Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Story of Anne Lenner by Ray Pallett

I stubled upon on the evening of September 2. 2008, where I to my surprise, found a rare article by this gentleman, Ray Pallett, describing the life of Anne Lenner.

Not five minutes went by. I wrote Ray asking for his permission to copy and paste it into my blog.
Main reason being, that it's good. Secondly to have one more copy of it on the Internet.
No one knows if it one day would disappear.
I'm not the only one, who's taken by her voice. Better be safe, than sorry.

With kind permission from Ray Pallett, I present his great and rare article to future readers in unedited form. I've added better spacing. If I didn't, it would be too hard to read on this blog.

The article can be found at:

Once more, my personal thanks goes to Ray Pallett, for making this possible.


The story of Anne Lenner
By Ray Pallett

Anne Lenner, the vocalist mostly associated with Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans had a silky voice and sung with perfect English diction yet was able to put feeling into her songs and sing rhythmically when called for. Her voice can be summed-up, perhaps as "sophisticatedly sexy".

I first became aware of her lovely voice when listening to an album of radio transcription discs made by Carroll Gibbons with Anne for a Radio Luxembourg programme sponsored by Hartley’s Jam. Not only were the arrangements really attractive but it was Anne’s singing which made the album instantly one of the favourites in my collection. Discographer Brian Rust, who wrote the liner notes to the album described Anne as one of the best three female vocalists in Britain at the time. One of the tracks on the album is Pardon My Southern Accent. Of course the song refers to the deep south of the USA, but Anne sings it with her perfect Southern Accent, meaning in her case, the south of England!

I had, in fact, met Anne several times at the Memory Lane Party Nights held in London during the 1980s and 1990s. She attended many of them and used to sing a few numbers with the band. She was one of our most popular celebrity guests. Looking back, I was witnessing history being re-made – but I did not realise it at the time. She was a most charming lady and never disappointed the many fans who talked to her at the Party Nights. Several people recently wrote to me asking for an article on Anne and amazingly I realised that although we have run articles on her two famous sisters, Shirley Lenner and Judy Shirley, we had never devoted a feature to Anne. We now aim to correct this very serious omission.

Anne was born as Violet Green on Christmas Eve 1912 to a show business family in Aylestone, a suburb of Leicester and attended the local King Richard’s Road school. Her father was Londoner Arthur Green a veteran variety artiste who had adopted the stage name of Tom Lenner and toured in reviews and variety with Anne’s mother Florence Wright (her maiden name) who also sang. Anne had five sisters, Florence (who became Judy Shirley), Maidie, Ida, Rosa (who used the stage name Sally Rose) and Ivy (who became Shirley Lenner). At the time of writing, the only sister still surviving is Rosa who is still sprightly and lives in Sussex. The sisters all followed their father into show business apart from Maidie who married a property millionaire. Anne also had two brothers, Herbert and Arthur. Herbert died at a young age and Arthur went on to become a cobbler! Sister Shirley Lenner had a successful career in show business and sung with Joe Loss among others; she died at an early age due to an accident in her home.
Anne’s first stage appearance was in a family production of acting, singing and dancing billed as Tom Lenner and his Chicks. Later Anne teamed up with Ida and formed The Lenner Sisters. Anne remembers from her early days in Leicester doing a concert at the de Montfort Hotel, as well as singing Ramona with Ida on stage at the City Cinema, tea dances at the Palais de Danse in Belgrave Gate and Sundays at Aylestone Boathouse. The Lenner Sisters song and dance act ended when Ida got married and started a double-act with her new husband. Her elder singer Judy paid for Anne to have dancing lessons so she could understudy Judy in a production showing at the Loughborough Theatre.

Around this time, Anne married a dance producer of a review she was appearing in by the name of Piddock who is now deceased. They had one son Jeffrey who went into show business under the name of Jeffrey Lenner. Jeffery was educated at Bedford School but ran away to join the Ice Follies which came through town when he was in the 6th Form. Anne’s nephew John Doyle, whose mother was Maidie, assisted with information for this feature and recalled that Anne had hoped for a diplomatic career for her son! John recalls that Jeffrey could not find work after his return from Australia where he hosted his own TV programme, which was probably the zenith of his career. He was never able to emulate the success his mother enjoyed in her earlier career.
Unfortunately Jeffrey died following complications after pneumonia about four years ago at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London near where he lived. I recall Jeffrey accompanying Anne to the Memory Lane Party Nights. John Doyle has fond memories of Jeffrey: "I hero worshipped him as a kid and he was a big brother to me. He was a terrific athlete at school and was altogether a super guy with a terrific sense of humour. He had much of Anne's charm, talent and good looks when he was younger and I was enormously fond of him and devastated by his inability to cope in later life."

