Biography

Janice studied music at Birmingham University and after a successful career as a Repertory Singer (singing the repertoire of the Dance Bands of the 1920s and 30s) developed a 1930s musical character comedy act, and a one-woman show. As original lead singer of both the prestigious Piccadilly Dance Orchestra and Keith Nichols' Cotton Club Orchestra, and as a soloist, Janice has performed to the great and the good.

 

She has entertained royalty, A-list celebrities, business legends such as the Ghettys and the Bransons and celebrity politicians like Michael Kennedy and the Ambassador of Indonesia. She has appeared at the best parties and festivals and in top venues throughout Europe and South East Asia. She has performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, in the Purcell Room, at the Wigmore Hall for Radio Three, at the Proms in the Park, on Wogan at Pebble Mill, Pebble Mill at One and Daytime Live.

 

She guested on the PDO albums that were recorded at Abbey Road, and also appeared on many recordings for Keith Nichols' CCO and The Blue Devils. 

 

Returning to the UK Classic Jazz scene after a long break, she is popping up all over the place.

Here’s the whole story:

 

Janice made the decision to be an opera singer at the age of eight but was encouraged instead to be quiet. It didn't stop her singing, but she tried to do it quietly. In her youth she sang unaccompanied folk and parlour song which is perhaps why she developed the perfect 20s/30s style, as that would have been the musical influence of the singers of the time.

 

At Birmingham University, Janice dropped the music half of her joint degree to graduate in English. Nothing could stop her singing though. She played the lead roles in three musicals at uni: My Fair Lady, Anne of Green Gables and Mole in Toad of Toad Hall.  

 

She was spotted singing at the university folk club and invited to sing unaccompanied folk in clubs around Birmingham. At uni she went out with a jazz drummer who turned her on to jazz and she began singing jazz standards. 

 

After uni she entered talent contests “for the experience” and “sat in” with jazz bands, improving her knowledge of jazz conventions by trial and error.  

 

Local bands began to seek her out and by 1980 she had a residency at the Stew Pony in Stourbridge and was guesting with several bands on the jazz circuit.  

 

In 1981 she moved to Abingdon, where she sang with various bands, including Denny Ilett Senior’s under the name of Laurie Linton. It was Denny Ilett who introduced her to Keith Nichols, taking the trouble to drive her all the way from Abingdon to the Prince of Orange in Rotherhithe so she could sit in with Keith’s band and sing A Good Man is Hard to Find. Keith was impressed and sought her out years later to join the Cotton Club Orchestra.

 

Denny also introduced Janice to Val Wiseman, and she asked Val’s advice. “Don’t have children!” quipped Val. Janice didn’t listen…

 

But during this period in her twenties, when children were only a speck on the horizon she joined the Oxford-based Blue Velvet Youth Dance Orchestra as lead vocal, sang locally and toured Europe with them. Other bands that she “sat in with” in those early days included Chris Barber, Monty Sunshine, Max Collie, Digby Fairweather, Alan Elsdon...

 

In 1985 she moved to London and joined the Dirty Blondes - a three girl harmony group - accompanied by a band that included a young saxophonist called Pete Long, who now directs the Big Band at Ronnie Scotts. With the Dirty Blondes, Janice worked the cabaret circuit in music venues in London, including the famous Jongleurs in Clapham, sharing the bill with the likes of Paul Merton and Julian Clary when they were just starting out. 

 

In 1986 she left the Dirty Blondes to become a repertory singer, ie singing the popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s. After a six month residency at Daniels Wine Bar in The Cafe Royal, she toured Indonesia and then worked briefly with Eggy Ley in a show called Prohibition and All that Jazz.

 

In 1987 she auditioned for Richard Pite (founder of the Rio Trio) for a series of dates in 57 Jermyn Street and then worked extensively for his agency Party Jazz, including a three year residency at Soho Soho in Frith Street.

 

1987 she formed her own jazz quartet, called Yesterdays, which included Mac White, saxophonist with the Temperance Seven. At this time she often worked with legendary bass player Dave Green, and the celebrated jazz concert pianist Martin Litton. Yesterdays had a six-month residency at The Churchill Hotel in Portman Square

 

Other pianists who played for her were Jack Honeybourne, Neville Dickie, Michael Law, (who subsequently formed the Piccadilly Dance Orchestra), Keith Nichols, (who was already at the top of his game as leader of the Midnite Follies Orchestra), and Humphrey Lyttleton's pianist, Ted Beament.

 

As well as the seasonal residency at Soho Soho in Frith Street, she had one at the Berkeley Hotel, at The Churchill in Portman Square, enjoyed repeat bookings in the Royal Festival Hall Foyer, the BBC Jazz Club, the Ambassadors Club at Hyde Park, and at the prestigious cabaret venue Pizza on the Park.

 

In 1988 Keith Nichols invited her to be the lead vocal with his new twelve piece band the Cotton Club Orchestra, and at the same time Michael Law invited her to be lead singer with the 12 piece Piccadilly Dance Orchestra. She worked with both bands solidly for five years, from 1988-1991. This was a busy time, with the Dance Band work being supplemented by engagements with the PDO’s small band ‘78rpm’.

