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Autobiography


Bing Crosby titled his autobiography “Call Me Lucky”. I have, probably much more than Bing, been VERY lucky in my life. Of course, not on Bing's scale, but nonetheless very lucky. So maybe I should call my autobiography “Call Me VERY Lucky”!!

After that “flight of fantasy”, let me just quote a few facts to begin with. After all, that's more or less how they do it on the History Channel (and similar programmes) on television, not so?

I was born in South Africa and grew up in a poor household, but I was very happy, because my dear mother (I'm sure that our heavenly Father has made her a saint) worked herself almost to death (she washed and ironed other people's clothes, and also took in boarders to keep life and limb together) so my elder brother, Alf ( 8 years my senior) and I could always wear clean clothes (often darned and stitched and sewn, but always clean and ironed), have enough to eat, receive the basic “toys” which children used to crave (and now just accept as “must have” to start off with, and then go far beyond that) and at least get us through high school. Further than that she could not afford, and bursaries were unheard of in those far-off days. My father died when I was eight years old, so my memories of him are very vague. He owned or managed small butcheries (mostly managed) in one small town after another, and we had to move constantly, as these butcheries went broke, or were sold.

Alf and I were healthy boys, and we loved sport, so we played most games (rugby and cricket were of course the most popular ones; athletics and tennis came later; golf many years later). Rugby came first, and we excelled. We DID pass well at school though .So much so, that one of our neighbours, a Mr Jaap de Goede, one day spoke to us: “You two Holloway boys will go far one day. You, Alf, will do very well, but this little one ( I was about 7 at the time ) will do even better.” I remember those words vividly, and will do so till my dying day.

Alf became a Company Director (African Oxygen), and I became…….well, this is where I have to “brag” a little. On March 2 2003, the Big Band Academy of America presented their prestigious “Golden Bandstand Award” to me in Los Angeles. The following day I was visiting one of my many famous American music friends, Neal Hefti, and he said to me: “Henry, they don't just give those things away”. In fact, I am the only South African ever to receive one of “those things”. And here's another “in fact”: In the entire history of the Big Band Academy of America (it was founded in 1976 by Leo Walker, and followed in by Milt Bernhart in 1986) 57 people have received this award, 55 Americans, and just two people from the rest of the world, one from Britain , and me !! To give you an idea of the class of people who have received this award over the years, I mention Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, to name just three of the previous recipients. Good company indeed !!

MY contribution has been, of course, my radio programmes, “promoting” jazz (and big bands in particular) during the previous 30 years (at the time when the award was made). You will no doubt know that jazz is the only major art form to originate in America .

Call me VERY lucky that I “pestered” the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) “English Service” in early 1974 to do a radio series on Glenn Miller. The then Deputy Head of the English Service, Stephen O'Reilly, to whom I spoke at the time, said to me: “Can YOU do a series on Glenn Miller for us?” Well, I did not expect such a response to my hopeful approach , but as I had already possessed by then a massive Glenn Miller collection of records (and some books) I immediately said “Yes !” To cut a long story short (for the moment) my first “Miller Magic” series began during July of 1974 and ran for 26 weeks.

That was the start of my broadcasting career, and as I write this now, at the beginning of 2008, I am still broadcasting my “Swing, Sing and All That Jazz” programmes regularly on radio (along the way I have done two more long-running “Miller Magic” series, one of 51 chapters in 1984, and a world record one of 115 chapters in 2004/5/6) so it's been a 34 year radio career now. Much more of THAT as my story unfolds !

Most of my radio programmes (and series) have been on the national network of the SABC, but in the 1980's I was also asked to present two series for Radio RSA, the External Service of the SABC, which broadcast (in those days) to Africa, America and Europe. The one series was titled “The Big Bands” and the other “Music In The Sun”. This brought interesting “fans” into my life. One stands out: an American multi-millionaire named William Shoemaker III, who knew most of the giants of the Big Band Era personally. Bill loved to tell the story of how he and “the Ford boys” (you can guess WHICH Fords he referred to !!) used to follow the likes of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman around to soak up their music. Bill and I became such good friends that he left me all his music in his Will.

