The Decca Singles Collection
After years of neglect, many of Cyril Stapleton’s finest singles from the 1950s are available once more on a new Vocalion CD
CYRIL STAPLETON AND HIS ORCHESTRA The Decca Singles Collection
1 HIGHWAY PATROL (Llewellyn) F10793 1956; 2 ELEPHANTS' TANGO (Bernard Landes) F10488 1955; 3 THE MAIDS OF MADRID (Hamilton) F10793 1956; 4 GABRIELLE (Hayward Morris) F10488 1955; 5 THE ITALIAN THEME (Giacomazzi) F10703 1956; 6 DOLL DANCE (Brown) F11257# 1960; 7 TEENAGE LULLABY (Stevens, Hamilton) F11013 1958; 8 THE RED BALLOON (Earley, Hamilton) F10850 1957; 9 STRINGS ON PARADE (Ray Martin) F10322* 1954; 10 FOR ALWAYS (Valente, Tagliaferri, Parsons) F10322* 1954; 11 CARNAVALITO (Linda, Zaldiver) F10208* 1953; 12 COME NEXT SPRING (Steiner, Adelson) F10703 1956; 13 THE MAN WHO PLAYS THE MANDOLINO (GUAGLIONE); (Fanciulla, Bergman, Keith) F10850 1957; 14 AVA (Salvador) F10359* 1954; 15 ELEANORA (Arendo) F10359* 1954; 16 'THE MAN BETWEEN' –THEME (John Addison) F10208* 1953; 17 MEET MR. CALLAGHAN (Eric Spear) F9974* 1952; 18 FIDDLE-DELPHIA (Hamilton) F11013 1958; 19 HAVANA MERRY-GO-ROUND (Lenard) ; F11257# 1960; 20 BLUE STAR (THE 'MEDIC' THEME) (Heyman, Young) F10559 1955; 21 MEXICAN MADNESS (Hamilton, Earley) F10456 1955; 22 FANFARE BOOGIE (Fahey, Kaye) F10470 1955; 23 FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Leroy Anderson) F10912 1957; 24 WHICH END BITES F11049 1958; 25 'NORTH WEST FRONTIER' F11180 1959; 26 VOLARE (Domenico Modugno) F11049 1958; 27 TANGO MAMBO F10456 1955; 28 THE HAPPY WHISTLER F10735 1956; 29 MAGIC FINGERS F10686 1956; 30 GUADALCANAL MARCH (Richard Rodgers) F10308* 1954; Decca singles * F series 78 rpm 10 inch discs only; # F issued as 45-F on 45 rpm 7 inch discs only; all other tracks issued as both F & 45-F series , 78 & 45 rpm discs
During the 1950s and 1960s, Cyril Stapleton was a well-known orchestra leader in Britain and overseas, thanks to his regular BBC broadcasts and his many recordings. Like his fellow bandleaders, he regularly made ‘singles’ to appeal to the record buying public who wanted to take home the latest catchy melody. As the 1950s progressed, the familiar 10" 78 rpm record gradually gave way to the smaller 7" 45 rpm record, and "45s" were to remain highly collectable until well into the 1980s, when the compact disc took over.
Looking back today, it may be surprising to discover some of the tunes which were issued by record companies around 50 years ago. Things are so different in the 21st century, with ‘single’ CDs concentrating on repertoire that caters almost exclusively for young people with tastes in music that reflect their individual lifestyles. Once upon a time gramophone records could be enjoyed by all the family; today we all have our own preferences, but thankfully the invention of the compact disc has resulted in more music than ever before becoming available.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that, if you don’t enjoy today’s latest sounds, there are many CDs on the market to remind you of how things used to be.
Television was making great strides in the 1950s, and several tracks played by the Cyril Stapleton Orchestra attracted attention through their use as regular signature tunes. "Highway Patrol" (1955-59) was an early American police series, with a great theme credited to ‘Ray Llewellyn’, although this is widely believed to be a pseudonym for David Rose (of Holiday for Strings and The Stripper fame).
But perhaps the most famous piece of television music on this CD is the number which closes this collection – Richard Rodgers’ Guadalcanal March from that landmark NBC television series "Victory At Sea" (1952-53).
Light music is renowned for the many composers who use pseudonyms. Several catchy numbers on this CD include the name ‘Hamilton’; this surname has been chosen by some important people such as the Dorsey Brothers in the USA, and pianist Monia Liter in England. But ‘Clyde Hamilton’ is definitely Cyril Stapleton, so it can be safely assumed that titles such as The Maids of Madrid, Teenage Lullaby, The Red Balloon and Mexican Madness are being conducted in a manner that the composer would entirely approve. The co-composer of some of these works is ‘Robert Earley’, who is better known as the conductor Bob Sharples; but ‘Bob Sharples’ is also a pseudonym used by Robert Frederick Standish.
The remaining numbers in this collection provide an entertaining snapshot of the light and popular music scene in the 1950s, before rock’n’roll changed everything, although its effects can be heard in Nacio Herb Brown’s 1920s fox trot Doll Dance, given a 1960 spruce-up. Many novelties will probably sound familiar, even if their names have long been forgotten. Cyril Stapleton wasn’t recognised for a particular style (in the same way as Mantovani with his cascading strings), but he always provided something that had a special touch, thereby distinguishing it from his peers. So when you hear his versions of popular numbers such as Elephant Tango or Carnavalito you know that you will not be hearing carbon copies of other records. And there can be few other conductors who offered their fans such varied sounds and styles, as this fascinating collection undoubtedly confirms.
Cyril Stapleton was born on 31 December 1914 at Mapperley, Nottingham, in the east midlands of England. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force during World War II where he served for five years, initially as an air gunner.
During his last year in the RAF he was stationed in Uxbridge where he became a member of the RAF Symphony Orchestra. This rekindled an earlier interest in symphonic music, and back in civilian life he decided to concentrate on this area of music. At one particular time he was a member of three orchestras: the London Symphony, the National Symphony and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
But having to keep playing the same old classical repertoire started to pall, and in 1947 he was back in London’s West End with his own band. With added strings in 1948, the Stapleton band attracted a wider audience, helped by appearances on radio shows such as "Hit Parade" and "Golden Slipper".
His fame was assured in 1952, when the BBC Dance Orchestra was changed to the BBC Show Band, and Cyril Stapleton was appointed as its conductor. This was the BBC’s prestige outfit for the playing of popular music, employing the finest musicians and arrangers, and the first programme went out on the Light Programme on 2 October 1952. Not only did the band attract the top British singers, but American entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and Nat ‘King’ Cole were also happy to appear as guests.
The Show Band was broadcasting three times a week (in various forms) but all this came to an end on 28 June 1957, to the dismay of its many fans. Despite much criticism, the BBC refused to reverse its decision to ‘kill’ the band. Cyril kept busy touring with his own orchestra, making records and broadcasting, and appearing around the country in theatres and dance halls. This continued until the mid-1960s, when he was appointed an Artists and Repertoire Manager at Pye Records.
Sadly he died aged only 59 on 25 February 1974, but he has left us with a fine collection of recordings, and his singles rediscovered for this CD prove what a thoroughly competent and versatile musician he was.
For a more complete biography of Cyril Stapleton, please see ‘Journal Into Melody’ issue 149 [December 2001].
David Ades November 2002