Modern Style Singing (Crooning) – Chapter Three – Al Bowlly (1934)

Why Sing At All ?

It is platitudinous to say that singing is the most common form of self-expression. Everyone, from a Cabinet Minister in his bath ,to the housewife in her kitchen, gives vent to pleasurable feeling in snatches of song. That the singing may be out of tune, harsh, raucous, tuneless, or even unrecognisable as such, does not matter a great deal. It is the desire to express happiness in song which is the point.

Of course, people want to sing for lots of other reasons. Eliminating the bathtub-and-kitchen vocalists, however, would-be singers are actuated usually by one of two motives.

The first is the desire to make money the second is vanity. Usually it is a combination of both. I do not include the man who is content to sing to an audience consisting only of himself only the man (or woman) who ” feels ” he (or she) can sing.

Every writer on popular music in the lay Press is deluged with letters from would-be crooners . “My friends tell me that I am much better than most singers one hears on the air” . ” Although I have had no experience I would like to become the singer of one of the big dance bands”. ” Please will you hear me sing, as I am convinced I can surprise you.” And so on and so on.

All these people fall into the money-or-vanity class. Mostly with the latter predominating to such an extent that they are convinced that the former will come easily. Never was there a graver error.

The way of the crooner is hard. Because of the very fact that every other person is convinced that he or she is a Heaven-sent singer, the market is more than overcrowded. Obviously, too, the vast majority are useless, and serve only to excite still further derision for the much derided art of microphone singing.

There is hardly a person, of either sex, or almost any age, who cannot “sing” in some sort of way. Fortunately, a lot of these people have neither the time nor the inclination to inflict their efforts on others. But the remainder have, apparently, both. And it is to these that this book is addressed. I hope it will save them a lot of trouble, and provide them with at least a few signposts in the wilderness of doubt and ignorance in which most of them wander.

Do not be offended if my attitude seems a little harsh, or my remarks over-cynical. But, really, out of every hundred who are convinced that they can sing, ninety are frankly dreadful, six passable, three good, and one likely to develop into anything worth while.

You, dear reader, may be just that -one. Indeed you will be lacking in self-confidence unless you think so.

But do, I beg you, temper your self-confidence with self-criticism. Take it from me that unless you have had some form of coaching or advice you cannot possibly avoid making dozens of mistakes. Even if you are gifted with a ” natural ” voice, it must be cultivated, you know.

It is the object of this book to draw attention to these possible faults ; not to ” teach you to sing.” The very fact that you are reading it suggests (unless mere idle curiosity is the reason) that you are interested in Modern Style Singing, and that you have got a secret idea tucked away somewhere, that, given the chance, you could outshine the most crooning crooner that ever irritated the irascible” ears of all the old gentlemen who write to the papers about ” emasculated moaning.”

I do not claim that the reading of this book’ will turn you into a first-class dance-style singer, but, with every modesty, I do suggest that if you follow carefully all that I have written you will at least be improved.


3 thoughts on “Modern Style Singing (Crooning) – Chapter Three – Al Bowlly (1934)

  1. Wistful Nostalgic July 20, 2020 / 4:29 am

    This is very interesting. I wonder what Al would’ve thought of the dreadful “singers” we have today who earn millions out of the noise they make! And sadly his beautiful singing style which he regarded as “modern style” is now seen as “old fashioned.” I love his voice; it’s perfection.

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  2. Wistful Nostalgic July 20, 2020 / 4:31 am

    Another point I forgot to add to my above comment is that Al writes that one must cultivate their voice even when he or she has natural talent yet I read an article from his day where he said he’d never had any singing lessons! He must’ve been a rare talent indeed.

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  3. Wistful Nostalgic July 23, 2020 / 2:59 pm

    EDIT: So I’ve now read some of the Goodnight Sweetheart biography by Ray Pallet. Al did have singing lessons in South Africa. He told tales the wag! So I can now see where he got his theoretical knowledge about singing from.

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