This might be the appropriate place to mention that I've also broadcast on the BBC on at least half a dozen occasions.

I must squeeze in here that I took a group of jazz/swing fans on a very successful extended tour of America in 1983. We visited many famous music “shrines” over there, and we were welcomed by a number of world-renowned people, among others Tex Beneke, Billy May, Sammy Cahn, Sammy Kaye, George Montgomery, George T. Simon (the world’s leading big band authority, who took us on a walking tour of New York City) and Dr Paul Tanner (who played trombone for Glenn Miller in the late thirties and early forties, who drove us around Southern California in a small bus to visit his friends)

On the 3 rd of May 1996 SABC television telecast the first of three documentaries on me. It was featured on the “Cape At Six” programme. When the news broke in South Africa about my “Golden Bandstand Award” in late 2002 ( Milt Bernhart's letter arrived in November 2002), SABC television tele-recorded two more documentaries on me. An interesting aside of the first one, telecast on “Pasella” on December 8 th and 9 th 2002, was that the interviewer was Karin Barnard, ex-wife of Professor Chris Barnard, who performed the world's first heart transplant. The third television documentary on me was telecast on the programme “Kwela” on February 26 th 2003 , and repeated on the day that I left for the USA to receive my “Golden Bandstand Award”, February 28 th 2003 . I was told on my return to South Africa that it was repeated again on the 2 nd of March 2003 .

Many articles and photographs appeared in South African newspapers about my “ Golden Bandstand Award” once I had returned from the USA, and I received many letters from all over South Africa on my “achievement”. Household names which I MUST mention, include Ex-President F.W. de Klerk, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, legendary golfers Gary Player and Ernie Els, billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa (a great jazz fan), the “Grand Old Man” of South African politics, Colin Eglin (former Leader of the Official Opposition), Tony Leon, another former Leader of the Official Opposition, 1995 World Cup-winning Springbok rugby captain, Francois Pienaar, and another multi-millionaire businessman, Dr Aaron Searll (who was a member of some of the many music clubs and societies which I had founded and run in Johannesburg and Cape Town for about 25 years, up to 1999).It seems appropriate that I should mention here that I founded the Glenn Miller Appreciation Society of South Africa in 1974, and the Big Band Society of South Africa in 1977.

I also founded a number of other societies, like "The Audio Visual Society of South Africa" in 1988, "The Jazz Society of South Africa" and "The Light Music Society of South Africa" (both in 1990). I also founded four clubs: "The Nostalgia Light Music Supper Club" in 1990, "The FMR Music and Dance Club" in 1995, "The Exclusive Club" in 1997 and "The Riverside Music Club" in 1999. I might mention here that I also founded the "Jazz Patrons' Fund" in 1984 to create finance to bring famous overseas artists to South Africa, and it enabled me to bring Peanuts Hucko, the legendary American clarinetist, to perform here in that same year. In 1982 I had brought Peanuts to this country on a performance tour, and I sponsored him. Both these tours were very successful, but the stresses it encompassed made me decide against further similar tours.

As a result of my receiving the “Golden Bandstand Award”, two world leaders in the luxury cruise industry approached me to do lectures on their liners. In April/May 2004 I did a month-long lecture cruise on the “Constellation” (described at the time in Conde Nast magazine as “the world's leading cruise liner”) from San Juan in Puerto Rico via the Scandinavian capitals, up the Baltic Sea to St. Petersburg . In October/November 2004 I did my second month-long lecture cruise, on the “Saga Rose” from Southampton , UK , to the Caribbean .. On both these cruises I lectured on Glenn Miller, “The Other Big Bands”, and “My Legendary Music Friends”. Those friends include, among others, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Henry Mancini, Teddy Wilson, Les Brown, Steve Allen, Bob Crosby, Mel Torme, Johnny Desmond, Sammy Kaye, Ray McKinley, Artie Shaw, Nelson Riddle, Sammy Cahn, Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, Billy May, Milt Bernhart, Ray Evans, Abe Most, Peanuts Hucko, Charlie Barnet, George Montgomery and George T. Simon (all unfortunately no longer with us), Buddy de Franco, Doris Day, Terry Gibbs, Jack Jones, Herb Ellis, Professor Paul Tanner, Ferdie Grofe Jnr., Larry O'Brien, Neal Hefti, Ralph Carmichael and Les Brown Jnr. An array of stars which few “ordinary” people can call “friends”. Call me VERY lucky that our paths crossed along my way !!!