 

In 1990 she was lead vocal in Mike Hatchard's Edinburgh Fringe Show, Caricatures at an Exhibition.

 

With the PDO she sang at the best venues and at private parties in and outside of London. She appeared at the Queen Elizabeth Hall tea dances, in the Purcell Room, at the Wigmore Hall for Radio Three, at the proms in the park, on Wogan at Pebble Mill, Pebble Mill at One and Daytime Live.

 

She guested on the PDO albums that were recorded at Abbey Road, and also made recordings for Keith Nichols' CCO and with The Blue Devils. 

 

She took over from actress Pooky Quesnel with Vile Bodies at The Ritz, and Stacey Kent covered Janice’s gigs with the band when Janice fell pregnant with her son. Finding the dance band life incompatible with motherhood, Janice took a break to bring up two children in Epsom. 

 

When the children were a little older she returned to The Cotton Club Orchestra, who had by this time teamed up with the likes of Don Leavy, Kenny Ball, George Melly and Acker Bilk for a series of concerts organised by impresario Jack Higgins. 

 

With the CCO she did a Billie Holiday tribute show at Hay on Wye and performed at other jazz music festivals, including the Isle of Wight, where they supported Kenny Ball. She sang at several of Keith Nichols' south bank concerts and went with him to festivals in Hamburg and Norway. 

 

In 1996 she developed a one-woman show of 1970s jazz and jazz-folk songs called Janice Day and her Knights of Rhythm, comprised of Nils Solberg, Mike Piggott and Pete Morgan, which sold out at the Myers Studio in Epsom two years running.

 

Around this time, 2001, she developed the 1930s cabaret act Mrs Pinkerton-Lovely, accompanying herself on the baritone ukulele, and has continued to perform this act at private cabarets, corporate events, writing festivals and concerts, including the Purcell Room. 

 

In 2007 Janice appeared at The Sage in Gateshead with Keith Nichols for the Midnight in Mayfair concert.

 

In 2008 she took some stand-up comedy courses in London and Edinburgh, worked the London newcomers circuit and won the Sabotage Comedy Icon award for best stand-up. She also came third in the Ed Byrne Windows Live Spaces stand-up competition and was audience-favourite on the Logan Murray comedy course at the Edinburgh Festival. 

 

Writing began to dominate her time. In 1995 she had begun to write seriously and by 2000 she had had several articles and short stories published in specialist magazines including Mslexia and The Singer. In 1996 she got breast cancer and began work on a comedy cancer memoir, GETTING IT OFF MY CHEST: How I Lost My Breast and Found Myself; at the same time fulfilling several professional screenwriting commissions, and studying for an MA in Screenwriting at the London College of Communication, UCA.

 

The memoir was published in 2009 by Old Street Publishing. The Daily Mail bought the serial rights but didn’t print the serialisation. It is rated by Amazon as a top biography and has 41 four and five star reviews on Amazon. As a result of this publication Janice was invited to become a patron of the charity CANCERactive.

 

Speaking, singing and reading from her book at their Charity Ball at Lords Cricket Ground, Janice was thrilled when Stephen Fry described her performance as “absolutely superb”.

 

She was altogether distracted from singing by her writing career, and during this period taught networking to writers, spoke at events and festivals and organised a series of Masterclasses at RADA for screenwriters. She was also recruited to promote the London Screenwriters Festival over a period of several years.

 

Her writing mentor is Maurice Gran (of Marks & Gran who wrote Birds of a Feather etc) and she began a co-writing relationship with successful saga novelist Catherine King. Sadly, Catherine passed away before they managed to finish their adaptation of Catherine’s novel SILK & STEEL into a feature film.

 

Not having acted since 1978, Janice was surprised to be headhunted by the organisation Player Playwrights in 2010 to play the lead role in The Fan, a two-hander with Jenny (Shake 'n Vac) Logan, which was directed by Matthew Gould, and which premiered at RADA for the Camden Fringe Festival. 

 

After seeing her perform, television executive Mike Hollingsworth (founder of Breakfast Television and famously husband of Anne Diamond) encouraged Janice to work with Director Matthew Gould to adapt her book into a one-woman show: GETTING IT OFF MY CHEST: Surviving Families, Surviving Cancer, Surviving Life, which takes the form of a sixty-minute humorous monologue with musical links. It was chosen by Player Playwrights to be supported at Camden Fringe Festival and received great revues.

 

In 2015 Janice discovered the joy of singing to the elderly and spends much of her time helping people with dementia to enjoy the songs they love, offering them the same quality of performance she would give at the South Bank, because, she says, that’s what they deserve.

 

Lured back to the classic-jazz world by her recent personal and professional alliance with Martin Litton, she has appeared recently at Jazz Festivals (Keswick, Pershore, Whitley Bay) at Jazz Clubs, including the Spice of Life and the Concorde Club.

 

With Martin she has developed several cabaret acts, theatre shows and lectures for combos ranging from duo to 8 piece and with Keith Nichols she has developed the Sweetie Pie Jazz Band, with the auspicious line-up of Enrico Tomasso, Trevor Whiting and Martin Wheatley.

 

See the SHOWS page for more information on what is available for hire!

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