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GEOFFREY ORR’s bio-discography of bandleader LEON VAN STRATEN came as a revelation to his son Frank. This comprehensive work is really a testament to two men: Leon Van Straten, a talented man, who together with his two brothers played ‘hot’ dance music for royalty, wealthy patrons and the general public in London, New York and Melbourne; and Geoff Orr, who has spent more than five decades researching Van Straten’s brief, but prolific recording career. Be sure to read beyond the acknowledgements to find additional information in the form of an addendum.


Leon Van Straten, born Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on 9 January 1899 and died in Melbourne, Australia in 1966. As a young university student, he must have been full of zest in his youth with the dancing rhythms of the American jazz infiltrating the musician’s brain with ideas and daring. It’s understood that Leon was part of an American orchestra whose members toured from New Orleans to New York and then across the Atlantic ocean to London. The ensemble, known as the Original Capitol Orchestra, never made recordings in America, however upon embarking on a long voyage to play in London, they were to make several recording sessions for the Zonophone Company during their stay in the UK between 1923 and 1924. From there, the orchestra members moved on to see Paris or were returning to New York, Chicago and Davenport, Iowa. Leon Van Straten would make his own way in New York. He departed London for New York on 27 February 1924 and would apply for American citizenship and be granted that status. And, Leon Van Straten also registered with the Harry Yerkes’ Band Booking Agency to play in USA before coming to Australia. He set sail for this desirable engagement arriving in Melbourne during August 1924. This was the renowned Yerkes’ S.S. Flotilla Orchestra playing at “Wattle Path”, Upper Esplanade, St. Kilda for the ballroom dancers and for socialising in this most popular night spot.

The Original Capitol Orchestra were as follows:

Vic Sell, cornet/Billy Trittle, trombone, replaced by Richard MacDonald, trombone/Tracey Mumma, alto saxophone, clarinet/George Byron Webb, tenor saxophone, clarinet/Leon Van Straten, violin/John V. ‘Bud’ Sheppard, piano and director/Les Russuck, banjo/Harold Evans, tuba & string bass/William Sell, drums. Al Carter, alto saxophone and clarinet, replaced Tracey Mumma in a later band ensemble during 1924. There are photographs and a cartoon drawing to verify this grouping. Of note too, is a Pathé news film short from early 1924, which exists and shows about seven members of the band in this silent film footage. Delightfully, and at times flamboyant Leon Van Straten can be seen playing the ‘hot’ fiddle in the group’s short ‘grab’ footage of the jazz band in action. This would probably be filmed at the “Ambassador Club” in London.

Some recordings by the Original Capitol Orchestra have been examined aurally at various internet sites, including YouTube. None of this band research was available freely fifty years ago, but has recently come to light through other musician’s family ties now available via the internet for the first time. The information is astonishing. So, now to the Leon Van Straten career and the research from the past ninety years.

A unique 1923 Aco-Vocalion recording session which contained some of the musicians of the Original Capitol Orchestra was made as a potential demonstration disc and appears to be like an audition for employment and a possible recording contract. The one recorded title is a popular opus of 1923, “Horsey, Keep Your Tail Up” (Walter Hirsch & Bert Kaplan) which shows the real jazz improvisations of the 1920s epoch, and in particular, Tracey Mumma’s clarinet playing, reminiscent of the black New Orleans clarinet jazz ace, Johnny Dodds. The other draw card being the jazzin’ brass lead of Vic Sell’s Beiderbecke style cornet. Also, of note is the amusingly executed trombone solos by Richard MacDonald. He does capture the essence and the mirth of the song composer’s intentions. So, here are the salient recording details. This Aco disc pre-dates the actual recording contract made with Zonophone Records for the members of the Original Capitol Orchestra.


John V. Sheppard, piano/Vic Sell, cornet/Richard MacDonald, trombone/ Tracey Mumma, clarinet/Les Russuck, banjo.

London, c. March–April 1923

G-646 Horsey, Keep Your Tail Up (Walter Hirsch & Bert Kaplan) *

Beltona 479, Coliseum 1642

Beltona as “Detroit Melodists”; Coliseum as “Cabaret Novelty Four”.


