born on 2/7/1892 in Bolton, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
died on 29/1/1965 in London, England, United Kingdom
Jack Hylton (2 July 1892 – 29 January 1965) was an English band leader and impresario who rose to prominence during the British dance band era.
Early life and career
He was born John Greenhalgh Hilton in the Great Lever area of Bolton, Lancashire, the son of George Hilton, a cotton yarn twister. His father was an amateur singer at the local Labour Club and Hylton learned piano to accompany him on the stage. Hylton later sang to the customers when his father bought a pub in nearby Little Lever, becoming known as the "Singing Mill-Boy". He also performed as a relief pianist for various bands.
His early career involved moving to London as a pianist in the 400 club and playing with the Stroud Haxton Band. During the First World War, he moved to be a musical director of the band of the 20th Hussars and the Director of the Army Entertainment Division.
The 1920s and 1930s
After World War I Hylton played with the Queen's Dance Orchestra, wrote arrangements of popular songs and recorded them under the label 'Directed by Jack Hylton'. He then formed his own band, recording the new style of jazz-derived American dance music under the Jack Hylton name from 1923. Hylton became a respected band leader with a busy schedule. He became a director and major shareholder of the new Decca record label. His band developed into an orchestra and toured America and Europe into the 1940s, when it disbanded due to World War II. Hylton adopted "The Soldiers In The Park" (more commonly known as "Oh Listen To The Band") as his signature tune.
The 1940s and 1950s
During the War, he took the London Philharmonic Orchestra around Britain giving promenade concerts. This helped to keep the orchestra going when its normal programme had ceased and it was on the edge of bankruptcy.
At this point in his career he became an impresario discovering new stars and managing radio, film and theatre productions from Ballets to Circuses. His productions dominated the London theatres with such productions as The Merry Widow, Kiss Me, Kate and Kismet.
Contracted as Advisor of Light Entertainment to Associated-Rediffusion (A-R), winners of the London weekday franchise in the recently established ITV network, he founded Jack Hylton Television Productions Ltd in that same month to produce a range of light entertainment programming exclusively for that company.
At the same time he was still producing stage shows, as well as taking a leading role in organising various Royal Command Performances, until his final stage production Camelot in 1965. He helped to develop the careers of many famous performers such as Shirley Bassey, Maurice Chevalier, Morecambe and Wise, Tony Hancock, Arthur Askey, the Crazy Gang, George Formby and Liberace.
In 1965 a televised tribute to Hylton, The Stars Shine for Jack, was held in London on Sunday 30 May at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane with many artists including Arthur Askey, The Crazy Gang, Marlene Dietrich, Dickie Henderson, and Shirley Bassey.
Hylton was married twice; firstly in 1922 to bandleader Ennis Parkes (they separated in 1929) and secondly, in Geneva in 1963, to Australian model and beauty queen Beverley Prowse (1932-2000).
He had a son, Jack (b. 1947), by Pat Taylor, a singer and actress and two daughters, Jackie (b. 1932) and Georgina (b. 1938), by model Frederika Kogler ("Fifi").
On 26 January 1965, complaining of chest and stomach pains, Hylton was admitted to the London Clinic. He died there three days later, from a heart attack, aged 72. Hylton's spending habits and generosity left his estate with £242,288. Hylton said to his son during his latter years, "I won't leave you much, but we'll have a good laugh spending it while I'm here!"
He is buried in the churchyard of St Catherine at Gosfield, Essex. His wife Beverley is buried beside him.
- Jack Hylton official website
- Lancaster University Library Jack Hylton Archive
- Jack Hylton biography and credits at the BFI's Screenonline
- Jack Hylton Music Downloads
- YouTube: Jack Hylton plays "Say Yes" February 1931
- (July 1999) This England's Book of British Dance Bands, p. 1417, Cheltenham: This England Books.
- Berta Geissmar (1944), The Baton and the Jackboot, Hamish Hamilton, pp 374/5, 377
- Jack Hylton official website