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Len Goodman's Dance Band Days

Len Goodman takes a step back in time to the heyday of British dance bands, a golden age of music in the years between the wars that laid the foundations for 20th-century pop.

Len Goodman takes a step back in time to the heyday of British dance bands, a golden age of music that laid the foundations for 20th-century pop. In the years between the wars, band leaders such as Bert Ambrose and Jack Hylton were household names and the country danced its socks off. It was a time of radio and records, when Britain absorbed black American music and gave it a unique twist.

Many of the bands played in the posh society hotels of London's West End. Some were making big money and enjoying the high life. They were also keen to broadcast to the nation via the new BBC. Len discovers that 'Auntie' had a tricky relationship with the bands - though they formed a key part of the corporation's entertainment output, during the 1920s and 1930s there were concerns about the influence of American culture, song-plugging and commercialisation.

Crooning was also developed as a new style of singing, thanks in part to the development of better microphones. But this new 'intimate' form of singing did not impress everyone at the corporation. Despite the BBC's concerns the vocalists continued to enjoy huge success and fame, as did the bands. Len follows the story of vocalist Al Bowlly, a man of huge talent who attracted great public adoration. Al was killed in London's blitz and buried in a mass grave - a sad and symbolic moment in the history of dance bands.

Len discovers how we went dance band crazy and asks why, within just two decades, our love affair with this music began to fall flat.

59 minutes

Last on

Sat 9 Sep 2017 23:30


Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • Jack Payne

    Tiger Rag

  • Billy Cotton


  • Piccadilly Dance Orchestra

    Midnight, The Stars and You

  • Carroll Gibbons & Savoy Orpheans

    Dinner at Eight

  • Carroll Gibbons & Savoy Orpheans

    I'm For You a Hundred Percent

  • Ambrose and His Orchestra

    I Still Get a Thrill Thinking of You

  • Ambrose and His Orchestra

    The Way You Look Tonight

  • Ambrose and His Orchestra

    I'm Gonna Get You

  • Derek Scott & Kyle Horch

    Cryin' for the Carolines

  • Earl Carroll

    Swing and Sway

  • Noble Sissle

    Happy Feet

  • Ambrose and His Orchestra

    The Continental

  • Jack Hylton

    Me and Jane in a Plane

  • Jack Hylton

    We're in the Money

  • Al Bowlly

    I'm Gonna Sit Right Down

  • Ambrose and His Orchestra

    When You Gotta Sing You Gotta Sing

  • 00:30

    Al Bowlly

    Roll Up The Carpet

  • Jack Hylton

    Boom! (Why Does My Heart Go Boom?)

  • Jack Hylton

    Choo Choo

  • Roy Fox & His Band

    Jig Time

  • Billy Thorburn

    It Happened on the Beach at Bali Bali

  • Felix Mendelssohn & His Hawaiian Serenaders

    Song of the Islands

  • Raymonde and His Banjo Band

    Blaze Away

  • Henry Hall & The BBC Dance Orchestra

    It's Just the Time for Dancing

  • Felix Mendelssohn & Gerry Fitzgerald

    So Rare

  • Roy Fox


  • Al Bowlly

    Learn to Croon

  • Al Bowlly & Monia Liter

    The Very Thought of You

  • Al Bowlly & Monia Liter

    My Melancholy Baby

  • Billy Cotton

    I'm Gonna Wash My Hands of You

  • Lew Stone & Al Bowlly

    How Could We Be Wrong

  • Ambrose and His Orchestra

    My Kid's a Crooner

  • Joe Loss

    Counting Crotchets in My Sleep

  • Jack Hylton

    Ca C'est Paris

  • Al Bowlly

    When That Man is Dead and Gone

  • Ray Noble and His Orchestra

    The Echo of a Song (feat. Al Bowlly)

  • Piccadilly Dance Orchestra

    Music. Maestro, Please!

Len on Strictly

Len on Strictly
Visit Len Goodman over at his BBC One home, as one of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing.

View Len's page on the Strictly website


Role Contributor
Presenter Len Goodman
Executive Producer Tony Parker
Executive Producer Clare Paterson
Producer Roger Keech
Director Roger Keech