1940s, when it disbanded due to the Second World War. Hylton adopted "The Soldiers in the Park" (more commonly known as "Oh Listen to the Band") as his signature tune.[4]

1940s and 1950s

The Jack Hylton orchestra disbanded in 1940 as many of its members were called up for service, although Jack continued to conduct orchestras for radio on the years to come, leading the Glenn Miller Orchestra when it visited England in 1943. During the war, he took the London Philharmonic Orchestra around Britain giving promenade concerts. This helped to keep the orchestra going when its normal programme had ceased and it was on the edge of bankruptcy.[5]

At this point in his career he became an impresario discovering new stars and managing radio, film and theatre productions from ballets to circuses. His productions dominated the London theatres with such productions as The Merry Widow, Kiss Me, Kate and Kismet.

Contracted as Advisor of Light Entertainment to Associated-Rediffusion (A-R), winners of the London weekday franchise in the recently established ITV network, he founded Jack Hylton Television Productions, Ltd. in that same month to produce a range of light entertainment programming exclusively for that company.


At the same time he was still producing stage shows, as well as taking a leading role in organising various Royal Command Performances, until his final stage production Camelot in 1965.

In 1965 a televised tribute to Hylton, The Stars Shine for Jack, was held in London on Sunday 30 May at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane with many artists including Arthur Askey, the Crazy Gang, Marlene Dietrich, Dickie Henderson and Shirley Bassey.

Personal life

Hylton was married twice; firstly in 1913 in St. Asaph, Flintshire, Wales, to bandleader Ennis Parkes (born Florence Parkinson) (they separated in 1929) and secondly, in Geneva in 1963, to Australian model and beauty queen Beverley Prowse (1932–2000).[6][7][8]

Outside his marriages he had a son, Jack (b. 1947), by Pat Taylor, a singer and actress, and two daughters, Jackie (b. 1932) and Georgina (b. 1938), by model Frederika Kogler ("Fifi").


On 26 January 1965, complaining of chest and stomach pains, Hylton was admitted to the London Clinic. He died there three days later, from a heart attack, aged 72. Hylton's spending habits and generosity left his estate with £242,288. Hylton said to his son during his latter years, "I won't leave you much, but we'll have a good laugh spending it while I'm here!"[9]

He is buried in the churchyard of St Catherine at Gosfield, Essex. His wife Beverley is buried beside him.

Specialist dance band radio stations, such as Radio Dismuke and Swing Street Radio, continue to play his records. Jack Hylton also featured regularly on the weekly Manx Radio programme Sweet & Swing, presented by Jim and Howard Caine.

His 1930 recording of Happy Days Are Here Again was used during the closing credits of episode four of Ken Burns' documentary series, "The Roosevelts".

Popular culture

He was portrayed by Ted Robbins in the 2011 television film Eric and Ernie.

External links

  • Jack Hylton official website
  • "Internet Archive Search: Jack Hylton - archive.org (multimedia content in the public domain)". Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  • "British Pathé Search: Jack Hylton - britishpathe.com". Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  • Lancaster University Library – Jack Hylton Archive
  • Jack Hylton biography and credits at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
  • Jack Hylton Music Downloads
  • Jack Hylton plays "Say Yes" February 1931 on YouTube


  1. ^ Deborah Mawer, "'Parisomania'? Jack Hylton and the French Connection," Journal of Royal Musical Association, Vol. 133 No. 2 (2008): 271.
  2. ^ Mawer 2008, 271.
  3. ^ Mawer 2008, 271.
  4. ^ Ades, David; Bickerdyke, Percy; Holmes, Eric (July 1999). This England's Book of British Dance Bands. Cheltenham: This England Books. pp. 14–17. ISBN 0-906324-25-4. 
  5. ^ Berta Geissmar (1944), The Baton and the Jackboot, Hamish Hamilton, pp 374/5, 377
  6. ^ "JACK HYLTON WEDS BEAUTY.". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). ACT: National Library of Australia. 20 April 1963. p. 9. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  7. ^ "JACK HYLTON'S WEDDING.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982). 1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia. 1 May 1963. p. 7. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  8. ^ Beverley Hylton later married Alick Benson McKay, "Newspaper executive remarries.". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). ACT: National Library of Australia. 1 June 1973. p. 5. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  9. ^ Jack Hylton official website
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