CD Duration: 47.07 / Year: 2019
January 2019 release containing his last recordings. Features the Blackpool Opera House Wurlitzer from 1970.
Tribute by Frank Hare / Jolly Good Company (Signature tune)
Al Jolson Medley: Sonny Boy / Carolina in the Morning / Mammy
Jerome Kern Medley: Look for the Silver Lining / Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man / Bill / Only Make Believe
Dream / All I Have To Do Is Dream
Pal of My Cradle Days
Student Prince Medley: In Old Heidelberg / Serenade / Drinking Song / Serenade (Reprise)
She Shall Have Music
I’m In the Mood for Love / Little Serenade / Perfidia
South Pacific Medley: Bali Hai / Some Enchanted Evening / This Nearly Was Mine
Sally / Sweet Sue / Sign Off and Signature Tune (Jolly Good Company)
SLEEVE NOTES (PART):
Watson Holmes joined the Tower Company in 1943 and retired in 1966. Like many other Theatre Organists, he commenced learning the piano at the age of seven and progressed to accompanying silent films before turning to the organ, training under Doctor William Ellis at Newcastle Cathedral and Henry Goss-Gustard at Liverpool Cathedral.
In 1933 he joined the Granada circuit, subsequently becoming resident at the Granada, Mansfield in 1936. With the outbreak of world war two, he joined the Royal Corps of Signals but was discharged from active service in 1943 and was appointed organist at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, remaining there until Horace Finch returned from serving with the Royal Air Force.
When the Tower company purchased the Wurlitzer organ from the Madame Tussaud cinema in London, Watson took up the position as resident organist at the Palace Ballroom, beginning a regular series of BBC broadcasts from here and the Opera House Wurlitzer which was part of the Winter Gardens entertainment complex. This organ has the distinction of being the last Wurlitzer to be installed in Britain, arriving in 1939. The grand opening in July was a mere six weeks before the outbreak of world war two.
Retirement for Watson was far from dull and with a booming club scene in Blackpool, he was to be found playing the Hammond organ at a number of venues along with appearances at various cinema organ club events around Britain, one being the opening of the Ossett Compton/Christie organ on Sunday 2nd January 1970 where he shared the programme with Hubert Selby.
The recordings featured on this CD were made by Ron Ogden, one of the Tower team of organists at this period. It seems they were made somewhat surreptitiously, possibly early one Sunday morning, as the lack of any ambience from the hall suggests the organ was not fully ‘stretched’. For Watson it may have been a moving occasion. Could he have been recalling past years and the many hours spent at various organs. Perhaps the reason for him recreating his patter in the style of one of his many broadcasts.
Nevertheless, although his voice is frail, the spirit is willing to put a familiar Wurlitzer organ through a programme of tunes that must have all been regular favourites. As a final coda to his imaginary broadcast, one poignant moment comes when we read a scribbled note on the original master tape box which simply states, “All played from memory.”
Producers Note: Due to poor storage conditions, the master tapes were not in good condition when discovered. Despite many hours of diligent studio recovery work, sadly, many recordings have been lost forever.
Cover photo from an original print by Saidman Bros. Blackpool. Copy courtesy of the Wayne Ivany collection.