Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Irrelevant but great American newspaper ad from 1936

Irrelevant but great American newspaper ad from 1936

Well I’m a sucker for a fact, especially (when writing on this blog) when it’s to do with Jack Hylton. Here’s a very, very often quoted fact about Hylton. And when I mean often quoted, I must have read it in fifty different places, including my own website and Masters Thesis.

” In 1929 the band gave around 700 performances and travelled some 63,000 miles. Hylton records were selling at a rate of seven every minute, with a total for 1929 of 3,180,000.”

Great. I mean, it’s truly amazing and gives some idea of how big the band was back then. Sadly, it’s not only got no source (which was what I was trying to find) but isn’t true. Firstly, if you do the maths (which I think I’ve done) 3,180,000 records makes six every minute. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a massive amount of records which pop stars these days can rarely achieve. The other bit is wrong though. Here, in a little snippet from my half written book, is the truth:

“This exhausting schedule meant that during 1929 the band gave 736 performances, to over 1,500,000 people, and travelled 15,745 miles. In December alone they played to 63,000 people at Brixton Astoria. Their total record sales for 1929 of 3,180,000 mean six records were sold every minute.”

Most of that is from Hylton’s own mouth, reported in a speech at the leaving party for one of their continental tours, in early 1930. They did a lot of shows at Brixton Astoria, because the ticket sales were out of control – sometime four shows a night. It would be 21 shows at 3,000 people per show, or something like that. As for the 15,745 miles, that’s much more realistic than the 63,000 miles in the previous quote, which is clearly just misremembered from the original newspaper article.

So there we go. That settles it. I shall not rest until I read a CD sleeve which quotes that, instead of the other. I know, it doesn’t really matter, but to me, in the throes of writing a book, it very much does.


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