PAMELA DAVIES (née JAMES) (1926 – December 2019)

I “met” Pam when she contacted me after Anne’s death in 2003 as she had read one of my articles on the internet. At the time I was writing my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. She too had hoped to write a book about her association with them. We decided to collaborate and her book Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? was published at the same time as mine in 2006.

Pamela Davies (née James)

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Pamela Davies was born Pamela James in London in 1926. She studied at London University and at Reading’s Graduate School of European Studies. After completing her degrees she taught French and German and visited the USA and Germany in connection with her teaching career. She met her future husband, Walter Davies, at a German evening class and they were married in 1969.

Pamela studied singing as a hobby and did some solo work as well as singing in various choirs. Coincidentally, her singing teacher was the mother of a young woman who appeared in And So to Bed with Anne and Webster in the early 1950s. Pamela and Walter retired to a 300-year old cottage in Worcestershire, the heart of Elgar Country. Walter died in the early 2000s.

Church House, Great Comberton.

Pamela was particularly interested in the music of Edward Elgar. Her other interests were antiques, historic houses, and reading French and German. She was a guide at a historic house in the Great Comberton area and visited China, Russia and New Zealand and Australia later this year. She was a cat lover and owned two rescued cats.

Pamela, as a teenage evacuee from London, first heard Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth singing on the radio in 1944. She took an immediate liking to their voices and became their firm fan, listening to their singing on the radio and attending many of their concerts, films, and the musical play in which they starred in 1945, entitled Sweet Yesterday. She obtained their autographs at one of these concerts and had a brief conversation with Webster.

She mentioned in her book Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? that she and her fellow teaching students gathered round the radio to listen to the Victory Royal Command Performance in November 1945 to hear Anne and Webster singing. She made extensive notes of all their radio appearances and the concerts in which they had appeared and which she had managed to attend.

In 1956 Anne and Webster moved to South Africa for twenty-two years, but Pamela never forgot them. When she heard that they had returned to the UK in 1978 she wrote a letter of appreciation to them. This was the beginning of her correspondence with Anne. Pamela and Walter attended Webster Booth’s Memorial Service at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, which led to them taking Anne out to lunch whenever they were in the North Wales area, and the growth of their friendship with Anne.

I “met” Pam when she contacted me after Anne’s death in 2003 as she had read one of my articles on the internet. At the time I was writing my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. She too had hoped to write a book about her association with them. We decided to collaborate and her book Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? was published at the same time as mine in 2006.

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Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? by Pamela Davies

We kept in touch with each other after the books were published and corresponded with Jean Buckley at the same time. Unfortunately, the postal system in South Africa was failing and Pam was not computer-literate so our correspondence faltered slightly until she obtained a tablet and gradually learnt to use it. 

Pam became increasingly deaf which was very sad indeed as the music she loved was distorted by her deafness. Recently she left her beautiful cottage in Great Comberton and moved into a frail care home. She had a very bad fall and died a few days ago, at the age of 93. I will treasure all the beautiful letters she wrote to me when the postal system in South Africa was more reliable than it is today. I will always remember her with love.

Jean Collen – 13 December 2013.

PROGRAMMES AND ADVERTS – 1953 – AUGUST 1956

Unlike the accepted view that Anne and Webster were losing popularity because of the rise of American entertainers and rock ‘n roll, they still had plenty of work from 1953 to 1956. Through no fault of their own they were struggling with the Inland Revenue so decided to move to South Africa in July of 1956.

18 February 1953 Ash Wednesday.
Elected Joint presidents of Concert Artistes’ Association.

Webster Booth was the guest of Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs on the BBC Home Service on 3 April 1953.

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Opening of Desert Island Discs script. Sadly the recording is not available on the BBC webpage.
11 April 1953 – hardly something to commend him!

Anne as Mistress Knight and Webster as King Charles II in And So to Bed.

24 April, 1953 Coventry Hippodrome, poor review.
Diamond Wedding anniversary of Anne’s parents April 1953.
Anne and Webster went on an extensive tour of And So to Bed in the midst of many other commitments, particularly Merrie England in the Coronation Year.
Booths sing in concert version of Merrie England in Calgary on May 9 1953.
Merrie England at Luton Hoo with Douglas Fairbanks Junior

Merrie England at Luton Hoo.
CAA dinner 1953 Anne and Webster as presidents.
Advert – 1954

8 April 1954
15 April 1954

30 April 1954
16 May 1954

May 1954
Hiawatha concert had been cancelled for lack of interest. It was replaced by an extract from Aida.

