Harry Davidson was born in Rolleston Road, South Croydon Surrey on the 16th July 1892.
to play piano, violin, cello and organ early in life. Having taken up music as his career, he played organ
for several years until he realised an ambition shortly before the outbreak of the war when in 1914 he formed his first 15
piece light orchestra and played at the old Shaftesbury Pavilion
London's Shaftesbury Avenue and also at London's fashionable Ciro's
Club providing music for dancing.
After the war in 1919, Harry was appointed musical director at the
Tyne Theatre, Newcastle where he had a 25 piece orchestra. In
1924 he moved to the Majestic Cinema at Leeds where he became
deputy condustor and resident organist, it was from here he made his first broadcast.
In 1929 he was appointed resident
organist at the newly built Commodore Theatre at Hammersmith,
London. The Commodore had a very fine 18 piece orchestra directed by Joseph Muscant
who by the early 1930's had established a pattern of regular Saturday afternoon broadcasts for the BBC and became
one of the most popular orchestr's in the country. Harry Davidson's big chance came in July 1934 when Joseph Muscant
left Hammersmith to take over the Troxy Broadcasting Orchestra and
Harry was appointed conductor of the Commodore Grand Orchestra and went on to enjoy enormous success making regular weekly
The outbreak of the war in 1939 changed many things. The Commodore Grand Orchestra was disbanded but Harry
managed to keep these superb musicians together, taking the orchestra on tour for concerts and summer seasons and by 1942
was again broadcasting regularly for the BBC on such programmes as Music While
You Work (109 edition's in the first year of the programme) and
Morning Music but it was in November 1943 that his greatest success was to come.
The men in charge
of light music at the BBC, Fred Hartley and Douglas Lawrence needed a programme
to "fill in" for a couple of weeks whilst Sandy MacPherson and one of the "staff" orchestra's
were on holiday. Their idea for the programme needed someone with an unrivalled knowledge of light music and Harry Davidson
was immediately co-opted to help with the formulation of such a programme.
Harry was not at all sure a programme such
as Hartley and Lawrence proposed would be a success but having 'cajoled' most of the London music publishing houses
into letting him sort through their long forgotten scores which were housed in their cellars and attics, he eventually acquired
much of the music he was seeking for the programme.
On the night of 2nd November 1943 during an air raid from the old
Methodist Mission Hall in Marylebone Road the very first edition
of "Those Were The Days" was broadcast. From
this first broadcast Those Were The Days was an immediate success
with radio audiences , with the result that a programme which had originally been scheduled for approximately six weeks continued
to enjoy tremendous popularity for over thirty years. With MC's such as A.J.Latimer
and Charles Crathorn
and orchestral arrangements by such people as David Caryll, who was "house arranger" for Francis,Day
& Hunter, the programme brought enormous success to Harry Davidson and for many years he toured the country
playing for dances and dance festivals. He also made mover 200 recordings for the 'Columbia'
record labeland devoted almost all of these for Old Time Dancing.
For almost a quarter of a centry, Harry conducted nearly
every performance of Those were the Days, a remarkable achievement by any standards. His pianist and deputy condustor was
Sidney Davey who
had been with Harry since his 'Commodore' days before the war. When Harry was forced to give up conducting due to
ill health in November 1965, it was Sidney Davey who took over the baton and continued withy the Davidson Orchestra each Saturday
evening until the final broadcast by this wonderful orchestra on Saturday 23rd April 1966. From then on Sidney Davey and his
orchestra continued with the programme until 1975, which was a remarkable tribute to the original concept of the founders
of the programme.
Those were the Days was to change the face of our social dance scene and set the standards for a whole
generation of dancers. The programme encouraged people like F.J. Mainey
with his newly formed International Sequence Dance Circle to
standardise and teach the old time style throughout the world and firmly establish Old
Time Dancing and Music,as a unique part of our culture and heritage. Harry Davidson was the father of Old
Time Music, the long forgotten and neglected tunes of his youth were to become the very essence of old time as we know and
love it today.
Harry Davidson died on 2nd February 1967
aged just 75, a great loss to the world of light music and to Old Time Dancing in particular. He was one of the most outstanding
personalities in music of the 20th century. Sadly we shall not see his kind again, but his music will live on. So in reproducing
these broadcasts you can once again listen to Old Time Music at itsm very best played by the Master himself
Harry Davidson & His Orchestra