Bowlly, Al, one of the all-time most popular British pop vocalists, guitarist, banjo player, pianist; b. Maputo, Mozambique, Jan. 7, 1898; d. London, April 17, 1941. Born to a Greek father and a Lebanese mother, he grew up in Johannesburg and learned to play the ukelele. Bowlly toured Africa and India as a banjo/guitarist and was a resident at Raffles in Singapore. He made his first records in Berlin (1927), then freelanced in London, making 678 sides (193CM:), mainly with the Roy Fox and Ray Noble bands. His best-known records are Noble compositions; “The Very Thought of You” and others also did well in the U.S. Noble took Bowlly with him to N.Y. (1934), where Glenn Miller was Noble’s arranger. Bowlly sang an early lyric to a Miller tune that later became “Moonlight Serenade.” He was successful in the U.S. but returned to London (1937) to tour with his own Radio City Rhythm Makers and team up with Maltese singer Jimmy Messini in Radio Stars With Two Guitars. Bowlly worked with West Indian bandleader Ken “Snakehips” Johnson (1940–41). A bomb hit the Cafe de Paris, killing Johnson and many others in March 1941; Bowlly was killed by another in April. He made the U.K. Top Ten album chart in 1978 as the featured singer in the Pennies from Heaven soundtrack.
Al Bowlly with Ray Noble (1931); On the SentimentalSide (1978); One & Only (1980); Goodnight Sweetheart–1931 Sessions (1982); The Golden Age of Al Bowlly (1983); A Million Dreams-Solos 1932–33 (1984); The Dance Band Days (1984); The Al Bowlly Circle (1984); Sweet As a Song (1895); Sentimentally Yours (1986); 20 Golden Pieces of Al Bowlly (1986); My Song Goes Round the World (1986); The London Sessions 1928–30 (1986); Al Bowlly in New York (1987); Something to Sing About (1987); Flowers for Madame 1935–37 (1988); The Very Thought of You (1988); Proud of You (1989); Proud of You (1992); Just a Bowl of Cherries (1993); Love Is the Sweetest Thing (1995); The Dance Band Years (1997); Goodnight Sweetheart (1997); HMV Sessions, Vol. 1: 1930–1934 (1998); HMV Sessions, Vol. 2: 1930–1934 (1999); Marvelous Melodies of Peter Mendoza (1999); Right from the Heart (1999); Sweet Someone (2000); Dance Band Years (2000); Al Bowlly (2000); 1931–1934 (2000); Love Is the Sweetest Thing [Past Perfect] (2000); Al Bowlly & the Great British Bands (2000).
S. Colin, T. Staveacre, Al Bowlly (1979).
—Music Master Jazz and Blues Catalogue/John Chilton, Who’s Who of British Jazz/Lewis Porter