This listing is of all the known titles recorded for Zonophone in Hayes, Middlesex during March 1923 through to March 1924. Leon Van Straten joined this band whilst a resident of London. All members of the orchestra were American with the exception of Harold Evans, the tuba player and the trombonist, Richard MacDonald. The jazz band had a residency at the elegant night club, “Rector’s Club” located at 31 Tottenham Court Road, London from January to March 1923. This was the same night club that featured the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1919 and famed Billy Arnold’s American Novelty Band from 1919–1923, when the Original Capitol Orchestra took over and played there. The band was marketed as the “Rector’s Original Capitol Orchestra” in news, advertisements and publicity leaflets. “The Rector Club” featured other bands from local and overseas acts, until it closed in 1928. During their tight work schedule throughout 1923 the orchestra played other venues, with one residency at the “Grafton Galleries”, 7 Grafton Street, London from January 1924 through to June 1924. The American band members plus Leon Van Straten, then sailed for New York or several, other destinations in Europe and USA to seek further work and bookings. The Head of the Yerkes’ Booking Agency in New York, Harry Yerkes would give the ambitious and young, violinist employment and an opportunity to travel to Australia and play prestigious musical engagements in August 1924.

The discography for this orchestra is as follows. For completeness, all the recording dates are listed. Leon Van Straten may not play on all, as the acoustical recording technique under recorded the violin. Hence, it is more than likely that Leon Van Straten used a Stroh violin to make these discs in the acoustical recording processes of the Zonophone studios. All these recording sessions took place at the His Master’s Voice studios, Hayes, Middlesex, UK.


The first session of 16 March 1923 were for a six piece jazz band. The two titles were rejected at Zonophone, so it’s pure conjecture, that there is a violin present on the titles, “Runnin’ Wild” and “Black Man Blues”. However, from 23 April 1923 Leon Van Straten appears playing violin, but it is not presumed that he plays on every title without auditioning all the extremely scarce recordings. So, the orchestra is now as follows with no changes for all Zonophone dates. John V. “Bud” Sheppard, piano and director/Vic Sell, cornet/Billy Trittle, trombone/George Byron Webb, alto saxophone/Tracey Mumma, clarinet, alto saxophone/Leon Van Straten, violin/Les Russuck, banjo/William Sell, drums. It is not known when the trombone player Billy Trittle was replaced by Richard MacDonald, but obviously in early 1923. The choice comes down to the fact that Leon Van Straten was handed control of the orchestra and knew the Englishman, Richard MacDonald had excellent musical skills, and a temperament in just getting along with the American musicians in the group. Richard had musical talent in abundance. This meant Richard was asked to join Leon’s new orchestra again in 1926 when the twenty-seven-year-old Leon Van Straten, had returned from the Yerkes’ S.S. Flotilla Band engagement in Australia and formed his own orchestra for the very popular, “Riviera Club” upon his arrival back in London.

Of note, this band played engagements at London’s Variety Theatres, such as the “Alhambra”, “Coliseum”, “Palladium” and “Stratford Empire”. This also involved accompanying exhibition dancers Dina Harris and Ted Trevor. On the evening of 23 March 1923 the orchestra played for the American Legion’s Carnival Ball before the US Ambassador, Mr. George Brinton McClellan Harvey and HRH Prince of Wales, later known as King Edward VIII in 1936. On the 26 March, the orchestra played for the Theatrical Garden Party, a charity event for the Royal Hospital, Chelsea fund raiser. The band, however, didn’t get a 2LO radio link at this time. The success of the engagement at the “Rector’s Club” meant the contract was renewed till late 1923. However, a vigorous campaign was soon embarked upon by the British Police forces in January 1924 to try and curb the problem that liquor by-laws were being flouted concerning the abuse of alcohol at the “Rector’s Club”. The first raid being carried out on 8 January 1924. Other night clubs also suffered similar treatment. The “Rector’s Club” was eventually closed down altogether in 1928.

van straten image 04aAbove images from the “Rector’s Club” (at right) in an interior photograph from the 1920s and the sumptuous setting for dancers and revellers. On the left is a still grab from a Pathe film short which was silent in those times and sub-text shown on screen alongside the visual. Sound film didn’t happen until after 1927. You can see the cheekiness of Leon Van Straten in the image and on the brief footage seen online he is quite a show man with his violin and the jazz age swaying on stage. Everything is vibrant and full of exciting improvisations from all of the instrumentalists.


