Charlie Kunz, (1986 - 1958)
Charlie Kunz, an American-born jazz band leader and pianist, reached the height of his career in England. He was the highest paid pianist in the world and broadcast frequently, made hundreds of records and was top of the bill at music halls throughout the British Isles.
Charles Leonard Kunz was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1896. His family was of Austrian origin. In his youth he played the organ in a Catholic church and conducted a band of his contemporaries. He married Amanda Dysher, but she died shortly after birth to son Joseph.
In 1922 Charlie came to England with his band. The band returned, but Charlie remained and formed another. This played at various London clubs and restaurants. One patron was a fashion model, Eva Dorothy Lloyd (alias Ninette or Nin). They married in 1923. Nin's siter married another band leader, Jerry Hoey. For a while they all lived in Delamare Mansions, Maida Vale.
In about 1930 Charlie and Nin moved to 68, Paddock Road, Dollis Hill. Two sons, Peter and Gerry, were born. in 1936 they moved to a larger house, 134 Dollis Hill Lane at the corner of Rosecrfot Gardens. At this time Charlie was leading a band at a club in Regent Street run by dancing champion Santos Casani.
Meanwhile son Joseph had come to England, and was taught to play the saxophone by his Uncle Jerry, who had moved to 3, Park View road. Joe formed a band 9the select Cyncopators) to play at locl events. It was redient at the Ritz, Neasden. He married Betty Coombs, who livedat 119, Vincent Gardens, and had tow daughters, Amanda (after her grandmother) and Carol. The marriage broke up. he later married Ivy Sutton, the singer in his band, who lived at 1, Rosecrfot Gardens, but after giving up music for heatlh reasons, died in 1967.
After a dispute with Santos Casani, Charlie had left the club and became a solo pianist. He was now the highest paid pianist in the world, earning some £1000 a week. He broadcast frequently, made hundreds of records and was top of the bill at music halls throughout the British Isles.
Charlie's wife Nin died in 1940. he moved to his summer resdence at Middleton-on-Sea, near Bognor. His health was not good, and his ability to play was badly curtailed by an ailement called Dupuytren's Contracture. In 1942 he married divorcee Pat Sparkes (nee Kelly). He died in 1958 and is buried alongside Nin in Streatham Vale cemetery.
Charlie's early records were sometimes made under different names: -
Dick Rose and his band
Al Gold and his band
Mellor's dance orchestra
Eddie Walter's dance band
The Twelve Cavaliers.
As a band leader, he recorded on Sterno (made by Homophone at stonebridge Park) and Rex. As a pianist, mostly medleys of popular tunes on Decca. Complation albums are still popular today.
The information and photographs are kindly provided by Dilwyn Chambers of the Willesden Local History Society.
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© Brent Heritage website 2002