The Gerald Crossman Players

Gerald CrossmanA popular feature of 'Music While You Work' was the accordion ensemble. Several distinguished exponents of this now rather neglected instrument led their own groups through many a programme. They included Albert Delroy, Delmondi, Henry Krein, Jack Emblow and Gerald Crossman. Also popular were the accordion bands of George Scott-Wood and Primo Scala.

Gerald Crossman was born on 5th April 1920 in Upper Holloway, North London. His was a very musical family; father was a mandolin player who owned two music shops and mother was a music teacher. Three cousins also became famous. Joe Crossman played for Lew Stone, Jack Hylton, Ambrose and other dance bands. The other two cousins were Jock Jacobson (Lew Stone's drummer) and guitarist Sid Jacobson.

Gerald Crossman took up the piano at the age of five and, after having lessons from his mother, studied at Trinity College of Music. He took up the accordion at the age of 12 and became proficient on the saxophone, clarinet and trumpet. One of his piano teachers was the well-known Edward Rubach.

In the late thirties, whilst still a teenager, Gerald Crossman played summer seasons in hotels in Cliftonville and London's Tottenham Court Road. He played with orchestras in Lyons' Corner Houses, and appeared solo in West End Theatres.

Gerald commenced his recording and broadcasting career in 1938/9 with recitals on the BBC Empire Service and with the Karl Kaylus Players, at that time directed by violinist Fred Alexander. The following year Gerald did some ENSA shows, but spent much of the time in Bournemouth with the orchestra of Plummer Roddis' Department Store Sundeck Restaurant.

Gerald joined the RAF in 1940 and three years later became RAF Central Band Sergeant Music Instructor, subsequently directing voluntary bands which included such musicians as Ernest Tomlinson and trumpeter Ronnie Hughes. After being posted to India in 1945, Gerald broadcast on accordion and piano for the Forces Radio and All-India Radio. He was Administrator/Music Instructor of the Royal Indian Air Force Band and was actually offered the illustrious post of Director of European Music, should he choose to remain in India after demobilisation; he declined this offer.

Demobilised in 1946, Gerald joined the Harry Gordon Quartet at a holiday camp in Paignton in Devon. Returning to London, he made many connections through broadcasting with light orchestras, and through recording and film music sessions — connections that were to last for several decades.

Gerald CrossmanGerald Crossman has composed over 100 pieces of light music, the first of which, 'Granada Mia' and 'Marcha Espagnol', were published in 1948. Other titles include: 'A Night in Montmartre', 'Boulevards de Paris', 'Milou', 'Can-Can Dancers', 'La Vida Latina', 'All Hands For'ard', 'Banda Espanola', 'Poverino Mio', 'Tanto Gusto', 'The Happy Bachelor', 'The Albany Waltz,' 'Nochecita', 'All In Step', 'Fantango' and many others. Gerald Crossman wrote, and played, the music for several films, including 'The House of the Arrow.' In others he has brief on-screen appearances playing accordion, notably in the Morecambe and Wise favourite 'The Magnificent Two.'

After the war, he continued to perform in restaurants and in Lyons' Corner Houses, playing in the orchestras of Fredric Cooper and David Java. He also played with Falkman's Apache Band and recalls how Lionel Falkman used to walk amongst the restaurant tables playing his violin. Gerald later worked aboard the Cunard liners Queen Mary and Caronia, travelling to New York, and to Buenos Aires aboard the Royal Mail ship Andes.

Early television appearances include playing solo accordion to the accompaniment of Eric Robinson's Orchestra in the early fifties from Alexandra Palace. Around this time he formed an accordion quartet for light music broadcasts, followed shortly afterwards by the combination that was to make him a household name in radio, The Gerald Crossman Players whose signature tune was 'A Night in Montmartre'. Their first broadcast was in 'Music While You Work' on Thursday 13th November 1952 at 10.30 a.m. The players consisted of three accordions, saxophone doubling clarinet/bass clarinet and violin, piano, double bass and percussion. Their contrasting repertoire included marches, paso dobles, waltzes, entr'acte numbers and selections from shows and films. Gerald arranged some pieces himself, but the majority were done by the publishers' staff arrangers (in liaison with Gerald, of course).

