Joe Loss


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Joe Loss was the undisputed doyen of big bandleaders. His name was, and still is, synonymous with the very best in dance band music. Loved and respected by his public and profession alike, he had a style and musical policy that kept him at the top of the big band world for 60 years.

Joe was born Joshua Alexander Loss,the son of Israel (a skilled cabinet maker) and Ada Loss in London's East End on June 22nd, 1909. His interest in big band music was fostered by the emergence of syncopated music in the 1920's but it had to be largely self-taught, because classical music was very much the order of the day in the Loss household.

Indeed, Joe was trained as a classical violinist and was just 10 when he gave his first solo concert in London's Toynbee Hall. such was his virtuosity that on his 13th birthday he gained a scholarship to the Trinity School of Music, where he studied classical music for the next four years.

However, though he was a talented violinist, the classics were clearly not his forte! Instead he developed a love for jazz and big band music that had become all the rage in those depressing days of the 1920s.

In 1930, at just 20 years of age, Joe became Britain's youngest named bandleader with a 'staff' of professional musicians, and a conducing style that he was to make all his own. Indeed, his energetic baton wielding showmanship on the bandstand, and his obvious love for the music, soon earned him the No.2 spot at the Astoria Ballroom, London. Two years later, he was at the swish Kit-Kat restaurant and already making his debut on BBC Radio.

The Joe Loss Orchestra was never again to play second fiddle to anyone. Joe was a star in his own right and his musical staff - always fiercely loyal to the maestro - were a No.1 attraction producing music under Joe's direction which made them the toast of London. And national fame was quick to follow.

By 1937 Joe Loss had become the biggest name in the world of big band music. Vera Lynn gave her first broadcast with the band, and in 1938 when Joe married Mildred Blanch Rose, the crowd scenes in central London were akin to Beatlemania of the 1960's. Thousands of Joe Loss fans blocked the streets of London and brought traffic to a standstill - just to get a glimpse of Britain's most famous bandleader.

By the time the Second World War broke out, a typical Joe Loss working week consisited of up to nine BBC broadcasts, five afternoon concerts and six evening dances - often during the height of the Blitz.

Little wonder that over the years Joe Loss and His Orchestra have become synonymous with the very best of British dance band music. His records have sold millions all over the world; he's introduced countless dance crazes to the country with records like 'Wheels Cha-Cha', the theme from 'Maigret' and 'March Of The Mods'.

It would be almost impossible to list all the successes, highlighted, awards and personal triumphs in the long and distinguished career of Joe Loss. Suffice to say he's played for millions of dances and big band fans throughout the world, and been honoured in many different ways.

He is a Freeman of the City of London - a truly appropriate honour for someone who lived all his life in the Capital - and as a true patriot, he was justifiably pround of his LVO, OBE and HM The Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal.

However, his reputation as Britain's premier musical ambassador was enhaced still further during one of his annual world cruises aboard the QE2 when the ship docked for the very first time in China. It was musical history in the making, because prior to Joe's concert western music and dancing had been banned in China, and no western band had ever played in the Republic.

Even after 60 years on the bandstand, Joe Loss still got immeasurable pleasure from playing his music, and his success in the world of big band music has no equals. Nor is it likely to. He was quite simply the doyen of British bandleaders, the undisputed maestro of the bandstand and, without doubt, one of Britain's true gentlemen.

He will be greatly missed by us all, but the music and the name of Joe Loss will live forever.

Joe, aged 9, with his classical violin

Joe Loss, Dame Vera Lynn and the legendary Glenn Miller in a rare wartime photgraph

Joe Loss in front of his Orchestra

The late Chick Henderson, Paula Green & Joe Loss at a recording session

Joe and the Big Band in action at the London Palladium