Roy Fox

Roy Fox (October 25, 1901 March 20, 1982) was an American-born British dance bandleader whose period of greatest popularity were in England during the British dance band era.[1] His autobiography, Hollywood, Mayfair, and All That Jazz (1975) is still in print.

Early life and career

Roy Fox was born in Denver, Colorado, United States.[1] He and his musician sister Vera were raised in Hollywood, California, in a Salvation Army family. Roy began playing cornet when he was 11 years old, and by age 13 was performing in the Los Angeles Examiner's newsboys' band. Soon after he played bugle for a studio owned by Cecil B. DeMille.

His first major association came at the age of 16, when he joined Abe Lyman's orchestra at the Sunset Inn in Santa Monica,[1] where he played alongside Miff Mole, Gussie Mueller, Henry Halstead, and Gus Arnheim. He developed a soft style of playing there which earned him the nickname, "The Whispering Cornetist".[1]

The 1920s/30s

In 1920, he put together his own band, with whom he recorded in 1925. That same year he also scored a gig on radio broadcasting with Art Hickman's orchestra;[1] this ensemble toured the U.S., then did an extended residency in Florida. After some time in New York City, Fox and Arnheim reconvened in Hollywood, working at the Ambassador Hotel, and Fox continued to broadcast with his own bands. During this time he also did a number of film soundtracks.

In 1930, Fox was invited to perform in London,[1] which he first did on September 29, 1930. He recorded on the BBC that year, and when his band returned to the U.S. the following spring, Fox remained behind, recording with a new group for Decca Records and accepting an engagement at the Monseigneur restaurant in Piccadilly.[2]

In 1932, he fell ill with pleurisy and traveled to Switzerland for a stay at a sanatorium. During his convalescence the band was led by its pianist, Lew Stone.[1] Upon Fox's return he resumed control of the band but when the Monseigneur contract came up for renewal in the autumn of 1932 was unable to agree terms. The restaurant's owner then offered the residency to Stone and all the band with the exception of trumpeter Sid Buckman decided to remain with Stone. Fox took out an injunction on the grounds of breach of contract against his singer Al Bowlly which prevented Bowlly performing with Stone's band on the first night, but Fox lost his action.

Fox formed a new band with Buckman as trumpeter and vocalist, secured a residency at the Cafe Anglais in Leicester Square, London,[1] and performed in Belgium as well as the UK. Art Christmas played a variety of instruments in this band. He made the films On the Air and Big Ben Calling in 1933-34, recorded for HMV in 1936, and toured Europe until 1938, when he fell ill again.[3]

Later years

Fox moved to Australia, where he led the Jay Whidden Orchestra, and visited the U.S. for a few tours with small groups. He led a band in England in 1946-47, with appearances at the Isle of Man and London's Potomac Club. He went into semi-retirement after 1952, when he opened his own booking agency.[1] He died in London in 1982, aged 80.[3] His descendants include American LGBT organizer/activist, Toni Armstrong Jr.[4]


  1. Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 486–7. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. "diary of an English debutante in Nazi Germany". Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  3. "British Pathé Search: Roy Fox". Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  4. "Chicago Gay History". Retrieved 8 September 2019.
Further reading
  • Roy Fox, Hollywood, Mayfair and all That jazz: The Roy Fox Story, Leslie Frewin Publishers Ltd, London, 1975, ISBN 978-0856321719
  • Roy Fox at AllMusic
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