23 March 1923
Yy-2868-2  Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town) (Fred Fisher)
Zonophone 2342
Yy-2869-2  Romany Love (J. S. Zamecnik & Arthur J. Lamb) *
Zonophone 2341
Yy-2870-2  Russian Rose (Peter de Rose, Ferde Grofe & Jesse Winne)  Zonophone 2342
Yy-2871-1  Rose Of The Rio Grande
(Harry Warren, Ross Gorman & Edgar Leslie)
Zonophone 2341, Ariel 655, Ariel 2329
Ariel 655 as “Ariel Dance Orchestra”; Ariel 2329 is anonymous.

van straten image 06b

22 May 1923
Yy-3005-1  The Lady Of The Evening (Irving Berlin)  Zonophone 2369 *
Yy-3006-2  Apple Sauce (Abe Lyman, Gus Arnheim & Arthur Freed) *
Zonophone 2355
Yy-3007-2  I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate *
(Spencer Williams & A. J. Piron)  Zonophone 2355
Yy-3008-2  Wonderland Of Dreams (Harry D. Kerr & L. W. Abbott)
Note that L.W. Abbott is a pseudonym for composer “Pietro Floridio”.
Zonophone 2369
Trivia: “Apple Sauce” was a slang term in the 1920s for “nonsense”.

van straten image 09a

29 October 1923
Yy-3730-2  Barney Google (Billy Rose & Con Conrad)
Zonophone 2398
Yy-3731-2  Will You Always Love Me (Lou Traveller & Henry Halstead)* Zonophone 2398
Yy-3732-1  The Cat’s Whiskers (Felix Austed & Ed Gladstone) *
Zonophone 2399
Yy-3733-2  Why Worry Blues
(John V. ‘Bud’ Sheppard, George Byron Webb & Vic Sell) *
Zonophone 2399, Ariel 319. Ariel issue labelled as “anonymous”.

van straten image 12The members of the Original Capitol Orchestra of 1923-1924. L-R: Vic Sell, trumpet/Richard MacDonald, trombone/Les Russuck, banjo/William Sell, drums, percussion/Harold Evans, tuba and string bass/Leon Van Straten, violin, leader/Tracy Mumma, alto saxophone, clarinet/ George Byron Webb, alto saxophone, clarinet, director/John V. “Budd” Sheppard, piano.

Here is another spin-off from the Original Capitol Orchestra, recorded from late October 1923 through to about March 1924. A surprise entry that was unknown in the circles of Leon Van Straten history. A trio from the Original Capitol Orchestra. However, the entity stays as a trio for just recording purposes only once.


John V. Sheppard, piano/Les Russuck, banjo/Tracy Mumma, clarinet. This is the first session with the threesome, a smaller combination, which proved to be a bland interpretation of two rather sprightly songs. The first title had great success when Al Jolson used the song in 1921 in a Shubert Brothers show “Bombo” on Broadway. The second written by the legendary banjo star Harry Reser in collaboration with ace trumpet player, Tommy Gott. The Trio’s rendition in its impact, according to music reviewers and critics, was bland. So, the trio grouping was augmented. This is the first and only record date, “sans maestro Van Straten”.

Hayes Middlesex, c. October 1923
Yy-matrix ?  Dirty Hands ! Dirty Face ! (James V. Monaco)
Zonophone 2412 (stamper number X48091)
Yy-matrix ?  Shy (Harry Reser & Tommy Gott)
Zonophone 2412 (stamper number X48092)


All Zonophone and Ariel labellings as “New Orleans Trio”. John Vincent Sheppard, piano/George Byron Webb, alto saxophone/Tracy Keith Mumma, clarinet/Leon Van Straten, violin, directing/Victor Howard Sell, trumpet.

Hayes, Middlesex, 18 December, 1923 (Released March 1924)
Yy-4154-?  Nifty Lou (Byron Gay)
Zonophone 2424
Yy-4155-?  Foolish Child (Lindsay McPhail & Roy Bargy)
Zonophone 2424
Yy-4156-1 Marcheta (Victor Schertzinger)
Zonophone 2425 (stamper number is 48095)
Yy-4157-1 Dreamy Melody (Ted Koehler, Frank Magine & C. Naset)
Zonophone 2425, Ariel 337 (stamper number is 48096)

van straten image 15bThe sheet music for the song “Foolish Child” was recorded but rejected from the first Zonophone record session of The Original Capitol Orchestra, but made by the Quintet as the “New Orleans Trio”.

