Jack Leon. Conductor:(Kiev, Soviet Union (Ukraine). April 24, 1905 – Glasgow, Scotland. March 10, 1967)

Judah Leon Aronoff was born in Kiev, the son of a Jewish jeweller. He spent his childhood in Antwerp before the family moved to London in 1914. He became a British citizen in 1929, changing his name to Jack Leon.

Jack Leon 1929Jack Leon 1948Jack Leon and his Concert Orchestra1955

He went to school in Deptford and learned to play the violin. At 15 he founded and conducted the East London Philharmonic Orchestra. Its first professional engagement was at the Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel.

In the 1928-29 he formed Jack Leon's Symphonic Dance Band and recorded some excellent orchestrated dance numbers for the Piccadilly record label.

In June 1931, Jack Leon and his Band recorded several session with vocals by Al Bowlly. These were also release on the Piccadilly label. Piccadilly had several cheaper subsidiary labels, (Mayfair; Simcha; Octacros; Melba and Empire) where the same recordings, sometimes with different takes, were released and to make things even more confusing, under various pseudonyms: The Waldorphians; Fifth Avenue Dance Band; Cosmopolitan Syncopators; Basil Winston and his Band; Jerome Joy and his Band.; Alberta Dance Band; Percy Chandler and his Band.
One would imagine that these cheaper subsidiary labels would have flooded the market but the experiment must have failed as these are nowadays very hard to find and very collectable even though the pressing quality is wanting.
Perhaps because of this “failed experiment”, Jack Leon seems to disappear from recordings and Dance Music to then re-surface conducting light orchestral performances for radio

During the war years he became familiar to radio listeners of Variety Bandbox and Music While You Work

“He inspired two broadcast wartime tributes to Jews in the armed services and in essential factory work, both of which ended with the playing of Hatikvah”, a Jewish poem and now the national anthem of Israel.

After the war he continued conducting and composing. The Jack Leon Orchestra played regular summer seasons in Southsea. He continued to provide music for 'Music While You Work' and later for more than forty episodes of 'Morning Music'. “With 324 editions of 'Music While You Work' to his credit, Jack Leon conducted the most, light orchestral programmes in the series”
He recorded extensively for 'Mood Music' libraries label, conducting the New Concert Orchestra. A lot of these “Light Orchestral” pieces have been reissued.

“Jack Leon's theatrical connections included the London Casino and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, for which he was Musical Advisor. He also had a long association with the Prince of Wales Theatre, London as Musical Director. He was not particularly well-known as a composer but one composition of his that was very successful was 'Viva Villa" written under the pseudonym of Stephen-Fonora”.

From 1956-66 he conducted the Glasgow-based Scottish Variety Orchestra, broadcasting several times every week. Jack Leon is known for his work on A Song for Everyone (1958) with Kenneth McKellar, Alistair McHarg Requests the Pleasure of Your Company (1959) and The Andy Stewart Show (1963).

"He retired from the BBC in 1966 and reformed his own orchestra for broadcasting. Early in 1967 he was given a series of broadcasts in 'Breakfast Special'. Sadly, after completing only a few recordings he collapsed in the street in Glasgow having suffered a heart attack from which he died, aged only 61, on 10th March 1967."

“Jack Leon was a perfectionist and was regarded by some as a 'hard task-master,' but his daughter Miriam remembers him only as a kind and loving father from whom she was parted at the tender age of eighteen.”

Links and info about Jack Leon