Earlier, in 1999, another American honour had come my way. The National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences, which controls all light music in the USA , invited me to attend a very special function at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills . Les Brown had just gone into the Guinness Book of World Records for leading his Band of Renown for a staggering 60 years, and the evening of September 28 th 1999 was set to pay tribute to Les. A thousand American music VIP's (and yours truly) filled the Beverly Wilshire Ballroom to capacity. I was invited by Steve Allen to sit at his table, which was the first honour accorded me. Steve Allen, who was the Master of Ceremonies that evening, was probably America 's most outstanding all-round musical/television genius. Apart from playing Benny Goodman in THAT 1955 motion picture, Steve is without question considered the godfather of American late-night television shows. He founded the “Tonight” show, and gave many famous American entertainers their first opportunity at the highest level. He had, by 1999, composed more than 8,000 songs (!!), he was a professional pianist, comedian, produced more than 50 music albums, written more than 50 books; it goes on and on. Right at the beginning of the evening's programme, Steve spoke from the podium: ”Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I'd like to welcome a man who's come 10,000 miles from South Africa to be with us. For the past 25 years he has broadcast the music of Les Brown and our other peers on his radio programmes, internationally. Mr Henry Holloway”. The floodlights and TV cameras swung towards me and the thousand VIP's cheered like mad !!! For a long time !!! I was amazed !!! And thrilled, of course !!!

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you that I had lunch with Steve in his office suite on that same day, September 28 th 1999 , at his kind invitation. After lunch I recorded a long audio and video interview with him. I treasure that interview immensely, and show the video to friends whenever we have visitors “on my wavelength”.

On my way back home from America after that never-to-be-forgotten day (actually, a few days later, because I had private invitations from other famous music personalities like Neal Hefti, Ray Evans, Abe Most, Les Brown Jnr, Ralph Carmichael, Pat Longo, Milt Bernhart and the legendary Artie Shaw), I stopped over in England, and did a half-hour BBC broadcast, relayed my experiences, and played music by some of the American artists whom I had met on my visit. I might just add here that I have visited America and England about a dozen times each in regard to music. And it may be worth adding that these trips provided me the opportunity to build up a vast and unique private collection of photographs of me with these legends (many of which will be published in my book for the first time) and tape interviews which I have used on so many of my radio programmes and personal lectures. These will one day be available for posterity.

Talking about Les Brown: when he died on January 4 2001, I decided to do a radio series on him which would equate to that magic 60 figure which he achieved with his band, so my “Les Brown Story” ran for 60 weeks, every programme being of one hour duration. That must surely have been a new world record at that time. What say you, Guinness ?

A few months earlier, in late 1998, GSE Claremont records produced a CD in my honour (for reaching 25 years as a broadcaster). I was asked by the CEO of Claremont Records, Donald Graham, to choose the tracks (all Swing Era classics) and write the sleeve notes.

I was also interviewed on American television in 1984 for being the first person to tell the world about the “Fred Shaw theory” concerning the mysterious disappearance of Major Glenn Miller on December 15 th 1944 . Fred Shaw, who was an RAF navigator during WW II, told his story for the first time publicly at my home studio in Johannesburg on the 29 th of April 1984 . I was in the throes of doing my 51 part radio series on Radio South Africa (previously known as “The English Service”), and I had persuaded the TV section of the SABC to screen “The Glenn Miller Story” on SABC television on March 1st (it would have been Glenn's 80 th birthday that day). An SABC colleague, Stewart Doyle, told me of Fred Shaw, who was living in retirement in Johannesburg at the time (1984). Call me VERY lucky again !! Stewart said: “Henry, I was talking to Fred after a MOTHS (Memorable Order Of Tin Hats) meeting the day after ‘The Glenn Miller Story' was shown on March 1, and he told me that he saw a Norseman single-engined plane go down into the English Channel on the day that Glenn disappeared”. I invited Fred to tell his story at our April 29 th 1984 Glenn Miller Appreciation Society recital at my home studio. Fred told a stunned audience: “I was in one of 138 Lancaster bombers which left England on that cold, rainy, foggy Friday, December 15 th 1944 , to bomb a railway siding at Siegen , a small town near Cologne . Apart from our usual contingent of bombs, each Lancaster also carried a 4,000 pound “cookie” (as we called it). Before we entered German airspace, we were recalled to England because the weather was getting worse. We had to jettison those “cookies” in the jettison area (just south of Beachy Head ) in the English channel , because they were too dangerous to land with. As they were going off below us (exploding about six feet above the water surface as they did), I saw a small Norseman C64 single-engined high-wing plane, right in the area where the bombs were dropping. Then I saw it shudder, turn on its left, and go into the brink. The bomber and tail-gunner saw it too. As we had not entered German air-space, we were not debriefed on our return to base. On Christmas Eve we heard the BBC and AFN broadcasts about Major Miller's disappearance nine days earlier, and we put two and two together.”