23 November 1923
Yy-3884-1  House Of David Blues
(Elmer Schoebel, Billy Meyers & Irving Mills)  Zonophone 2411
Yy-3885-3  Bye Bye (Harry F. Reser)  Zonophone 2411
Yy-3886-1, 2  Foolish Child (Jack Nelson, Lindsay McPhail & Roy Bargy) Zonophone  Rejected

van straten image 18Extract of the March 1924, Zonophone catalogue which lists the output by the New Orleans Trio which, in fact was a quintet created after the lacklustre sales of the first October, 1923 recording date.


van straten image 22a

14 December 1923
Yy-3970-1  Blue Hoosier Blues (Abel Baer, Cliff Friend & Jack Meskill) * Zonophone 2426
Yy-3971-1  Broadway Blues (Carey Morgan & Arthur Swanstrom)
Zonophone 2427
Yy-3972-1, 2  Felix Kept On Walking (Hubert W. David & Ed E. Bryant)
* Zonophone 2426, Ariel 662
Yy-3973-2  Last Night On The Back Porch (Carl Straubstader & Lew Brown) *  Zonophone 2427, Ariel 333
Ariel issues as “Ariel Dance Orchestra”

van straten image 19a

21 January 1924
Yy-4111-1, 2  Susannah’s Squeaking Shoes
(Muriel Lillie & Arthur A.P. Brome Weigall)  Zonophone  Rejected
Yy-4112-2  When It’s Night Time In Italy (James Kendis & Lew Brown)
Zonophone 2437, Ariel 649
Yy-4113-1  There’s A Bungalow That’s Waiting (F. L. Stafford) *
(Uncredited writers are Earl Lisson & Joseph Sears)  Zonophone 2437
Yy-4114-2  Tiger Rag (Nick La Rocca) * Zonophone 2447
Ariel issue as “Ariel Dance Orchestra”

van straten image 25b


18 February 1924
Yy-4211-2  Mama Loves Papa (Abel Baer & Cliff Friend)
Zonophone 2436
Yy-4212-2 In A Tent (Frank Magine, Joe Lyons & Ted Koehler)
Zonophone 2437
Yy-4213-1  Gigolette (Franz Lehar)  Zonophone 2436, Ariel 655
Ariel issue as “Ariel Dance Orchestra”


As previous session for the quintet ensemble grouping.

Hayes, Middlesex, c. March 1924
Yy-4157-3   I’ve Got Another Sweetheart
(Christine Maitland and Dot Schreiber)
Zonophone 2438 (stamper number X-48098)
Yy-4158-3 When Will The Sun Shine For Me ?
(Benny Davis & Abner Silver)
Zonophone 2438, Ariel 337  (stamper number X-48097)
Yy-4159-1  Just Keep On Dancing (Billy Mayerl & Gee Paul)
Zonophone 2439
Yy-4169-1  Dead Broke (John V. Sheppard)
Zonophone 2439

Leon Van Straten was also available to write musical scores for private clients. Such are two pieces written in 1924 for piano and voice which come under the category of ‘lieder, art songs, melodies’ accompanying French poems of note. Labelled as “Deux melodies” No. 2 (Paris/Edition - Maurice Senart) “Un jeune homme” (for high voice & piano) and “Sonnet d’Arvers” (medium voice & piano). Leon then decided to try his luck in the music industry and moved to America. Once establishing his credentials in New York’s Yerkes’ Band Booking Agency whilst there, Leon Van Straten came to Australia as the formal leader, arranger and composer for the Yerkes’ S.S. Flotilla Orchestra in August 1924.

Leon Van Straten’s abilities to lead an orchestra and to write musical orchestrations and new songs were his strong point. During 1924 or early 1925 he wrote a new waltz song which was played at the “Wattle Path”.

Composed as “Blue Lagoon” with lyrics by Gordon Stretton, a copy of the original sheet music is held in the National Library of Australia Collection and is not available online. The cover shows the Leon Van Straten led Yerkes S.S. Flotilla Orchestra playing at “Wattle Path”, St. Kilda venue. Collins Music are the publishers and Leon Van Straten is credited only as “Leon Straten” despite his name being correct for the cover’s photograph.


Leon Van Straten, producer, directing/Alex King, cornet/Harry Mehden, trombone/Bert Worth, alto saxophone/Al H. Maneson, piano/ Charlie Navarro Guarino, banjo/Martin ‘Whitey’ Higley, drums. The executive producer is Noel Pemberton Billing.

It’s possible that these were hand-picked American players, even though many of the Harry Yerkes’ S.S. Flotilla Orchestra musicians had already returned to USA. Alex King was a much-respected musician who upon his return to America had picked up regular work on radio, records and live performance through the organisation run by orchestral entrepreneur and band booker, Ed Wallace Kirkeby (1895–1978). Kirkeby managed and handled the bookings for his jazz ensembles including, popular bands as The California Ramblers, The Original Memphis Five, The Five Birmingham Babies, University Six and The Golden Gate Orchestra.

