Mal Hallett

Photo of Mal Hallett
  • Born

    Boston, Massachusetts
  • Died

    November 20, 1952
    Boston, Massachusetts
  • Featured Vocalists

    Irene Daye
    Teddy Grace

Swing pioneer Mal Hallett graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music. During WWI, he entertain troops in France as a member of Al Moore’s orchestra, and in the 1920s he led his own hot jazz band. In the early 1930s, Hallett formed a progressive dance band that focused on swing music, before it became popularized by Benny Goodman. Hallett’s orchestra found success among the college crowd and spent most of its existence touring the Northeast and Upper South. The band finally broke out onto the national stage in late 1936 when it began to secure long-term engagements at prominent New York hotels, along with the radio time that provided.

Over the years, Hallett featured many young musicians who would go on to become big stars in their own right, including Gene Krupa, Jack Teagarden, Frankie Carle, Jack Jenney, and Toots Mondello. Many of Hallett’s bandmembers in the 1930s remained for the long term. Guitarist and singer Clark Yocum worked with the band from at least 1934 to 1937. Yocum later became a member of the Pied Pipers during the vocal group’s time with Tommy Dorsey. Drummer Charlie Blake also sang in 1934, remaining with the band until at least 1936. Saxophonist Buddy Welcome had become one of Hallett’s main vocalists by 1936, staying into 1942 before becoming part of Jan Savitt’s orchestra in 1943. Balladeer Jerry Perkins joined the band in 1936 at only 16 years of age, remaining into 1942.

Hallett had a variety of female singers. Teddy Grace joined the band by March 1934, staying until at least February 1935. Phyllis Usher was vocalist in 1936. Grace returned at the beginning of 1937, which became the band’s biggest year, remaining until the beginning of 1938. Grace proved popular and was a large part of what made the band successful at that point. While still a member of the Hallett’s group, she began to record solo and sing on her own radio program, finally leaving to focus on her solo career. Irene Daye replaced Grace, staying until mid-1938 when she joined Gene Krupa’s new band. Madeline Greye was vocalist from at least March 1940 to September of that year. Kay Marie Baird and Judy Darling sang in 1942, with Donna Mason joining the band in November 1942 and staying until at least March 1943, when she shared vocal duties with Gene Jones. Vocalists in September 1943 were Terry Russell and Leonard Lane.

The orchestra recorded on Banner in 1934 and Vocalion in 1936 before moving to Decca later that year. After being dropped by Decca in 1938, they had no record contract until 1942, when the signed with Hit. From 1943 onward they did not record. Though they had many followers, the band’s hard hitting style kept them from ever achieving any big success. Hallett was also older than most of the other swing leaders, and he had trouble connecting with the younger fans. During the war years, the group suffered heavy losses due to enlistment and the draft. Hallett kept going through at least 1946 before quietly disbanding.

Mal Hallett passed away in 1952.


  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. “Large Attendance At Elks Ball Expected.” The North Adams Evening Transcript [North Adams, Massachusetts] 26 Mar. 1934: 5.
  3. “Meadowbrook Improved For Season's Opening.” The North Adams Evening Transcript [North Adams, Massachusetts] 24 Apr. 1934: 9.
  4. “Society.” The Danville Bee [Danville, Virginia] 5 Jun. 1934: 3.
  5. “Outdoor Attractions.” The Washington D.C. Sunday Star 15 Jul. 1934: F-5.
  6. Advertisement. “Meadowbrook.” The Berkshire Evening Eagle [Pittsfield, Massachusetts] 14 Sep. 1934: 16.
  7. “Duncan Sisters Are Headliners in Variety Show.” Wilkes-Barre Sunday Independent 4 Nov. 1934: B-12.
  8. Advertisement. “The New Valencia.” The New Oxford Item [New Oxford, Pennsylvania] 14 Feb. 1935: 6.
  9. “New Acts - Band Reviews: Mal Hallett and Orchestra.” Billboard 17 Oct. 1936: 20.
  10. “Hallett To Feature Novel Tunes.” The Lafayette [Eaton, Pennsylvania] 23 Feb. 1937: 1.
  11. “Preparations for Annual Junior Promenade Week End Announced.” The Lafayette [Eaton, Pennsylvania] 9 Mar. 1937: 1.
  12. “Mal Hallett Plays In Art Building.” The Oberlin Review [Oberlin, Ohio] 18 May 1937: 3.
  13. “Vaudeville Reviews: Earle, Philadelphia.” Billboard 2 Oct. 1937: 16.
  14. “On the Air.” Joplin Globe 21 Nov. 1937: B7.
  15. Advertisement. “Nu-Elm Ballroom: Mal Hallett.” The Salem, Ohio, News 26 Mar. 1938: 8.
  16. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 11 Jun. 1938: 12.
  17. “Hallett Folks in Auto Crash.” Billboard 1 Jan. 1938: 29.
  18. “The Reviewing Stand: Mal Hallett.” Billboard 16 Mar. 1940: 13.
  19. “On the Stand: Mal Hallett.” Billboard 14 Sep. 1940: 10.
  20. “Donahue Ork Scatters.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1942: 1.
  21. “On the Air: Mal Hallett.” Billboard 6 Mar. 1943: 22.
  22. “On the Stand: Mal Hallett.” Billboard 13 Mar. 1943: 22.
  23. “Mal Hallett Follows Cab.” Down Beat 1 Sep. 1943: 1.
  24. “Stem Could Have Been Sock.” Billboard 23 Feb. 1946: 29.