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Bowlly, Al

london noble records guitarist

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.

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