Teddy Brown

Teddy Brown (born Abraham Himmelbrand, 25 May 1900 – 29 April 1946) was an American entertainer who spent the latter part of his life performing in Britain. He first played in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, but moved to the field of popular music in the late 1910s. He was percussionist for a time with Julius Lenzberg's Riverside Theatre Orchestra, and his earliest recordings were xylophone solos with Lenzberg's band on Edison Records in 1919 and 1920.

He was noted for his rotund appearance, approaching 400 pounds in weight, and was often compared to (or considered the British answer to) another rotund band leader of the same era, Paul Whiteman.

Brown naturally played the other percussion instruments very well, in addition to the tenor saxophone. He also whistled melodies while playing percussion.

He arrived in London in 1926. The next year he formed his own orchestra, playing at the Café de Paris. He went on to play in other nightclubs both in London and Paris including the Kit Kat Club. The custom-made Besson xylophone he played had a five-octave range, one more than the normal. In 1927, the UK division of Lee de Forest's Phonofilm made a short film of Brown playing this instrument.

As Brown's considerable percussive skills and fame in the UK spread, he appeared in an early sound feature-length movie in 1930, co-directed by a young Alfred Hitchcock, titled Elstree Calling, a musical variety review that answered Paul Whiteman's music review feature film of the same year, King of Jazz, with both films featuring early color sequences. Elstree was the movie and radio studio complex where many famous films and radio shows were produced in the early days of British media entertainment. A variety of impressive older musical and comedic vaudeville acts and new talent were featured in each of the two films.

Brown's appearances in Elstree Calling won favorable audiences reviews at the time. His third appearance in the film was the most impressive, as he plays the xylophone with amazingly fast precision, using only one hand at a time, and sometimes behind his back.

Brown's rapid-fire style was an early influence on percussionist, band-leader Spike Jones, who would launch his own high-energy career a decade later.

From 1931 on Brown played on the radio, in films and the variety stage playing the xylophone. His appearance was dapper but quite stout but he was nimble and often danced around the xylophone while playing. He became very popular with audiences and appeared in the Royal Variety Performance in 1931. He was associated with The Crazy Gang, and was often the subject of their jokes. He died of a heart attack in 1946 (age 46) after appearing in a concert at The Wolverhampton Hippodrome.

Selected filmographyEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Oxford Companion to Popular Music published by Oxford University Press, 1991 ISBN 0-19-280004-3

External linksEdit