I video-recorded Fred's chilling story, wrote it up verbatim in my IN THE MOOD newsletter, and sent it as usual to many interested parties all around the world.The British War Office asked researcher/author Roy Nesbit to check the facts, and he came up with the answer: Fred Shaw's facts tallied with his. So now this is the most plausible theory of what happened to Glenn Miller. Of course, his body was never found, so we will never be able to say for sure……Incidentally, Roy Nesbit wrote a book in 2002, titled “Missing, Believed Killed” (published by Sutton in the UK) and if you read pages 150 and 151, you'll see just about what I told you above. There's a photograph of me and Artie Shaw (why with Artie ?) on page 151, and the caption reads: “Henry Holloway, the South African broadcaster and promoter of popular music, who interviewed Fred Shaw in 1984 and brought his story to the notice of the world”.

I must also mention the fact that I married two most interesting (and famous) women.In 1976 Eve Boswell (who gained fame in England in the 1950's and 1960's for her singing) asked ME to marry HER !!! It was the first day of the Leap Year, so I guess that figured !! During the second half of the 1970's and the first half of the 80's, I met most of the top people in British showbiz through Eve (people like Lord Delfont, Dame Vera Lynn, Dame Cleo Laine, Cliff Richard, Sir John Mills, Frankie Howerd, Morecambe and Wise, Teddy Holmes of Chappell's, and also American legends Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Lena Horne). I will always laud Eve's singing as in the world's top league (she sang on Royal Command Performances in Buckingham Palace more than once, topped the bill at the London Palladium more than once as well, had two massive record hits, had her own television series in the UK, and guested on both the Nat King Cole and Ed Sullivan television series in America, most of the aforesaid in the 1950's and early 1960's). Unfortunately Eve was most difficult to live with, so I divorced her in 1985, after nine years of marriage.

In 1986 I married Marilyn Verster, Radio South Africa 's “golden girl”. Marilyn was Editor/Presenter of “Woman's World”, the flagship programme of SABC radio, for 14 years, and its Manager for a further four years. She then became Principal Broadcaster for Radio South Africa . Marilyn has interviewed some of the world's most famous people, among many others Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Liberace and Sir Tim Rice. During the past ten years, Marilyn has run a most successful private voice/English school. She is also currently working on her Masters' Dissertation through the University of South Africa .Her subject ? “Cole Porter: the social significance of his love lyrics of the 1930's” !!! Some music man in the background must have had something to do with that !!!

This is just a very brief summary of some of the fascinating facts in my life. I have done it for a Guinness Book of World Records claim, because my last radio series on Glenn Miller, once again titled “Miller Magic”, ran for ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN WEEKS (all half-hour programmes). It started on the first Saturday of 2004 (Glenn would've turned 100 on March 1 2004 if he'd lived), and only ended in 2006 !!! My American and British colleagues in the media, and my Glenn Miller expert friends, also from those two countries, have all confirmed that there has never been such a long radio series on Glenn (or for that matter on any musician or orchestra) in the history of this planet.

This brief summary is also for the perusal of the publishers, in South Africa and the USA , who have expressed interest in my “Call Me VERY Lucky” story.



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