given name Sydney Lawrence
birth June 26, 1923, Shotton, North Wales, United Kingdom
death May 5, 1998
father a steelworker and part-time drummer
education Deeside Central School, Shotton, North Wales
military service English Royal Air Force (RAF), posted to the Middle East, 1942-46
wife Catherine, m.1951
residence Cheshire, Northwest England
Ironically, because Lawrence had been sent to the Middle East during World War II, he wasn't able to personally see Glenn Miller's famed Army Air Force Band, which arrived in England in June 1944.
Within 24 hours of being demobilized in 1946, Lawrence went on tour with a band, then worked around London until 1953.
Syd Lawrence - In His Own Words:
"I hoped to get a job with the Northern Variety Orchestra, but there was nothing going on, so
I took a job flogging and repairing Hoovers. I remember on one occasion sitting on this lady's
floor with her Hoover in bits all around me, telling her that I used to play trumpet with Geraldo.
After I left, I could just imagine what she must have said to her husband that evening. I had
this crazy Hoover repair man here today saying he used to play with Geraldo! I think those 8
months will be embedded in my mind for ever."
"I toured as a young musician but nothing like I've toured since! The dates keep coming and
the guys stay with me. We're all friends and there's a good atmosphere in the band."
"Whenever we play we invariably get a lot of requests handed up on pieces of paper and some
of the titles you wouldn't believe! The Peanut Bender, Porky and Bess, Jumping at the Woodpile,
Woodpecker's Ball, Murder on Tenth Avenue, Moonlight in Moscow, Star of India, Spanky and
perhaps the best one of all, Catch the Hay Train! (The Peanut Vendor, Porgy and Bess, Jumping
at the Woodside, Woodchopper's Ball, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Midnight in Moscow, Song
of India, Splanky, Take the 'A' Train.)"
With the enthusiastic support of The International Glenn Miller Society, headquartered in England, his fame as a respected and witty bandleader grew - and spread around the world.
Lawrence's orchestra made its London debut at the Royal Festival Hall in December 1969, then performed in February 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall.
Not unlike Miller, whose theme song was Moonlight Serenade, Lawrence used a composition titled Evening Serenade.
Over the years, Lawrence and his band appeared at thousands of dances and concerts, including, quite prominently, the more than 20 annual Miller anniversary shows in London and Croydon.
They also did much radio and TV work, and recorded about 15 albums for Fontana and Philips, before Lawrence started his own record label, Beechpark, in 1979.
For instance, an early 1970s LP, "Something Old Something New," combined original Miller arrangements like Sun Valley Jump and Long Tall Mama with more contemporary songs, including Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head and Alfie, done in the Miller style.
"Nothing sounds quite like Glenn Miller...," an advertisement in Jazz Journal International claimed, "...except the sound of the Syd Lawrence Orchestra."
Meanwhile, with interest in big band music re-ignited in England, several additional groups, such as a UK Glenn Miller Orchestra, initially co-directed by Ray McVay and John Watson, and an orchestra led by Glenn's brother, Herb Miller, sprang up there.
Lawrence responded by broadening his musical policy to include music in his programs and on his recordings from other American name bands.
But on August 12, 1989, Lawrence entered semi-retirement when he handed leadership of his band over to pianist Bryan Pendleton. Trombonist-vocalist Chris Dean assumed the reins in 1996, and Lawrence passed away two years afterwards.
The big bands are back
in a new and exciting way!
by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA
He became a professional trumpeter at the age of 18.
Beginning in the 1940s, he was in various British ensembles, including Cyril Stapleton (1949-50), Geraldo (1951), and, for 15-1/2 years, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Northern Dance Orchestra.
In November 1967, tired of playing pop music, he organized his own big band and began by playing Tuesday night concerts of Glenn Miller music in Manchester, England, in a faithful and skilled manner.
The very first Miller disc Lawrence had purchased was said to be Adios. Studying that and other original Miller recordings, Lawrence was able to painstakingly transcribe the arrangements, so his new band could play them note-for-note.
Tony Eaton, "Baton Passed to Bryan Pendleton At Swinging Felixstowe Concert,"
[ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, 5th Edition 1989, p.pp.1-3.
Denis Gifford, "Obituary: Syd Lawrence," Independent, May 7, 1998.
Paul Holroyd, "Band Is Faultless," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, 1st Edition
---, "Impeccable Playing By This Band," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader,
6th Edition 1983, p.8.
Doug Le Vicki, "Syd Lawrence Off to USA for GM Anniversary Concert with Mods, Dick
Haymes and Tony Bennett," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 132
Volume 20 / Aug. 1974, p.12.
Dick March, "Fifth Year of the Syd Lawrence Anniversary Miller Music Concerts,"
[ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 129 Volume 20 / Feb. 1974, p.8.
---, "GMS Presentation to Syd Lawrence," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader,
6th Edition 1989, p.9.
---, "Record Review: Syd Lawrence Breaks with Philips After Ten Years," [ Glenn Miller
Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 163 Volume 25 / Oct. 1979, p.9.
---, "Syd Lawrence returns to the Festival Hall," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight
Serenader, 4th Edition 1987, p.5.
"No GM Anniversary At Albert Hall December SL Will Be At Wembley," [ Glenn Miller
Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 157 Volume 24 / Oct. 1978, p.1.
Martin Stern, "The Best Band in the Land," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader,
4th Edition 1984, p.9.
---, "Mainly Miller At Syd Lawrence's GM Concert," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight
Serenader, Number 147 Volume 23 / Feb. 1977, pp.4-5.
"Syd Plans to Restrict His Appearances," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader,
3rd Edition 1989, p.1.
Roland Taylor, "Behind the Headlines: Syd Lawrence Band Big London Debut,"
[ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, 2nd Edition 1984, p.2.
---, "British Bandleader Syd Lawrence Dies," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader,
3rd Edition 1998, pp.5-7.
---, "SL: Miller Salute Peanuts Returns & Alan Dell Plus Sweet Substitute," [ Glenn Miller
Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 158 Volume 24 / Dec. 1978, p.1+.
Sheila Tracy, "Syd Lawrence," in Talking Swing: The British Big Bands (Edinburgh,
Scotland: Mainstream, 1997), pp.135-136.
Michael White, "Band Review," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 156
Volume 24 / Aug. 1978, pp.9-10.
---, "Band Reviews," [ Glenn Miller Society ] Moonlight Serenader, Number 159 Volume 25 /
Feb. 1979, p.9.
I would like to expand this tribute with, if possible, a new interview of someone who was important to Syd Lawrence's life or career. Are you an alumnus of his band, a member of his family, or a collector who is knowledgeable about his accomplishments? Please contact me via e-mail
Syd Lawrence LPs (select list):
"Syd Lawrence With the Glenn Miller Sound,
Fontana ( UK ) SFL 13178, rec. 1969
"Syd Lawrence Orchestra plays . . . the music of
Glenn Miller in super stereo," Philips ( UK )
6641 017, rec. 1970
"Command Performance: More Music in the
Glenn Miller Style," Fontana ( UK ) 6438 041,
"Something Old Something New," Philips ( UK )
6308 090, rec. 1971
"Sincerely, Syd Lawrence," Philips ( UK )
6308 126, rec. 1972
"Syd Lawrence Orchestra: My Favourite Things,"
Philips ( UK ) 6308 153
"This Is a Lovely Way to Spend An Evening,"
Philips ( UK ) 6308 204, rec. 1973
"The Syd Lawrence Orchestra: Swing Classics,"
Philips 6381 072
"Syd Lawrence Plays More Miller Magic,"
Philips ( UK ) 9109 214, rec. 1975