Al Bowlly was Britain’s first pop singer, some say the world’s first, if you define pop singer as someone who stands in front of a band and sings the hits of the day strumming a guitar. He rose to prominence in the decade before the Second World War, before the phrase “pop singer” had been invented, and has now become the voice of the 1930s as evidenced by the use of his recordings in films and TV drama set in that decade. In fact, when it comes to British musical nostalgia of the 1930s, the biggest name worldwide is Al Bowlly. During most of the 1930s, Al was Britain’s leading popular singer and was sometimes billed as the “Ambassador of Song.”
However, during his career, Al never won the fame he deserved. It is even said that he is more famous today than he was then, although he is now definitely recognized as Britain’s leading light in that era of popular song. Even though the competition was good, Al was a head and shoulders above his nearest rivals when it came to his artistry and originality, but his popularity rating did not always reflect this. He was renowned within the inner circles of musicians in the London music scene as “the man,” but to the contemporary public listeners in the early 1930s Al Bowlly’s name seemed almost a well-kept secret.