At this time, other overseas musicians such as Harry Mehden, trombonist, Martin ‘Whitey’ Higley and Charlie Navarro Guarino were three dance band players who were touring with the Bert Ralton Havana Band. In fact, those three musicians Mehden, Guarino and Higley left Melbourne to play in the Ralton Havava Band in Adelaide in August, and were in Perth during September for booked engagements, again with the Bert Ralton aggregation. So, for such a special recording session organised for Noel Pemberton Billing at his Bay Street, Brighton based label called “World Records” during July 1925 it’s more than likely that experienced musicians could be called on from those St. Kilda venues and to be hired for a couple of special double sided discs to sell to the public. This would be clever marketing by Noel Pemberton Billing cashing in on the success of internationally acclaimed musicians playing in the dance capitol of Melbourne, Australia during the summer through winter season of the calendar year. The second “World Records” date would be of a similar personnel and probably a matter of days apart in June–July 1925. The recording matrixes are in running order, which for World Records could mean the same day, but it could also be different times or days. The highly gifted, but eccentric millionaire, UK politician and businessman was quite a charmer and a well-known identity of his time, and could easily be compared to later era Melbourne recording company producers like Planet Records’ Bob “King” Crawford in the 1950s and the Hammard Record Company’s Sino Guzzardi in the 1970’s. Both businessmen carried the highly tuned acumen of the British pioneer, but had not ventured into the political sphere of Australian government as the British counterpart.

So, the titles for the sessions are as follows. All popular songs of the day.


Melbourne, c. June–July 1925

D67 Sunset (Ray Klages, Barney Rapp & Ray Trotta)
Austral Duplex 43/44
D68 Oh, Joseph (Leo Fall) Austral Duplex 43/44

van straten image 28aHarry Yerkes


Leon Van Straten, producer, directing/Alex King, cornet/Harry Mehden, trombone/Bert Worth, alto saxophone/Al H. Maneson, piano/ Charlie Navarro Guarino, banjo/Martin ‘Whitey’ Higley, drums. The executive producer is Noel Pemberton Billing.

Melbourne, c. June–July 1925

D69 Follow the Swallow (Mort Dixon & Ray Henderson)
Austral Duplex 45/46
D70 Charleston Charley (Gene Austin, Emmet O’Hara & Irving Mills)
Austral Duplex 45/46

These World (Austral Duplex sessions) are an oddity of their time as little can be detailed accurately. Point being, the band that was engaged to play at “Wattle Path” in St. Kilda was Yerkes’ S.S. Flotilla Orchestra which was on contract and many of the American musicians of the larger twenty-five-member orchestra that Harry Yerkes’ Organisation managed of the original ensemble returned to USA. And, payments for the group dwindled. After all, the Yerkes’ head office was in New York. So, Leon Van Straten, who was in charge of the reduced Yerkes’ outfit, chose to add local musicians to replace the original Americans. The blend had mixed results and crowds fell away in attendance. However, Leon Van Straten, is understood to have been supervisor for a six-piece ensemble for recording purposes only, purely as a jazz music combination. Leon would have enjoyed Noel Pemberton Billing and his business acumen.

Together the two were able to create an idea which would be a saleable product for dance music and jazz lovers to listen to a local band they danced to and could enjoy at home played on their gramophone. Noel Pemberton Billing was able to get good sales from his patented wafer & shellac discs at two shillings and sixpence. And, Columbia was yet to start recording in Sydney yet, but it was coming very soon.

van straten image 31aAn example of Wattle Path Palais advertising in 1926 which featured highlights of the time promoting the music and dancing of those days. In the middle, shows the personable, Mr. Noel Pemberton Billing, who was entrepreneur, record producer and manufacturer of recordings in Melbourne in the middle 1920’s. At right, is an example of the big time promotion Harry Yerkes had in New York and “Variety” newspaper about 1923.

van straten image 34bLeon Van Straten and his Melbourne band musicians shown in a poor quality sheet music print about 1925. The band played at the “Wattle Path Palais” in the middle of the leading entertainment capital of Australia. That being, of the one and only, St. Kilda.

During this time in mid-1925, Leon Van Straten met and married a local, Australian woman by the name of Evelyn Sophia Meyers (1895–1968), and the couple eloped to England. The situation brought about by the Yerkes’ obligations which were becoming difficult to cope with. The duo’s elopement to London gave the young lovers an opportunity to escape the crushing failure of the American experiment. Leon Van Straten set up his own band in London in March 1926 which enjoyed much success at the “Riviera Club” which had some notoriety for flouting liquor laws, and entertaining revellers from royalty to the posh, elite society families. He also led his orchestra at the “Green Park Hotel” (1926–1928) and later at famous “Claridge’s Hotel” (1928–1930). The BBC Archives list a direct broadcast made from the “Riviera Club” over 2LO (BBC) for Thursday, 23 December 1926 playing Christmas dance music from 6.35 pm, and hosted by I.C. Humphreys. By 1931, Leon decided to focus on his other important ‘day job’, that was as an osteopath specialist. He set up as a Harley Street specialist in 1936 when his son, Frank was born, and by 1939 the Van Straten family had left London, going via New York where their child, Frank lapped up the New York’s World Fair (1939–1940), meeting adults the same size as the boy, who was going on five years of age. In reality, young Frank mixed with the MGM dwarfs and midgets from the film cast of “The Wizard of Oz”. The Van Straten family left London in October 1939 going via New York and sailing safe routes to Melbourne Australia, arriving early in 1940.

