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Billy Cotton

(1899—1969) bandleader and radio and television broadcaster


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b. 6 May 1899, Westminster, London, England, d. 25 March 1969, London, England. The youngest of 10 children, Cotton sang solo treble in the choir of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster. In 1914 he joined the army as a bugler-drummer and served in the Dardanelles Campaign in Gallipoli before returning to the UK and spending the rest of World War I in the Royal Flying Corps. After the war he drove London buses, played for Brentford Football Club as an amateur (and later, for the then Athenian league club Wimbledon), and raced motorcycles and cars. In the early 20s he played drums for various groups, including the Laurie Johnson Band at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley and then formed his own London Savannah Band. Cotton gave up drumming to front the band in 1925 when Clem Bernard joined the organization as pianist/arranger and stayed for over 40 years as the musical brain behind the Cotton band. Initially they played the big dancehalls, including the Astoria in London’s Charing Cross Road, and top nightclubs such as Ciro’s, in both London and Paris.

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From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.


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