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Photo (C) Sharon Dawson
Tall, Blonde and Elegant
Still Loves To Sing
|It was good to learn recently that veteran singer Beryl Davis at 85
still enjoys every opportunity she can to sing on stage.
Although Beryl is suffering from failing eyesight and some short-term memory loss she lives alone and is able to look after herself. Her daughter Melinda Moore who lives close to her mother calls in regularly. She told me "Beryl is well and she still sings and remembers every word of her songs."
I first met Beryl Davis in December of 1999 while attending a special
anniversary concert remembering Glenn Miller and his AAF orchestra at
the Corn Exchange in Bedford where the late Glenn Miller did many radio
broadcast during 1944. Beryl sang with Glenn's Band during those war years
on many occasions.
Beryl was born in 1924 in Plymouth Devon, in the south west of England.
She is the daughter of late Harry Davis the guitar-playing vocalist and
leader of The Oscar Rabin band. Oscar himself preferred to sit in with
the sax section rather than out front as MD.
She was appearing then on stage with the Syd Lawrence orchestra directed by Chris Dean, his regular band now augmented with a twenty-piece string section and a French horn.
During the interval of that concert we met up with Beryl who was accompanied
|Beryl was born in 1924 in Plymouth Devon, in the south
west of England. She is the daughter of late Harry Davis the guitar-playing
vocalist and leader of The Oscar Rabin band. Oscar himself preferred to
sit in with the sax section rather than out front as MD.
When Beryl was just twelve years old she sang professionally with the band. Apart from singing at an early age she also trained as a dancer and won the all England tap-dancing championships twice.
|In the 1940's she sang with Django Reinhardt and Stephane
Grappelli appearing at the Hot Club of France.
In 2003 the Control Tower had been restored and is now a memorial
site to the RAF and Glenn Miller's association with the airfield. Beryl
was invited to open the restored Control Tower where a Plaque was installed
on the wall of the Control Tower
As she made her way up the steps she was greeted by Bill's Musical
She had come on stage to sing with the Bill Baker's Band but with no music available for her Beryl turned to the crowd to say that she was just working out what they were going to perform. "That's what happens when you're on a "one night stand".
The stage was in a small converted hanger alongside the re-furbished
control Tower on this wartime and historic airfield. Beryl had a close
association with the Glenn Miller orchestra during the war years and went
on to say, "Well Glenn Miller, I feel like
praying when I say that name, it is so special in this setting, it's magic.
Every thing that man produced gave us so much love for him, the incredible
vibes we are feeling right now, I hope you are sharing that with me.
We're going to sing a song that we just picked
because the guys knew it, well I don't know if they
knew it but the piano player knew it and that's awfully important. This
is one of Tommy Dorsey's hits "Sunny Side of the Street."
Beryl followed that with "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca.
Bill Baker told me later how thrilled he was to have such a Diva on stage with his band knowing of her close association with Glenn Miller. Bill recently wrote to me saying: -
"When I think of Beryl I have great and
proud feelings about her. I asked her if she would sing with my band on
that day and she said she would if the boys could play in her key. Not
one of my arrangements in our book was in her key. She said that her voice
was lower after all these years. Our piano player managed to transposed
a few songs for the rhythm section and two horns and we had a great fun
in playing along with Beryl Before I left Twinwood the boys in the band
brought me a gift of a painting by Keith Hill called "Twinwood Legend"
which was of a Norseman Aircraft taking off from Twinwood in 1944 just
as Glenn Miller did in such an aircraft never to be seen again.
Bill Baker. I love your Band! I want to sing with you! Keep swinging!
Love Beryl Davis."
Beryl was invited to America by Bob Hope in 1947 and did several of his radio shows. In 1948 she replaced Doris Day on Frank Sinatra's weekly show 'Your Hit Parade' and stayed for a year. In the late sixties she teamed up with Jane Russell, Della Russell and Connie Haines. Della Russell later being replaced by Rhonda Fleming They toured around the world and in 1968 came to England performing at the Northern Club circuit.
Singer Jennie Nemeth had a close association
with Beryl over many years and told me that her own singing career started
in 1972. She said, "I went to work as a cruise hostess for Princess
Italia....our jobs at that time took on many hats. We did all the entertaining
as well as all ships activities.
Harry Davis .....Mario Clema ...Buck Stapleton..Jeannie Nemeth and Beryl Davis
|While on board Beryl Davis would
come on occasionally as a "Star" entertainer. As the years passed
we became very good friends. Beryl was very generous with her musical arrangements
and her wardrobe. At any given time she would say. "Jeannie, this would
be a good song for you to sing when I'm not here". The most notable
being"Sophisticated Lady"....what a beautiful sweet giving person
she is. It was a special moment when she brought her Dad Harry Davis board...of course you probably know he had a very well known orchestra in England.
What a handsome and gracious man.
Beryl and I shared many dreams and secrets. She is a great "shopper" and fun to be with. A great moment was when we did the song "Something Stupid"...in her show.
|I spent time with her and Buck Stapleton in their
home in Hollywood while the ship was in dry dock in San Pedro. One special
occasion when the ship was in dry dock, she had a party inviting Mr. Blackwell,
the designer, where we sat around singing and eating.
When I retired from Princess I married a musician,
Elmer Nemeth, who was with a well-known Trio "The Tony Austin Trio.
We had a beautiful wedding where Beryl sang "Through the Eyes of
Love". Not a dry eye in the house!
|When Elmer and I left the sea we
formed our own quartet, "The Nutones". We have been playing regularly
together for 10 years...keeping all the good old music alive here in Sun
City Roseville, California. I'm also fortunate enough to sing with a fabulous
big band here in Sacramento. Fred Morgan and his 16-piece orchestra He plays
all the original arrangements of Glenn Miller, Harry James...and all the
We perform in concert and play for special dance parties. Elmer and I also performed in the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee for many years...doing a little Dixie land with the "K Street Ramblers". Beryl and I speak on the phone often.
She is still singing in any place that's playing music. What a lady...what a friend."
Back in 2003 and after the opening ceremony for the restored Control Tower and during Bill Bakers concert the crowd were thrilled to have a Lancaster bomber and a Spitfire do three fly passes over the Control Tower as Bill Bakers Band played the music of Glenn Miller.
|Back in 2003 and after the opening ceremony for the restored Control Tower and during Bill Bakers concert the crowd were thrilled to have a Lancaster bomber and a Spitfire do three fly passes over the Control Tower as Bill Bakers Band played the music of Glenn Miller.The afternoon brought more thrills when Ray McVay and his Glenn Miller orchestra played a 2hr concert of Miller music. Beryl Davis joined them during the second half once again reminding her audience of her association with Twinwood and Glenn Miller AAF Orchestra. Introduced by Ray she sang "Don't Sit under the Apple Tree," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "I Don't Want To Walk Without You Baby," "It's Been A Long Long Time," "The White Cliffs of Dover" and "I'll Be Seeing You."|
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