Raymond Stanley Noble, born 17 December 1903, was an English bandleader, composer, arranger, radio comedian, and actor. Noble wrote both lyrics and music for many popular songs during the British dance band era, known as the "Golden Age of British music", notably for his longtime friend and associate Al Bowlly.
Noble studied at the Royal Academy of Music and in 1927 won a competition for the best British dance band orchestrator that was advertised in Melody Maker. In 1929, he became leader of the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra, an HMV Records studio band that featured members of many of the top hotel orchestras of the day. The most popular vocalist with Noble's studio band was Al Bowlly, who joined in 1930.
The Ray Noble Band with Al Bowlly and Nat Gonella
Noble moved to New York City in 1934, taking Al Bowlly and his drummer Bill Harty with him and asked Glenn Miller , who played trombone in the Ray Noble orchestra, to recruit American musicians to complete the band.
The American Ray Noble band went on to have a successful run at the Rainbow Room in New York City with Bowlly as principal vocalist.
Noble and his orchestra appeared in the 1937 film A Damsel in Distress with Fred Astaire, Joan Fontaine, George Burns and Gracie Allen. Noble played a somewhat "dense" character who was in love with Gracie Allen. Al Bowlly returned to England in 1938 but Noble continued to lead bands in America, moving into an acting career portraying a stereotypical upper-class English idiot. He features in a few scenes in the clips below.
Ray Noble played the piano but seldom did so with his orchestra. In a movie short from the 1940s featuring Ray Noble and Buddy Clark (one of his most popular band singers), Ray Noble is asked by the announcer to play one of his most popular hits. He sits down at the piano and plays "Goodnight, Sweetheart". After providing music for many radio shows and tv shows Noble's last major successes as a bandleader came with Buddy Clark in the late 1940s.
Specialist dance band radio stations continue to play his records but I wish a few more would too.