Returning to her earlier career, Anne was now performing solo at charity shows, benefits and social clubs. She was soon heard by agents who were impressed by her unique voice and by 1933 engagements in London were being offered. She appeared at Jack’s Club and the Cabaret Club where she had to perform with a megaphone! At another engagement in 1934 at Murray’s Club in Soho’s Beak Street she was heard by Savoy Hotel bandleader Carroll Gibbons.
Carroll was so impressed with Anne’s sweet and fresh voice that he invited her to record with his group for a Radio Luxembourg broadcast sponsored by Hartley’s Jam. The story goes that the session was booked for 9:30am the next morning but Anne was late for what was her first really big break. But Carroll was so keen, he booked another session with Anne for later that day. The broadcasts were so successful that Anne was given a three year contract to sing with Carroll at the Savoy Hotel. The stuffy Savoy management objected to the presence of a girl vocalist, but Carroll believed in Anne so much that he refused to give in. In the event she stayed with him for seven years.

Apart from the Hartley’s Jam programme, Anne also appeared with Carroll Gibbons in the "Ovaltineys" programme where she became known to millions of children as "Auntie Anne".
Anne never adopted the "mid-Atlantic" twang affecting many of her contemporaries. Nor did she "project" her voice at the audience. With her soft pure voice she was ideal for the typically English sounding Savoy Orpheans and fitted in very well, becoming very popular not only with patrons of the Savoy, but also with the record-buying public and the huge radio audiences. It was a glamorous world in which she was a part. Many of her fabulous dresses were designed by Colin Becke whose sister was vocalist Eve Becke. Anne recalled: "My days were always very full and time flew. I was very lucky to be singing during a period of the best song writers and I think when British dance music was at its best."

Her contract for the Savoy did not prevent her from recording just one song with Joe Loss in 1936 or appearing with Eric Wild and his Tea-timers who were regularly on pre-war TV from Alexandra Palace. Anne recalled having to wear green lipstick when on the embryonic TV station. In the same year she also contributed to bandleader George Scott-Wood’s record "Fred and Ginger Selection" where she sung Lovely To Look At and duetted with Brian Lawrance on I Won’t Dance.

Some of the other standards Anne recorded and especially enjoyed during the 1930s were All The Things You Are, There’s A Lull In My Life, A Foggy Day, Room 504, Sing For Your Supper and Broadway Rhythm. . She made over 150 titles with Carroll, both with the full band and with a smaller contingent which Carroll called his Boy Friends. It was with the Boy Friends that Anne made the Hartley’s Jam broadcasts mentioned above. These radio programmes were introduced by Jimmy Dyrenforth who introduced Anne as the "girl friend". Incidentally, Carroll and Dyrenforth co-wrote many of the songs sung by Anne on the Hartley’s shows.

Anne spoke very fondly of Carroll Gibbons. In her own words: "To work with, he was the most understanding, gentle and kind person. The boys respected and loved him. He was not only the boss but interested in their private lives and was a friend to all of them. Carroll’s boys all looked good and were very versatile, especially George Melachrino who played oboe, viola and sax and Reg Leopold who played violin, viola and sax. I loved singing with the full orchestra but also enjoyed sessions with The Boyfriends and the sweet trumpet of Bill Shakespeare. Through Carroll’s influence, I enjoyed tremendous respect and kindness from all of them."

Around the outbreak of war, Anne got married again to up-and coming actor Gordon Little who was in the Navy stationed at Portsmouth. Nephew John Doyle recalls: "My earliest recollections were of a house in Warsash, Hampshire during the war, which Anne rented to be near Gordon who was commanding a torpedo boat in the Navy at the time with the flotilla moored near Warsash. I remember there where lots of parties but he was a disciplinarian who was not very kind to Jeffrey or myself." Anne and a friend Eustace Hoey opened the Ward Room, a very smart club in Curzon Street especially for Gordon so he and his Navy chums had somewhere to go on visits to London. The marriage didn’t last for long after the war. Gordon apparently deserted her and remarried ! There were no children and Anne did not marry again.

Anne had left the Savoy Hotel in 1941 to be able to spend more time with Gordon. Nevertheless she kept up her broadcasting and recording dates with the Savoy Orpheans. She also appeared on BBC radio in the weekly series Composer Cavalcade with the BBC Concert orchestra directed by organist Sidney Torch. She shared the singing spots with Denny Dennis, George Melachrino and Sam Costa, all of whom were by now in the forces. She was also in demand for ENSA shows and was called upon to sing at official Government functions and performed in front of Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower among others.

She appeared in the 1940 British comedy film Garrison Follies which also included David Tomlinson and Barry Lupino, and on another occasion her singing voice was dubbed for actress Ann Todd.

