Beryl Davis : Chanteuse 1924 –
Beryl with Tommy Dorsey
Beryl was born in 1924 in Plymouth Devon, in the south west of England. She is the daughter of late Harry Davis the guitar-playing vocalist and leader of The Oscar Rabin band. Oscar himself preferred to sit in with the sax section rather than out front as MD. When Beryl was just 12 years old she sang professionally with the band. Apart from singing at an early age she also trained as a dancer and won the all England tap-dancing championships twice.
In the 1940‘s she sang with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli appearing at the Hot Club of France in Paris.
Beryl was invited to America by Bob Hope in 1947 and did several of his radio shows. In 1948 she replaced Doris Day on Frank Sinatra’s weekly show ‘Your Hit Parade‘ and stayed for a year. In the late 60’s she teamed up with Jane Russell, Della Russell and Connie Haines. Della Russell later being replaced by Rhonda Fleming They toured around the world and in 1968 came to England performing at the Northern Club circuit. These 4 legendary ladies of movies and recording joined forces to form the Hollywood Christian Group to sing gospel songs.
Video of the Gospel Quartet
Beryl with Grapppelli 1939
BERYL DAVIS ON STAGE WITH BILL BAKER BIG BAND
AT RAF TWINWOOD GLENN MILLER FESTIVAL
“When I think of Beryl I have great and proud feelings about her. I asked her if she would sing with my band on that day and she said she would if the boys could play in her key. Not one of my arrangements in our book was in her key. She said that her voice was lower after all these years. Our piano player managed to transposed a few songs for the rhythm section and 2 horns and we had a great fun in playing along with Beryl. Before I left RAF Twinwood the boys in the band brought me a gift of a painting by Keith Hill called “Twinwood Legend” which was of a Norseman Aircraft taking off from Twinwood in 1944 just as Glenn Miller did in such an aircraft never to be seen again. Beryl signed this painting and now I treasure it and the memory of that wonderful time on stage with Beryl Davis. Beryl wrote on the back of the painting.
Beryl & Django Introduction
I went to Deauville, Normandy on holiday. I was 18. In those days tea dances were in, so every afternoon I went to the Yacht Club tea dance, (It was run by George Carpentier the French ex boxing champ), there was 2 bands, one was Maurice Winnick’s dance band, and the other a small Gypsy band.
In the Gypsy band was a guitarist who played in the style of Django. I was not much good at French, but I managed to tell him he played like Django, well he was delighted to hear it and told me he was Django’s brother Joseph. As I saw him every day we got quite friendly and he told me that the Hot Club was playing in London at the “State Cinema” Kilburn, London in a few months time and if I came back stage to see him he would introduce me to Django. Well that could not be missed could it! So when the time came I took my young brother (who played very well in those days) and a friend to see the show.
After the show we went back stage to see if Joseph remembered me, well he did and was very pleased to see me, he introduced me to Django who was polite but not very interested at first, then I saw Django’s Guitar laying there. I thought I would love to be able to say I have played Django’s Guitar so I asked him if I could and he said sure. I banged out a few chords in the Hot Club style and his whole attitude changed and he became very friendly. I asked him if he would like to come for a drink in the pub and he said yes, then he said to the rest of the hot club in French of course that we were all going for a drink, they all came except Stéphane Grappelli. On the way to the pub, the friend I came with said, lets not go to the pub lets go home for a drink, and Django said OK.
We got back to my friends house, he had a great bar in his house, and we had a few drinks, I then said to Django If I got my guitars would he play , he said yes if I played with him, so off I went to get my guitars, I lived very near my friends house. I had two Gibson’s one I bought from Len Williams the father of John Williams for £5, the other was a FDH Special. What a thrill to play for Django. My young brother was a much better player than I was and he had taken the solo of Limehouse Blues, off the Django record, and when he heard my brother play he was delighted . He was really very modest and never realised he had such a big following.
After a bit of playing, we stopped, then started to play some gramophone records, one was of Chick Webb playing ‘Undecided’ sung by Ella Fitzgerald. He loved it and said he would record it . He said he needed a singer for it, so we recommended the singer from the Oscar Rabin – Romany Five Band, – a girl called Beryl Davis.
Beryl, Django and Steph at the French Hospital – 1948 aged 24
Lew Grade first introduced her to the Duo when she was only 12 years old (1936) and she went to Paris to sing with QHCF complete with chaperone. Belting out songs of love and romance as though she had lived it.
Django Reinhardt et le Quintette du Hot Club de France, with Stéphane Grappelli Stéphane Grappelli (vln); Django Reinhardt (g solo); Joseph Reinhardt, Eugène Vées, Pierre “Baro” Ferret (g); Emmanuel Soudieux (b); Beryl Davis (vcl)
A brief reference to the melody and Django then launches straight into an amazing Improvisation – Beryl aged 15
After A few more drinks, we took them all back to their Hotel said good night and I thought that would be the end of it , but a couple of days later Django rang me and invited us all to the Night Club that the Hot Club was playing at, called The “Nut House” run by Al Burnett. Well you can imagine how exited I was a kid of eighteen then, invited by the great Django.
Alma Warren & Lorld UlickBrown’s famous night spot, the Nut House, home of Miff Ferrie and his Band and droll comedian Al Burnett, is raided by the police and closed down. Tommy Cooper played the club doing his usual Fez hat act then.
We went to the Club but Al Burnett would not let us in , as he did not believe we had been invited by Django however I would not go, I persuaded him to check and it took some doing, but at last he did, and Django came out and told him we were his guests. He had a table reserved for us right in the front, we watched the show danced a bit with a few of the birds that were there, then at about 4.30PM we all went to Lyons Corner House for breakfast the whole Hot Club but not Grappelli. I think he was a bit too posh for us in those days . (More likely he was avoiding further exposure to Django)
Django paid the bill for everybody, I tried to pay him back but he would not hear of it. Well that’s the end of the story .
A short while after that I was in the army and actually landed on the beach in Normandy in full kit, and my guitar, but that is another story. – Albert Offenbach