With so many light music periods available to the many ensembles and small orchestras that were so popular with listeners in the fifties, Gerald found himself in the studios nearly every day, playing for one or more of them. He still found time to lead his players in numerous editions of 'Bright and Early', 'Morning Music' and various untitled, announced programmes, some with a guest artist. The players did 123 MWYW programmes — 24 in 1959 alone. Each programme apparently took three days to plan, so Gerald must have been under some pressure when, on one occasion, he played a 45-minute Friday afternoon show with another live edition on the following Monday. The players' three accordionists were Gerald, Albert Delroy and Ivor Beynon — alternatively, Emilio or Reg Hogarth. Pianists over the years included Billy Mayerl, Maurice Arnold, Edward Rubach, William Davies and Sidney Davey. The woodwind player was originally Frank Reidy, but later was Michael Salmons, who also played the violin.

As the arrangements were done by a number of different musicians, Gerald had to spend time fine tuning them to ensure that they accurately reflected the style of the ensemble — a refined and sometimes quite delicate style. 'I didn't want it to sound like an accordion band!' Gerald told me. In addition to the Players, he had a group on Radio Luxembourg and sometimes broadcast at the piano with a trio in 'Morning Music.'


The Gerald Crossman Players about to play their first Music While You Work programme

Gerald Crossman has played in most of the top London hotels — Savoy, Ritz, Hilton, Dorchester, Claridge's and others — and has performed with combinations as diverse as Ted Heath, Nat Temple, Edmundo Ros, the BBC Concert Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. He played for Fredric Cooper's Tipica Orchestra, in which the clarinettist was the distinguished classical player, Jack Brymer, who apparently loved doing MWYW. Gerald also played for Bernard Monshin, Anton, Ralph Elman, David Java, Marcel Gardner, Frank Baron, George Scott-Wood, Ronald Hanmer, Harry Davidson, Henry Krein's Montmartre Players, Bryan Smith and Jack Salisbury (for Grand Hotel). If that wasn't enough, he sometimes deputised in the orchestras of Sydney Thompson, Sidney Bowman, Troise, Primo Scala, Mantovani, Ray Martin and Frank Chacksfield, occasionally appearing with Phil Green, Norrie Paramor, Philip Martell, Matyas Seiber, Ron Goodwin, Peter Knight and Cyril Ornadel.

He played the piano at many American Air Force bases accompanying Roy Castle, Tommy Cooper and Bob Monkhouse. He fronted dance bands at dinner/dances after film premieres and acted as British adjudicator at world accordion championships around Europe.

The Gerald Crossman Players were heard for the last time in October 1966. Apart from one 15-minute solo interlude in 1978, Gerald has not broadcast in his own name since the sixties — a time when the BBC's axe fell upon so many long-standing broadcasters.

With the demise of radio work, Gerald spent nine years during the seventies regularly playing on P&O cruises. He also provided the accompaniment for a season of silent films at the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street and, in the 1980s, he was resident pianist at the Ritz Hotel.

In later years, Gerald has had the opportunity to entertain at Senior Citizens' Friendship Clubs, hospitals and hospices, assisted by his wife Miriam (to whom he has been happily married since 1968) with her humorous monologues.

During his long professional career Gerald has met and accompanied such notable performers as Marlene Dietrich, Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir Harry Secombe, Jack Hawkins and Charlie Chaplin. Indeed, his accordion can be heard in the sound version of Chaplin's The Pilgrim.

(I am indebted to Gerald Crossman for providing me with copious notes on his career, parts of which have been quoted verbatim).


A recent picture of Gerald Crossman


Click here!
Listen to 'Music While You Work' played by The Gerald Crossman Players
as broadcast at 10.31 a.m. on 2nd October 1961.

MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK at 10.31 a.m. on 2nd October 1961
played by The Gerald Crossman Players

Calling All Workers (Sig)
Ici on Parle Francaise
What do you Want?
Bonita
Annie Laurie
Tanto Gusto
Fancy Free
Zaragosa
Dublin Delight
Yodelling Mountaineer
Selection: Gigi
Calling All Workers (
Sig)
Eric Coates
George Scott-Wood
Les Vandyke
Lesley Steele
arr.Gerald Crossman
Gerald Crossman
Cecil Norman
Kenneth Baynes
Tom Richardson
Louis Voss
Frederick Loewe
Eric Coates

BRIGHT AND EARLY at 6.30 a.m. on the Home Service on 16th October 1953
played by The Gerald Crossman Players

The Whistling Gypsy
Medley: Un Voyage en France
The Waltzing Bugle Boy
Don Roberto
Red Petticoats
Tomboy
Tarentella
Show and Film Medley
Frank Baron
arr. Marcel Gardner
Ray Martin
Albert Delroy
Lambrecht
Trevor Duncan
Gerald Crossman
arr. Hurst

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Text by Brian Reynolds : e-mail brian@mastersofmelody.co.uk