Ray Noble Biography
Stanley Raymond Noble, 17 December 1903, Brighton, Sussex, England, d. 2 April 1978, London, England. The son of a part-time songwriter and musician, Noble attended choir school, Dulwich College and Cambridge University before studying at the Royal College of Music. In 1926 he won a Melody Maker arranging contest and worked for music publisher Lawrence Wright and Jack Paynes BBC Dance Orchestra before becoming a staff arranger at HMV Records, eventually succeeding Carroll Gibbons as Head of Light Music. He conducted the companys New Mayfair Orchestra and New Mayfair Novelty Orchestra before forming his own sweet-swing studio band which included top musicians Freddy Gardner, Alfie Noakes, Bill Harty, Tiny Winters, Max Goldberg, Nat Gonella, Lew Davis and the most popular vocalist of the 30s, Al Bowlly. Bowllys vocals on songs such as Time On My Hands, Close Your Eyes, How Could We Be Wrong and Lazy Day are considered outstanding examples of the orchestras substantial output, alongside the singers interpretations of Nobles own compositions. Noble wrote his first hit song, Goodnight Sweetheart, in 1931, and during the early 30s, followed it with By The Fireside, I Found You, and What More Can I Ask. One of his biggest successes, Love Is The Sweetest Thing attracted much attention because of the similarity of its first five notes to the first five of the British national anthem, God Save The King.
Ray Nobles ensemble was the first British band to become popular on records in the USA, and, having had hits there since 1931, including Lady Of Spain, Love Is The Sweetest Thing and The Old Spinning Wheel, Noble went to the USA in 1934, taking with him drummer/manager Bill Harty and Al Bowlly. Glenn Miller assisted him in organizing an American orchestra which included, at various times, future leaders Claude Thornhill, Charlie Spivak, Pee Wee Irwin, Will Bradley, and soloists Bud Freeman and George Van Eps. They had hits with Isle Of Capri, Paris In The Spring, Lets Swing It, Ive Got You Under My Skin and Easy To Love (with Bowlly on vocals), along with Nobles own songs, The Very Thought Of You, Love Locked Out (lyric by Max Kester), and The Touch Of Your Lips. In 1936, after the orchestras very successful engagement at New Yorks Rainbow Room, Bowlly returned to England, and in the following year the band broke up, re-forming later in the 30s.
Noble subsequently went to Hollywood. He had been there in 1935 to appear in The Big Broadcast Of 1936 in which Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman sang his song, Why The Stars Come Out Tonight. This time he appeared as a silly ass Englishman in the Fred Astaire movie A Damsel In Distress, and later duetted with Astaire on the record version of his eccentric dance, The Yam, and accompanied him on songs such as Change Partners, Nice Work If You Can Get It and A Foggy Day. He also backed singer Buddy Clarke on his US number 1, Linda, and Ill Dance At Your Wedding. Noble continued to have successful records in the US until the end of the 40s with songs such as Ive Got My Love To Keep Me Warm, Alexanders Ragtime Band and By The Light Of The Silvery Moon. Recordings of his compositions Cherokee (by Charlie Barnet) and I Hadnt Anyone Till You were highlights of the Swing Era. After returning briefly to England in 1938 to play in variety, Noble worked consistently in America, playing musical and comedy roles on Burns And Allens radio show, and later through to the 50s, with ventriloquist Edgar Bergen on radio and television, sometimes playing stooge to Bergens famous partner, Charlie McCarthy. When the latter series ended in the mid-50s Noble retired to Santa Barbara, California, subsequently spending some years in Jersey in the Channel Islands.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.