During the war years, Anne sung with a number of other bands notably Jay Wilbur, Jack White, Louis Levy, and Frank Weir at the Astor club where George Shearing was in the band. She only recorded a handful of songs with these bands. She also recorded just one song with Maurice Winnick; on the other side of the record Al Bowlly took the vocal. Anne also sung on broadcasts with the Stan Atkins’ Band around this time.

After the war she did troop shows in Austria, Germany and Italy, one with her trio which included Spike Milligan on vocals and guitar of whom she later said: "He is a lovely man, so talented. We still keep in touch and I visit him and his wife at their lovely Sussex home." Her overseas work also included Monte Carlo where she had a show at the Casino and in Paris where she sung with Bert Firman. She never sang in the USA although a tour was planned but was scuppered by the outbreak of war.

Back in the United Kingdom, Anne was singing solo. She could also be found teaming up with Bob Harvey for a double-act entitled "Just The Two Of Us".
Anne noticing that the entertainment world was changing, decided to retire from show business. John Doyle believes that her voice was starting to fail which may have been partly due to heavy smoking and the strain placed on her vocal chords by working without microphones during her early career. By now her marriage to Gordon Little was over and she was looking for a new direction. Following a chance meeting with an admirer from the Savoy days, she managed to get a job as a telephonist in the Civil Service working for the security services. John Doyle recalls her producing the annual Civil Service show on several occasions.

Of her later life, John Doyle has these memories: "Anne was my favourite Aunt, she was intelligent, used to do the Times crossword in half an hour and seemed to have many interests but above all, a very big heart. She was funny, with a terrific personality, always interested and interesting, a great, natural, entertainer with a big personality. She was devastated by her only son's inability to cope with his later life and spent a lot of her later years taking care of,first her mother, who died at 102 years of age and then Jeffrey, as well as trying to be a companion to my mother who was suffering from uncontrolled diabetes. Anne lived for many years in Edgware, north London, in an uncomfortable flat opposite Edgware station and despite her previously glamorous life, never complained about her circumstances. I remember watching a film she made about her racing experiences with the 'Bentley Boys' at Brooklands, before the war. I also remember being thrilled when she dedicated a song to me on the radio, called Johnny Peddler. I used to peddle my little car around at the time and thought it was all about me! I must have been all of five or six at the time!."

Anne died at the age of 84 on June 4th, 1997 at Barnet Hospital after a short illness. Anne's death certificate states the cause of death as metastatic carcinoma. Carroll Gibbons’ widow Joan recalls "Anne was a marvellous raconteur, a very quick brain and with a strong sense of humour. She once told me that she would have liked to have been a comedienne. She suffered from failing eyesight towards the end of her life and found it difficult to get around."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

YouTube clips added

Take a look at the video section.
YouTube is added with "Anne Lenner" prefix.

As they turn up on YouTube, they'll be added here automatically.

YouTube videos with Carroll Gibbons prefix added.


Thanks to Michael J. Dutton some recordings have been restored from either original tapes, wire or records. I don't know which, but they've been restored very well. Allthough not in stereo, the quality is definately HiFi, which is remarkable since they're more than 70 years old.

Following CD's contain restored recordings of Anne Lenner:

CDEA 6047: Carroll Gibbons & The Savoy Hotel Orpheans Volume Two (1935-40) "Broadway Rhythm", (Vocalion 2001)
UPC/EAN: 0765387604721

CDEA 6085: Carroll Gibbons & The Savoy Hotel Orpheans Volume 3 (1936-40) "Play Orchestra Play", (Vocalion 2006)
UPC/EAN: 0765387608521

CDEA 6105: Carroll Gibbons & The Savoy Hotel Orpheans, Volume 4, "Please Remember", (Vocalion 2005)
UPC/EAN: 0765387610524

CDEA 6124: Carroll Gibbons & The Savoy Hotel Orpheans Volume 5 (1931-39) "On The Avenue", (Vocalion 2007)
UPC/EAN: 0765387612429

CDEA 6076: Jack White & His Collegians "LET THE BAND PLAY", (Vocalion 2002)
UPC/EAN: 0765387607623

These can be bought directly from Vocalions website:

There's also this:

Gibbons,carroll & the Savoy Hotel Orpheans "Sweet As a Song" (2008)
UPC/EAN: 0671765216823

Please. Feel free to add to this list.
There must be more.


I welcome you to my blog.

For quite some time I've been stunned by Anne Lenner's truly amazing vocal performances and wanted to learn more of her life in music. But there's not much information of her available on the Internet.

Listening to her is like having your molested soul licked tenderly by a sweet female tongue, healing the cuts, scuffs, marks and wounds.

She was born December 24, 1912 and passed away June 4, 1997.

Others have come across her performances as well. I thought it might be time to gather and organize information.

Thank you.

Kindest regards