30 March 1900, Wandsworth, London, England, d. 18 November 1969, Virginia Water, Surrey, England. After playing tenor horn at the age of six, Heath later switched to trombone and throughout the 20s and 30s played with top orchestras such as Jack Hylton, Al Sarita, Sydney Lipton, and in the early 40s with Geraldo. On 7 May 1945 (VJ Day), he formed his own band, some of the early finance being provided by royalties from the songs That Lovely Weekend and Im Gonna Love That Guy, written by Heath and his wife Moira. Kenny Baker, Jack Parnell, Ronnie Chamberlain and Don Lusher were just some of the top musicians who played for him, plus vocalists Paul Carpenter and Beryl Davis. In 1946 the band provided the musical background for the first major UK movie musical, London Town. Taking a big chance, Heath hired the London Palladium for a Sunday Night Swing Session, which proved to be so successful, that it ran for several years. The addition of singers Lita Roza, Dennis Lotis and Dickie Valentine in the early 50s gave the band more teenage appeal, and they appeared in three more films, Dance Hall (1950), Its A Wonderful World (1956) andJazz Boat (1960). Their theme, Listen To My Music, introduced many specialities including Opus One, The Champ, Dragnet, Skin Deep, Hot Toddy and Swingin Shepherd Blues. The Heath band was the first unit to go to the USA when Musicians Union restrictions were relaxed and Anglo-American exchanges began in 1955, and subsequently toured there many times.
Heath died in 1969. Many of the original personnel continued to play together usually under the direction of Jack Parnell or Don Lusher and made a farewell concert tour in autumn 2000. An important series of biographical programmes was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 in 1993. The band compared favourably with even Americas top units, and it is generally accepted as being the best swing band that Britain ever produced.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.