van straten image 35bLeon Van Straten, wife Evelyn and son Frank visited the New York World’s Fair in 1939 en route to Australia at the commencement of the Second World War. The young, almost five year old boy was thrilled to meet people of his own size, Munchkins featured in the MGM film “The Wizard Of Oz” which starred Judy Garland.

van straten image 39bAbove left is Alfred Van Straten, who took leadership of the orchestra once brother, Leon had decided to focus his energies on the osteo-medical profession he had trained for, which was mainly working in the prestigious Harley Street, London business addresses from 1936. Brothers Alfred and Joseph then continued with a band booking agency and high quality guitar instument making after the war in ancilliary musical professions they knew well.

Leon Van Straten’s brothers, Joseph (c.1907–1991) and Alfred (1905–1988) were also part of the Riviera Club Orchestra, and branched out to do some of their own band engagements. One is indefinite, “Van Straten & His Band” played at the “Strand Corner House”, London in the basement location from November, 1925 for a non-specific period of time. Brother Alfred has two listings for this group, which included Joseph in the ensemble, plus making two Pathe musical film shorts in 1938. The orchestra also made some recordings for the Parlophone label. Alfred Van Straten & His Band, which was only a trio played “Not Restaurant” at Leicester Square beginning May 1930 through to June 1931. More than likely the trio played music for diners, primarily, rather than just music for dancing. Alfred also led an orchestra at “Quaglino’s Restaurant” which at times featured the Australian singer and violinist, Brian Lawrance with his Band. Alfred Van Straten played two residencies at “Quaglino’s” from June 1931 to May 1932 and a second season at the restaurant during 1938 and throughout 1939.

During the Second World War years (1939–1945) Alfred led his own band at the “Embassy Club” and the “Piccadilly Hotel”. He retired from leading an orchestra in his youthful forties and opened his own booking agency for cabaret and band work which he ran for nearly 50 years up till his death in 1988. The third member of the Van Straten siblings was Joseph, who after World War Two opened his own manufacturing of plectrum guitar’s business in 1946. Named as Straten Symphony Guitars, the factory produced top line British made instruments and the initial endorsements came from star guitarist virtuosi, Ivor and Jack Mairants, who were top shelf instrumentalists of the London dance music scene, as well a studio orchestra sessions, and radio and TV works.

By 1940, Leon Van Straten and his family settled in Melbourne, and their son Frank, eventually becoming the well-known ABC radio historian, the Director/CEO of the Melbourne Performing Arts Museum, and noted author of many coffee table sized books on the arts and its celebrities of the Melbourne and Australian theatre and musical world. So, here we go, with the music which exists. Frank has kindly loaned his own original ‘test’ pressings of the Duophone dates of 1926. They are one only shellac copies. Most likely, the only ones in existence. The first EBW disc features Max Goldberg on trumpet, plus pianist, Jay Wilbur and drummer and comedian, Max Bacon. All were luminaries of the London dance orchestra scene, and musicians of countless recording dates and held in the highest esteem by London’s ballroom dancers and jazz aficionados.

van straten image 41aVan’s Ten for the Edison Bell record company recorded the first orchestral discs in 1926 featuring the star of tomorrow, trumpet ace, Max Goldberg who eventually left England after World War Two as the country’s Number One brass player, to come to Melbourne, Australia to play in the GTV9 television studio orchestra which was one of the best of its era from 1958 onwards till 1969. Max then worked with jazz ensembles and taught trumpet in the Victorian state schools system till retirement. Both Leon Van Straten and Max Goldberg renewed their friendship from the London dance music scene thirty years earlier.


Leon Van Straten, violin, leader, directing/Max Goldberg, Frank Wilson, trumpets/Richard MacDonald, trombone/Joseph Van Straten, soprano and alto saxophones/Alfred Van Straten, tenor saxophone/Jay Wilbur, piano/Joe Brannelly, banjo/Ralph Williams, tuba/Max Bacon, drums/ Harry Fay, vocalist.

