Glenn Miller had a lot of fans in his heyday. Probably still does for that matter, even though he’s been gone for a long time. But how many of those fans were so dedicated to his musical style that they’d end up leading their own band built around the Miller sound? That’s what British trumpeter and bandleader Syd Lawrence did, so you could probably make a pretty good case for him being Glenn Miller’s biggest fan — on at least one of them.
A native of Chester, England, Syd Lawrence grew up enjoying the music of the early big band era, and by the time World War II got underway he had become a skilled young trumpeter himself. That came in handy because he was able to fulfill his military obligation by playing in RAF bands while also gaining a lot of valuable experience along the way. In the post-war years he was able to move effortlessly into the ranks of the pros, not only playing for several British bands but also doing some arranging. Within a few years he’d latched on with the respected BBC Northern Dance Orchestra, where he would become a featured star for more than a decade.
By the late 1960s Lawrence was beginning to assemble his own band, and his inspiration was the music of Glenn Miller and others from the big band era. He might also have been inspired by his countryman Ted Heath (the subject of a previous GMC piece), who’d led a highly respected band for years before retiring earlier in the decade. In any case, Lawrence gradually built a solid reputation for his group and it eventually became very successful as a touring band, also appearing regularly on radio and TV and — not incidentally — selling a lot of records.
Syd Lawrence continued to lead his orchestra for many years before finally retiring in 1994, but arranged for the group to continue to under different leadership. He died just short of his 75th birthday in 1998, but the orchestra that bears his name is still around and it remains a fan favorite.