James Edward Wilbur:
(England 1898 – South Africa 1968). Jay Wilbur

Jay Wilbur was a prolific British bandleader who recorded under many pseudonyms; perhaps the reason why he's not as well remembered as his peers.
Jay’s parents worked for the Carl Rosa Opera Company in and around London. He started singing as a boy soprano and when his voice broke he concentrated on playing the piano. He was soon playing accompaniment for silent movies and also playing at various restaurants.

Jay Wilbur
Jay Wilbur
Jay Wilbur
Jay Wilbur


  • 1919: Jay formed his own dance band and toured the continent for approximately three years. He returned to England and started working for an agency providing dance bands for various venues around the UK. On meeting Edward, Prince of Wales, Jay was invited to play with his band at Buckingham Palace.
  • 1923: Jay Wilbur’s first recording session was with the Emlyn Thomas London Band. He soon formed his own band and after gigs at the Savoy and Piccadilly hotels, he again toured the continent.
  • 1926: Jay recorded with the Leon Van Straten’s Orchestra for the Duophone Label. Here’s a rare disc on Youtube.
  • 1928: He become musical director of the short-lived Dominion Gramophone Records Ltd which was formed in October 1928 and disbanded in April 1930; a victim of the great depression. The orchestras he used featured some of the UK’s best musicians: Max Goldberg (trumpet); Tony Thorpe (trombone); and Billy Thorburn (piano). Most of these releases were issued under pseudonyms
  • 1930: Jay started working for and soon became musical director of the Crystalate Gramophone Manufacturing Company Ltd, which produced budget priced Victory and Imperial labels which were sold in large numbers through Woolworths. The Victory label was discontinued in 1931 and was replaced by the budget Eclipse label. Imperial label issues were released under Jay Wilbur and his Orchestra but the Victory and Eclipse recordings were issued under various pseudonyms such as: The Hottentots, The Biltmore Players, The Ambassadors Twelve, The Connecticut Collegians and The Radio Serenaders.
  • 1930: Al Bowlly recorded several sides on the Dominion record label as well as on Victory and Imperial. Some of these were directed by Jay Wilbur. Adeline on Imperial 2355 was issued under Jay Wilbur and his Band.
  • 1932: Jay continued recording on Eclipse and the newly formed Rex label. Again under his own name and various pseudonyms.
  • 1935: The Eclipse label was replaced by the Crown label.
  • 1936: Jay Wilbur broadcast on the BBC series “Music While You Work” and as Jay Wilbur and his Drene Orchestra on Radio Luxemburg and Radio Normandie.
  • 1937: The Crystalate Gramophone Manufacturing Company was taken over by Decca and the Crown label was discontinued.
  • 1938: On September 28th 1938, Jay Wilbur hosted on BBC Regional, “Melody Out of the Sky” with Sam Costa on vocals. The very special guest was Fats Waller.
  • 1940-43: Jay Wilbur and His Band performed extensively for the military during the war years. He also broadcast on the BBC series Hi Gang. The war years were tough on Jay, he lost his son and combined with his heavy work load, his heath suffered and was forced to take a break. When he returned to work, the Dance Band years were over and he moved onto “light orchestral music”.
  • 1946: He moved to New Zealand.
  • 1948-58: He relocated to Australia and for the next 10 years broadcast regularly on the ABC as Jay Wilbur and his Strings and as Jay Wilbur String Ensemble. A regular on a programme called Music Hath Charms. Here are two entire broadcasts on the wonderful "THE HEHR ARCHIVE" Youtube channel.

    Jay Wilbur and his Strings Prog#2
  • 1958: He moved to Capetown South Africa, where he broadcast on Springbok Radio.
  • 1968: He died in Capetown.

Links and info about Jay Wilbur