London, c. March 1926
9922-1 Valencia (Jose Padilla) Edison Bell Winner EBW-4390
9923-1 Then I’ll Be Happy (Cliff Friend, Sidney Clare & Lew Brown) vHF Edison Bell Winner EBW-4393


van straten image 44aHarry Fay


Personnel as above. Vocal refrains were assigned to the second two titles, which may possibly have been singer, Harry Fay. The residency at the Ambassador Club, Conduit Street, London was from April 1926 to September 1926.

His Master’s Voice-Zonophone Studios, Hayes, Middlesex, 26 April 1926
All titles from this recording session at Zonophone were rejected.
Yy-8327-1, 2 I’m In Love with You (Neil Moret)
Yy-8328-1, 2 Lonesome and Sorry (Benny Davis & Con Conrad) vHF
Yy-8329-1, 2 Villa Rosa (Funiculi, Funicula) (Luigi Denza) (6/8) vHF
Yy-8330-1, 2 La Golondrina (The Swallow) (Narciso Serradell Sevilla)


Leon Van Straten, violin, leader, directing/Frank Wilson and another (?), trumpets/Richard MacDonald, trombone/Joseph Van Straten, soprano and alto saxophones/Alfred Van Straten, tenor saxophone/Jay Wilbur, piano/Joe Brannelly, banjo/Ralph Williams, sousaphone, string bass/ Louis Stevenson, drums/All vocals by Peter Bernard.

The shellac ‘test pressings have Aeolian-Vocalion client customer number # 4285 on the custom labels. It should also be noted that collector buffs in the UK in recent times, have commented on the fact that these flexible, vulcanised rubber pressings on Duophone after 100 years are anything but flexible. Duophone unbreakable discs are now, very brittle, warped and stretched out of shape. They are most difficult to restore to any level of excellence for digital restoration. The newly found shellac discs in the collection of Frank Van Straten, AM are in good shape. They have been restored by leading Australian sound engineer, Ian Dodds of the Crystal Stream Audio label. Ian Dodds’ work is regularly reviewed in the “Memory Lane” magazine out of the UK.

van straten image 47b

London, November–December 1926
DU-8342-1 Mary Lou (Abe Lyman, George Waggner & J. Russell Robinson) vPB  Duophone UB-2058
DU-8343-1 My Cutey’s Due At Two-To-Two Today
(Leo Robin & Albert Von Tilzer) vPB  Duophone UB-2057
DU-8344-1 Pining For You (Phil Spitalny & Gus Kahn) vPB
Duophone UB-2060
DU-8345-1 Save A Little Sunshine for a Rainy Day
(Dorothy Fields, Bud Green & Al Bernard) vPB
Duophone UB-2061

van straten image 50a


Personnel as last. No changes.
London, c. December 1926
DU-8349-1 Sunny Swanee (Reg Tabbush)  Duophone (flexible) UB-2059
DU-8350-1 Just A Bird’s Eye View (Of My Old Kentucky Home)
(Gus Kahn & Walter Donaldson)  Duophone UB-2060
DU-8351-1 Indian Butterfly (Edgar Leslie, Henry Lodge & Billy Stone)
Duophone UB-2058
DU-8352-1 In A Little Garden (Earl Whittemore & Felice S. Iula)
Duophone UB-2061
DU-8353-1 Caring for You (Carl Lang) Duophone UB-2057
DU-8354-1 If Tears Could Bring You Back to Me
(Tommy Connor & Manning Sherwin)  Duophone UB-2056

van straten image 52a


Personnel as last, but Bert Hadley, banjo replaces Joe Brannelly.
Possibly Harry Fay, vocals (?)
London, 5 January 1927
All titles recorded for the Imperial label, were rejected. It appears that there may have been no vocal refrains performed at this date.
4580-1 Roses For Remembrance (Gus Kahn & Mann Curtis)
4581-1 Crazy Quilt (Paul Van Loan)
4582-1 Tell Me You Love Me (Leslie Hare & Robert King)
4583-1 I Wonder What’s Become of Joe? (Maceo Pinkard)

van straten image 54a


Personnel as last session for Imperial records. Harry Fay, vocals?
London, c. January–February 1927
DU-8380-1 The More We Are Together
(Jimmy Campbell & Reg Connelly) vHF  Duophone UB-2075
DU-8381-1 Sweet As A Rose (Chester Wallace & Everett Lynton) vHF
Duophone UB-2088
DU-8382-1 Hi-Diddle-Diddle (Carlton Coon & Hal Keidel)
Duophone UB-2075
DU-8383-1 Hindoo Loo (Cliff Friend, George Whiting & Jesse Stafford)
Duophone ? untraced. Test pressing only ?
DU-8384-1 I Can’t Get Over A Girl Like You Loving A Boy Like Me
(Harry Ruskin & Martin Broones)
Duophone ? untraced. Test pressing only ?
DU-8385-1 How Could Red Riding Hood? (Alfred Pace Randolph) vHF
Duophone UB-2088


