The Greg Francis Orchestra...

The Greg Francis Orchestra & Singers...

In December 2000, bandleader Greg Francis was asked to provide ideas to re-introduce the Big Bands to the world famous Blackpool Tower ballroom. This was a very sound and wise decision, instigated by the owners Leisure Parcs – the various new band shows that Greg presented in the ballroom, trebled the bar profits within the first year of the operation!

Amongst the ideas Greg had were his personal hopes to re-form the Blackpool Tower Orchestra. In remembering the great days of the big bands at the Tower Ballroom, he was particularly impressed by the Tower Orchestra when under the direction of Charlie Barlow. Greg's own musical tastes lent a big hand here also since, he is a big fan of the music of Bert Kaempfert and James Last. This has helped to set the style of the band, and as a musical arranger and orchestrator himself, Greg has been able to write exactly the right type of music which ensures that the dancers are happy, and that the musicians enjoy playing the the parts. The band relies upon a good amount of humour from within the band itself, and Greg encourages the young musicians to relax and enjoy themselves on stage, and so they do - to the obvious delight of the dancers.

The Greg Francis Orchestra and Singers was thus 'drafted in' to perform as the Blackpool Tower  Orchestra.  It is capable of playing a wide mixture of music from the 1950's sounds of Ted Heath,  the beautiful sounds of Bert Kaempfert, Henry Mancini and many more, and not forgetting the popular sounds of James Last. The orchestra plays the widest range of James Last music, right from his first releases up to his later 'party style' music. All of the music played is primarily arranged for dancing, be it modern ballroom or sequence. Better still, it's all at the correct tempo for dancing - as it should be.

The Greg Francis Orchestra and Singers first appeared on BBC Radio 2 during the early to mid 1980's. They featured regularly for over 5 years on such shows as 'The Jimmy Young Show' 'The Ray Moore Show' 'You and the Night and the Music' and the 'Early Show'. The orchestra has played an important part in the accompaniment of singers.

During it's first year at Blackpool it provided 'backing' for the tribute to Frank Sinatra (Tony Benedict) the tribute to Doris Day (Lynn Kennedy) and a tribute to Matt Monro (Robert Young).

 The 'Tower Big Band' continued for the 2003 and 2004 seasons at the Tower Ballroom, being replaced in 2005 by a small band of 6 musicians led by a local school teacher ! This was done at the whim of the 'accountants' and it has overseen the demise of any live dance band at all, at the Tower Ballroom for the past few years (2010).

The Greg Francis Orchestra and Singers have played a major part in the various ballroom dancing events for Liverpool's City of Culture programmes, for various Warner Hotels, and are also featured aboard the 'Thompson Cruises' ships twice yearly, presenting a varied mixture of ballroom and sequence dancing. They have also played for 'Strictly Come Dancing' stars Anton du Beke, Erin Boag, Flavia Cacace, Katya Virshilas, Tanya Perera, Vincent Simone, and Greg's personal favourite 'Tango' dancer Ian Waite!

Greg has been playing for ballroom and sequence dancing for over 20 years. One of his first suggestions to the Tower Ballroom management in 2001 was, to re-start the popular BBC Television programme 'Come Dancing'. He suggested it again in 2002 – but nothing was done to approach the BBC. In those immortal words 'the rest is history' !