b. Nathaniel Charles Gonella, 7 March 1908, Islington, London, England. d. 6 August 1998, Gosport, Hampshire, England. A trumpeter, vocalist, and band leader, Gonella was a major pioneer of British jazz, and one of its best-loved personalities. After learning to play the cornet and read music while at school, Gonella worked in the tailoring trade and as an errand-boy, before buying his own cornet in 1923. A year later he switched to trumpet when joining Archie Pitt’s Busby Boys in the Gracie Fields revue, A Week’s Pleasure. During the four years that he was touring with that show and its successor, Safety First, Gonella began his lifelong love affair with jazz via records such as ‘Wild Man Blues’ and ‘Cushion Foot Stomp’. These featured the musician who was to influence him most, Louis Armstrong. After leaving the Busby Boys, Gonella played in dance bands led by Bob Dryden and Archie Alexander, before being hired by Billy Cotton in 1930. The Cotton band’s broadcasts from the ritzy Ciro’s Club in London provided a wider audience for this sensational up-and-coming young musician who played trumpet and sang in the Armstrong style. In the same year he began recording, and appeared on Cotton sides such as ‘That Rhythm Man’, ‘Bessie Couldn’t Help It’ and ‘The New Tiger Rag’.
From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.