This blog will follow the career of Mabel Willis-Browne, (1911-2001), a musician who worked with some of the top musicians of the thirties and forties – Petulengro, Don Rico, Teddy Joyce, Ivy Benson, Gloria Gaye, and Waldini among others.
From her first auditions with Petulengro in 1931 Mabel played in top venues, toured the British Isles, visited Germany with ENSA, and then toured Portugal and Spain, filmed, recorded, and met a host of other famous musicians, comedians and singers. Above all, she had fun, and gained financial independence at a time when most of her peers were doing menial jobs before marriage claimed them. Her future sister in law, Ellaline (Ella) Winser, (1908-1988), shared her life from 1931 to 1937, when she married Mabel’s brother and had to leave her professional life.
The material is taken from the photographic collections and memorabilia of these two women: Mabel Willis-Browne, and Ella Winser. I also own a notebook of recollections written for me by Mabel, and have personal memories of stories told by them both. The careers of these two ladies represents a significant episode in women’s history, and the world of light music. The image below shows Mabel in about 1930.
Ella in about 1932
I had intended to write this as a biography in book form, but the sheer volume of photographs in my collection has meant that the internet is a better showcase for the material.
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.