|Shake, Rattle and Roll||(Showgirl
Glamour Revue - 1950's)
from Maureen Mortimer - Alto 1953 to 1955
Ivy Bensons Orchestra is an eyeful as well as an earful. Not that the earful should be ignored. Indeed, the diversity of their repertoire and the skill with which this is played is quite remarkable. During their tea-time sessions at the Marble Arch Lyons Corner House, where the girls are nearing the end of their second season, anything from Mozart to Mambo can be heard.
This peculiar blending is not necessarily of Ivy's own choice, but the result of her tea-taking audiences. Thus, anything is likely to be requested - and usually is.
The normal 16 strong band is augmented for these sessions by a 5-piece string section. The sight of this score or more of glamour, dealing in swift succession and almost contemptuous ease with whatever is put before them, comes as a nasty shock to my masculine pride. The words "Lady Instrumentalist" had always been associated in my mind with gawky females, rendering the "Trumpet Voluntary", on the stage of Slagsville's Town Hall, and the like. But having made Ivy's band the subject of some little scrutiny, I see that I must revise my opinions.
Of course, there are special difficulties involved in forming and maintaining an all-girl band, but they are more of quantity than quality. Time and time again Ivy has found and trained suitable girls, in what she herself refers to as the Benson School of Music, only to lose them a year or two later, through marriage.
Whereas a mans career is seldom altered by his marrying, a girl's is - and in Ivy's own words: "if the girls do return after marriage, it is in a pin-money frame of mind. Ambition and the desire to travel have evaporated".
However, despite these difficulties, an all-girl band under the Benson baton, has been in exisitence since before the war, and unless Ivy's tremendous vitality gives out (and it shows no sign of doing so), will continue for many years to come. Lets hope so, anyway.
During the war, Ivy would do as many as 12 broadcasts in a week for the B.B.C. But things have changed - in 1954 her band had only one TV appearance and one radio spot for the B.B.C. to their credit. How come, then you may ask, that such an important source of publicity denied her, Ivy can still rank as one of the most popular attractions anywhere? And this popularity cannot be disputed - you have only to watch the fans crowd the stagedoor after one of her audience packing - one night stands to be convinced of that.
To this question I can only nod my head sagely and cite Ivy's example as proof of the old adage: Quality Pays Off - that and hard work. This last element is certainly not lacking from the Benson set-up. It would be hard to find another band with a record like that of Ivy Bensons. Since formed it has toured all over Britain; a sizeable chunk of the Continent and North Africa; and entertained the British troops in most places where they were or are to be found - and that's quite a lot of territory. Ivy's was the first band (male or female) to play Berlin at the end of hostilities.
Last autumn she had plans to take her girls to the U.S.A., but - as with many other projects - this proved abortive, owing to some high powered Union shenanigans.
Needless to say, Ivy and the girls enjoy every minute of their tours, but find them very tiring. Indeed, this almost constant high pressure began to have a rather serious effect on Ivy's health. I am sorry to report that during ten years she has had no less than four major operations.
But you would never think so: her eyes sparkle and a wisecrack is never far from her lips. In conversation she will take hold of your arm and bubble over so you imagine that you converse with the March winds.
Vivacious and full of energy, and I strongly suspect (though she will probably tear me off a strip for saying so), that Ivy Benson has one of the biggest hearts in Show Business.