CARROLL GIBBONS: (January 4, 1903 – May 10, 1954)

Carroll Gibbons was an American-born pianist, bandleader and composer who moved to London in 1924 and started a very successful career during the British dance band era. He was resident at The Savoy Hotel from 1932 to his death in 1954. “The American at The Savoy”.

Carroll Gibbons
The Boston Orchestra
Carroll Gibbons' Boyfriends
The Savoy Hotel Orpheans
Carroll Gibbons entertaining troops 1942

In the swing of the early 1920’s, the Savoy Hotel in London set its goal to introduce the new wave of American music and dances to its post war patrons. First in 1922 they employed American Bert Ralton who led The Savoy Savanna Band, then in 1923, The Savoy Orpheans were formed by Debroy Somers. The bands employed a number of American musicians and when banjo/guitar player Joe Branelly was returning to the States on holiday, he was asked to return with more American musicians.

From the New England Conservatory in Boston, Branelly returned to the UK with Carroll Gibbons (piano) and Rudy Vallee (sax). Rudy of course achieved fame in the 30’ and 40’s as a singer. It is reputed that Gibbons travelled to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music. He ended up playing piano with The Boston Orchestra based in the Berkeley Hotel.


  • 1924: The Boston Orchestra: Vernon Ferry (trumpet); George Chaffin (trombone); Joe Brannelly (banjo); Alec Ure (drums); Howard Jacobs (alto sax); Leslie Bates (tenor sax); Carroll Gibbons (piano); and Reginald Pursglove (violin).
  • 1926: He was 2nd piano with Ronnie Munroe. He soon led his own band, the Sylvians, at the Savoy Hotel. He also accompanied many vocalists on piano. Elsie Carlisle’s very first record was, with piano accompaniment by Carroll Gibbons on May 25, 1926.

    Here a link to the Carroll Gibbons page on the excellent Elsie Carlisle website.

  • 1927: He took over as leader of the Savoy Hotel Orpheans.
  • 1928: The Savoy Hotel Orpheans disbanded and Gibbons became Director of Light Music for the Gramophone Company (HMV). Here he formed HMV’s house band, the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra.
  • 1929: He had a brief spell as Musical Director for British and Dominion Films.
  • 1930-1931: Gibbons returned to the States. Hollywood, where he worked as a staff composer for MGM films.
  • 1931: On his return to London, he reformed the Orpheans as the New Savoy Orpheans co-directing with Howard Jacobs. "He also recorded quite a number of sophisticated records featuring a piano-led small group playing pop tunes and medleys under the name of Carroll Gibbons and his Boy Friends".

    In October 1931 The Savoy Hotel Orpheans recorded two sessions with Al Bowlly on vocals. “There's A Time and Place for Everything” and the immortal, “Sweet and Lovely” were released on Columbia CB-376. “Who am I” and “Linda” were released on CB-377.

    The band consisted of: Carrol Gibbons (piano) & Howard Jacobs (alto sax) directing; Bill Shakespear & Billy Higgs (trumpets); Don Macaffer (trombone); Laurie Payne (clarinet, alto & baritone sax); George Smith (tenor sax); Hugo Rignold & Reg Leopold (violins); Harry Jacobson (2nd piano); Bert Thomas (guitar); Jack Evetts (string bass); Rudy Starita (drums); Al Bowlly (vocals).

    There were dozens of more sides recorded with Al Bowlly, under the pseudonym, The Masqueraders or as The Savoy Hotel Orpheans. Some are very rare. The final session with Bowlly was on October 16, 1933: Al Bowlly with orchestra directed by Carroll Gibbons. The classics, “Night and Day” and “Love Locked Out”.

  • 1932: Carrol Gibbons was now sole leader of the Savoy Hotel Orpheans. The Orpheans with very few changes remained at the Savoy throughout the blitz. Between June 1932 and Gibbons’ death in 1954, they recorded hundreds of popular songs with an array of vocalists; Elsie Carlisle, Anne Lenner, Francis Day, Al Bowlly, Les Allen, Jack Plant, Rita Williams and many many more.

  • Gibbons also had a weekly show on Radio Luxembourg in the 1930s, sponsored by Hartley's Jam.

    “As a composer, Gibbons' most popular songs included "A Garden in the Rain" (1928) and "On The Air" (1932). Gibbons' instrumental numbers "Bubbling Over" and "Moonbeam Dance" were also quite successful in the United Kingdom.”

    Paul Fenoulhet: (trombone). A major arranger for the Savoy Hotel Orpheans and for Carroll Gibbons and his Boy Friends.

Links and info about Carroll Gibbons