Anne Lenner: With Carroll Gibbons And The Savoy Orpheans

Collecting the work of the Leicester-born singer who performed popular song with a swing touch in 1930s London


I’ve been reviewing CDs for Jazz Journal for the thick end of a decade and I can count on the fingers of one thumb the number of times I’ve been able to describe an album as pure, unadulterated nostalgia, but that time is here, as is that album, and without further ado . . .

Lenner was a big-band singer in an era when big bands dominated the musical landscape. She was extremely popular with audiences who heard her live, on the radio or via one of the 150 records she made, mostly with Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Orpheans.

Born in Aylestone, a suburb of Leicester, in 1912 as Violet Green, she was one of eight children sired by Arthur Green, who played on variety bills as Tom Lenner, and saw five of his children follow him into the profession. By the early 30s Anne was singing in such London clubs as Jack’s, the Cabaret and Murray’s. It was in the latter that Carroll Gibbons heard her and was sufficiently impressed by her singing to invite her to make a record with him and the small group he called his Boyfriends, at which no one raised an eyebrow.

Gibbons was the US-born leader of the well-known Savoy Orpheans, and against the wishes of the hotel management he signed Lenner to a three-year contract (which turned into seven) calling for her to sing with the band in the Savoy hotel and on radio – the Orpheans broadcast on 2LO, which was transmitted by the BBC, but the Boyfriends (and Anne) also recorded on Radio Luxembourg, for both Hartley’s Jam and the Ovaltineys, where Lenner became famous as “Auntie Anne”.

So far as the voice goes, I confess total ignorance of Ms Lenner until I was assigned this CD. As a band singer in that era she had no control over her repertoire, performing strictly the songs of the day and it’s gratifying to note that of 26 selections, 22 proved durable, with only four being ephemeral. The arrangements are strictly stock, and lack only the measured tones of Victor Sylvester urging “slow, slow, quick, quick, slow”. All the same, there’s a definite charm about this album, redolent of a bygone day replete with Brief Encounter ambience, Boots Book-Lovers’ Library and the like.

I’ll Never Be The Same; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; Heat Wave; I’ll See You Again; Dinah; Messengers; I’ve Got A Feeling You’re Fooling; Let’s Face The Music And Dance; Take My Heart; Shall We Dance; Whispers In The Dark; Deep In A Dream; Heaven Can Wait; And The Angels Sing; What’s New?; Day In, Day Out; My Heart Belongs To Daddy; Scatterbrain; This Can’t Be Love; I Get A Kick Out Of You; My Heart Stood Still – With A Song In My Heart; All The Things You Are; Ferryboat Serenade; Only Forever; Do I Love You, Do I?; Goodnight, My Love (79.11)
Lenner (v) with, variously, Matty Malneck, Carroll Gibbons And His Boyfriends, Carroll Gibbons & The Savoy Orpheans. London, 1932-1941.
Retrospective RTR 4394