Leon Van Straten, violin, leader, directing/Frank Wilson and another (?), trumpets/Richard MacDonald, trombone/Joseph Van Straten, soprano & alto saxophones/Alfred Van Straten, tenor saxophone/Bruce Merrill, piano/Joe Brannelly, banjo/Ralph Williams, sousaphone, string bass/ Jack Olivieri, drums. Vocals by Gerald Adams or Stanley Kirkby.

London, February, 1927
10620-1 Talking to The Moon (Billy Baskette) vStanley Kirkby
Edison Bell Winner  EBW 4592
10621-2 All’s Well That Ends Well (Con Conrad & Sam Coslow) 
vGerald Adams
Edison Bell Winner EBW 4602
10622-1 Crying for The Moon (Larry Conley, Jack Stern & Jules Roos) vStanley Kirkby
Edison Bell Winner EBW 4602
10623-1, 2 In A Little Spanish Town (‘Twas On A Night Like This)
(Sam Lewis, Joe Young & Mabel Wayne)
Edison Bell Winner EBW 4592

van straten image 57a

The one only known copy of a sepia photograph from Frank Van Straten’s personal collection showcases the orchestra from c. February 1927.

It should be noted not all the band members in the image are present on the Edison Bell Winner, London recording session of February 1927.

van straten image 62aLeft to right potentially: Ralph Williams, double bass and sousaphone/unidentified ? cello/unidentified ? 2nd violin/Alfred Van Straten, flute, soprano and alto saxophones/Bruce Merrill, piano/Leon Van Straten, leader and violin/Joseph Van Straten, clarinet/Frank Wilson, trumpet/ Jack Olivieri, drums, tympany and assorted percussion instruments/ Richard MacDonald, trombone.



I must thank the following contributions of the following people and these identities, some also under pseudonyms. Firstly, to Frank Van Straten, AM. Thank you for the past 51 years of your fostering, encouraging and the support of my work. You are the best. To Ian Dodds of Crystal Stream Audio, whose assistance with technical support and the restoration work donated freely, has been of tremendous help over the past 25 years. Ian Dodds is responsible for the restoration of the one only shellac ‘test’ pressings made available through the benevolence of Mr. Van Straten himself.

van straten image 63Frank Van Straten and the Tivoli Tappers in book launch for his “Tivoli” book.The ladies are directed by the legendary Vicki Charleston (nee Battle) far right of the photograph.

Thanks also, to Steve Rattle of “Aunty Stef Productions” for the loan of his original 78 rpm recordings to add to the collection.

From the internet the following individuals have given access to important content that this historical document is all about.

Many are from the Youtube website (San Francisco, USA)

Nick Dellow of “Memory Lane” magazine (UK)

Ian Hellings, trumpet star and dance music orchestration historian

Radiomuseum Hardthausen

Giorgio N. R. Nenadov

Julian Dye

Hot Jazz 78 rpms

Henk Gloudemans

EMG Colonel

World Radio History (“Melody Maker” - 1926 editions complete)

6dbperOctave (New Orleans Trio information & recordings)

The National Library of Australia (Canberra)

National Film & Sound Archive (Canberra)

Sheetmusic Warehouse Online (UK)

Mike Thomas, British Record Labels (


van straten image 64Bert Ralton’s Savoy Havana Band toured across Australia during 1925 and from a sheet music cover photograph shows the star players from the epoch. Noel Pemberton Billing at World Records Co., recorded the orchestra for his label. It would appear as the orchestra toured and exited Melbourne after their visit in 1925, Leon Van Straten brought some of the players together for the record session as Bert Worth’s Flotilla Sextette and the Yerkes S. S. Flotilla Sextette. This included about three of the Americans still on hand from Wattle Path who hadn’t returned back to America. Most of the visiting instrumentalists had already left and returned to USA. Through Leon Van Straten’s consultation and Noel Pemberton Billing’s insistance four titles were recorded for World and released to the public extolling the jazz elements and the fact that overseas musicians had performed in St. Kilda. It was quite some feat for Noel because he hated to be defeated when trying new marketing ploys.