In 1930 a talented musician aged 21 decided to form a dance band, and hey presto, the country’s longest running entertainment unit, if not the world, was born and has been juicing it non-stop ever since! The Joe Loss Orchestra now directed by Todd Miller still appears across the country to this day.
I say “entertaining” because Joe always said, “even though we’re in the music business, we’re also entertainers.” When Joe fell ill in 1990, he asked Todd to take over the Orchestra and not a single booking was cancelled. Todd himself joined the Orchestra in 1972 and is now considered by many to be one of the foremost men in the business.
In 1969 Joe decided, for financial reasons, that he would reduce the lineup to ten musicians and three vocalists. He felt that if the moment was right he would reassemble the big band. Indeed to this day there are many musicians playing in today’s big bands who appear in the Joe Loss Big Band whenever the band is booked.
About the big bands and their leaders there is a funny story related to Joe and Billy Cotton. It seems that one morning right after the war ended, Joe arrived home after a gig before breakfast. After a little tea and still in his pajamas and nightgown, who should be knocking on the front door but Billy Cotton in a brand new car. He insisted on taking Joe for a walk and despite the gloomy weather conditions, very cold and with heavy snowfall, they went out into the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the car ran out of gas (still being rationed at the time didn’t help) and Billy left Joe in the car while he set out to find the garage. There sat Joe icy cold and chattering teeth when the local bobby came. Pushing his bike, he asked why Joe was sitting in the car in the freezing cold in his pajamas and nightgown. Joe told the police that he was Joe Loss and that Billy Cotton had gone to try to get gas. From the look in his eyes, the police found it hard to believe such a story, until Billy reappeared with a can of petrol and convinced skeptics that it was true! The cop biked away with a smile on his face with two precious autographs in his notebook!
But I digress. With an eight-member band, playing in the style of Oscar Rabin’s Romany Band at the Astoria Ballroom, Joe took his first steps to fame. His growing popularity earned him a job at the Kit Kat Club where he made many broadcasts outside the BBC. While there he raised the personnel to 11 plus a young female vocalist – croonette as they were known. She made her first broadcast singing “Red Sails In The Sunset” the top hit of the day in 1935. She was only 18 years old and in years to come to be “Forces Favorite” was none other than Vera Lynn.
After a long stay in London, Joe began touring the music halls, as many bands did at the time. During the war he brought bands to entertain troops around England and eventually to France and Holland. In 1946 Joe began a regular residency on the Isle of Man from May to late September, which lasted until 1959. With the merger of the ITV company, Joe and the orchestra became the house band for ABC and opened all television. territories across the UK during the period 1956-1960. They should be seen regularly on television often up to four times a week. This was followed by a long residency at Palais Hammersmith until August 1969 which was only broken by an 18 week season at Empire Leicester Square and 12 months at the Lyceum in 1967. They then moved to Empire until November 1970 where Joe decided to retire. He told Sam Watmough, the band’s current manager, who joined in 1956 that during the meeting he should inform the band of his decision.
Joe opened his speech by saying, “Gentlemen, we will be leaving the Empire and Mecca in 6 weeks on November 30th.” This brought Stan Pickstock, lead trumpeter, to his feet, Stan had been with the band since 1961, who said, “great, now we can get back on the road,” to which the band clapped. But Joe was surprised and said, “I don’t think you want to. go on the road again, but if you do that’s fine.” So the Joe Loss Orchestra returned to action and has remained that way ever since.
When Joe first became too ill to travel Toodd fronted the Orchestra until Joe eventually retired on January 31st 1990, two weeks before his 81st birthday. Joe passed away on 8th June, many thought that the Orchestra would not carry on without him, how wrong they were! They remain one of the most popular and busiest bands in the country. To quote Sam Watmough, who had been Joe’s manager for 30 years, “I knew what Joe wanted and we are still proud to be known as Todd Miller and the Joe Loss Orchestra.” As Todd himself says, “We must be doing something right!”