21 September 1954 – Attack of Shingles. Far from “staying indoors for four or five days,” the pain troubled him periodically for many years to come.

28 October 1954
24 November 1954 – Victoria Congregational Church, Derby from Webster’s score.
15 December 1954

Webster’s score 10 December 1954
31 December 1954
I do not know whether Webster and Anne had any singing pupils in the UK.

27 May 1955 Gilbert and Sullivan concert.
29 April 1955 – Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert.
24 June 1955 – St Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow.
27 July 1955. Anne and Webster were presented to Princess Alexandra.

13 August 1955 Promenade Concert.
13 October 1955 Lady Audley’s Secret.
25 October 1955
November 1955 0n the way to South Africa for tour of Cape Province.

12 December 1955 – Arriving back in the UK again.

15 December 1955 Messiah, Huddersfield.

Huddersfield Town Hall

Return to South Africa for a further tour.

2 February 1956 Crit by Dora L. Sowden in Rand Daily Mail.

On “platteland tour”. Having tea in Bethal with accompanist, Arthur Tatler.
27 June 1956

Passenger List, Pretoria Castle – 12 July 1956.

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Anne and Webster sailed to Cape Town on the Pretoria Castle on 12 July 1956. They had been having trouble with the Inland Revenue because of unpaid tax on American record sales. This had not been settled by the accountant acting for their agent, Julius Darewski. By the time the fault was discovered Webster told the Inland Revenue that he could not afford to pay the full amount and they were facing having some of their belonging being taken by the taxman. They therefore decided to immigrate to South Africa.

On board the Pretoria Castle, 12 July 1956.

Signing the menu on board ship.
15 August 1956

WHY THE BOOTHS MOVED TO SOUTH AFRICA IN 1956.

From the moment Webster and Anne started singing together regularly, they were very popular with the public. Few remembered Webster’s acrimonious divorce from Paddy Prior in 1938 when Anne had been named as the co-respondent. The public was happy to accept the glamorous couple who sang beautiful songs and duets together so melodiously and with such feeling as glamorous sweethearts in song. Unlike ordinary couples whose marriages settled down after a year or two, Anne and Webster’s marriage was seen as one filled with the constant romance and passion of a permanent honeymoon.

Anne and Webster 1938

Anne and Webster before their marriage. (1938)

When they took their act to the Variety circuit in 1940 Webster still managed to carry on singing at more serious concerts and in oratorio, but it was probably at this time that people began to regard him as a “romantic duettist” instead of one of the “elect” and one of the finest British tenors of the century as he had been regarded in the thirties. During this time they made their name on the stage in productions of The Vagabond King, Sweet Yesterday and And So to Bed, and in several films.

Webster as Francois Villon in The Vagabond King (1943)

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The Laughing Lady film in 1946 with music by Hans May was a starring vehicle for them both as singers and actors although it was not generally liked by critics. They did many concerts for the impresario, Harold Fielding and must have known every place in Britain like the back of their hands as they went from place to place to fulfill engagements.

Their concert tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1948 was very successful indeed, although some of the Australian critics did not always give them good reviews. I sometimes wonder whether their glamorous stage act, complete with crinolines, sparkling jewellery, and gardenias in the buttonhole of Webster’s immaculate evening dress did not become slightly tedious to them after a while. They had a limited repertoire – possibly a repertoire demanded by their many fans who did not want to hear any new or innovative material. 

In 1952 their recording contract with HMV was cancelled and although they made several recordings for Decca this did not result in a steady stream of recording dates. By the fifties Harold Fielding was enlarging the number of performers he employed for his concerts; post-war audience preferred American performers on the stage of the London Palladium, and as the fifties progressed rock ‘n roll was appealing to younger audiences.

Through no fault of their own, they received a very large tax demand for unpaid American recording royalties which Webster could not afford to pay at that time. He told me that he had been foolish and should have offered to pay the tax off gradually, but because he had flatly refused to pay, there was talk of the Inland Revenue seizing their property. The satirical revue Airs on a Shoestring made a mockery of their act, and of Hiawatha, the work with which Webster was closely associated. Perhaps that was the last straw for them.

30 April 1953 Airs on a shoestring

They had made a successful short tour of the Cape Province of South Africa in November of 1955 and although they were not short of work in the UK they decided to move to that country in July of 1956.

JEAN COLLEN –  13 OCTOBER 2018.