Obituary: Alan Kane

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The Independent Online
"Alan Kane scores heavily for Stone": under this headline, Melody Maker, the British bible of dance band music, in their issue dated 3 November 1934, proclaimed, "Alan Kane gave the greatest promise of settling down into something out of the ordinary. This promise had been more than redeemed already, for here is a vocalist who has strength in every department, that it to say he has quality, good diction and style."

Lew Stone had risen rapidly in the dance band world, from being the arranger for Roy Fox's Band, via the post of musical director for Herbert Wilcox's British and Dominions Film Studio, to leading his own dance band at the famous Monseigneur Restaurant. When his top vocalist, Al Bowlly, left to go freelance, Stone cast his ears around for a suitable successor and swiftly signed the up-and-coming crooner, 21-year-old Alan Kane. Their first recording together for Decca Records was "P.S. I Love You".

Alan Kane's first press notice seemed to predict a bright future as a singing star, but in fact he never quite made it to the top, and certainly never replaced Al Bowlly in the affections of the listening public. However, his pleasant vocalising, which can still be heard on CD reissues of classic British dance band recordings, is a fine reminder of an era when every word of a popular song could not only be heard, but was worth hearing.

Alan Kane was born in the crowded East End of London, at Dalston, in 1913. Music was an important part of his life, as his father was cantor at the Jubilee Street Synagogue in Whitechapel. This prompted Alan to join the choir of the Chapel Lane Synagogue in Dalston. Leaving school at the age of 14, he soon turned part-time professional. Having learned to play the drums, Kane formed his own small combination, a dance music quartet. For a few pounds shared between them they would play and sing the night away at many a working men's club around the East End.

Entertaining was in the blood of the Kane family. Harry Kane, Alan's elder brother, was a stand-up comedian who punctuated his gags with a few notes on the violin. Gloria, his younger sister, had ambitions to be a band singer too, and she and Alan formed a vocal partnership which reunited every now and then down the years.

Kane's first introduction to the dance band world came through his brother Harry, who was performing with the band leader Jan Ralfini. Although he was hired as a musician rather than as a singer, the experience of working within the discipline of public performances proved invaluable.

After three years with Ralfini, Kane, now just reaching his 21st birthday, joined Harry Leader's Band. Leader's outfit recorded regularly for Woolworth's low-price label and Eclipse Records, and soon Kane cut his first disc. In fact, he sang on all four titles released in August 1934, the first being "One Of These Days".

The most intriguing of his Leader numbers bore the title "I Bought Myself A Bottle Of Ink". Evidently Kane pleased the mighty Lew Stone, for within a month or two Stone signed him to replace the lost Al Bowlly. Kane's first record for Stone was cut in October 1934, coinciding with the conclusion of the band's contract with Decca.

A much publicised move to Regal-Zonophone followed, where Kane's first recording was "Now Long May We Love". Stone, like many band leaders of the day, enjoyed the occasional comedy number, and alongside such romantic hits as "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", Kane found himself singing the pun- packed ballad, "When I Told The Village Belle".

In 1939 came the declaration of the Second World War, and a sharp change in song style. Kane's first with a wartime flavour was "They Can't Black Out The Moon", which he recorded with the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra. 1940 found Kane as the "Me" in a curious combination known as "The Organ, the Dance Band and Me." Robinson Cleaver played the organ, Billy Thorburn conducted the band, and Kane sang. Their Parlophone records included "All Over The Place", the hit from Tommy Trinder's film Sailors Three , and "Bless 'em All", the old army song revived by the Lancashire comedian George Formby.

In 1941 Kane was back with Harry Leader, the wartime hits continuing with "Sergeant Sally Is Coming Home on Leave". The next year Kane sang with the Blue Rockets, the dance band organised by the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Their recording of "A Zoot Suit" reflected the GI invasion from the United States that was modernising British popular music with the frequently forbidden dance, the Jitterbug.

Kane also worked with ENSA, reviving his old double act with Gloria under the title of "My Sister And I." He marked the closing moments of the war with his recording of "When We Dance At The Victory Ball."

There were, of course, plenty of songs not flavoured by the world conflict, and these included "You Stepped Out Of A Dream", recorded with Mantovani, the title song from the popular film noir, Laura, recorded with Eric Winstone, and the hillbilly hit "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes", with Jay Wilbur's Band.

Kane was a great radio favourite, and was heard to effect as a solo singing star on such BBC series as Break For Music and the lunch-time variety show, Workers' Playtime. In his later years Kane was the musical director at the Wellington Club in Kensington, a position he held for a quarter of a century. After retirement he worked for the charity Operation Wheelchair.

Alan Kane, singer: born London 20 September 1913; married 1938 Dorothy Caplin (died 1989; one daughter); died London 20 August 1996.