Al Bowlly inspired Playboy

Updated: Apr 03, 2011, 20:49 PM IST

London: Hugh Hefner has revealed that British jazz legend Al Bowlly inspired the launch of Playboy in 1953.

Hefner, who owns one of the biggest collections of Bowlly recordings in the world, also said that this overlooked artist, who died at the age of 41 in April 1941, deserved far wider recognition, reports the Daily Express.

“The whole era of the late Twenties, the early Thirties, the jazz age, Fitzgerald, flappers... I grew up in the Depression in the Thirties and I looked back as a young man on those images and the music as the party that I had missed,” he said on the phone from his Los Angeles Playboy Mansion.

Then in the wake of the Second World War, in which Bowlly was killed during the Blitz, Hefner was disappointed to discover ‘that everything was very conservative, politically, socially, sexually’.

“That was the inspiration for me starting Playboy: trying to recreate that jazz age party,” he said.

“When I listen to Al Bowlly, I feel a sense of nostalgia and a romantic connection to the past. I loved his work to the extent that I’ve collected almost everything he ever recorded, mostly on CD, some of it on vinyl. I’ve never counted them but all told my collection’s in the thousands. I don’t think I have any originals in there, but most of the background music here at the mansion is Al Bowlly. He’s part of the ambience,” he added.

The most valuable item in Hefner’s collection is film footage of Bowlly performing ‘The Very Thought Of You’ and ‘Melancholy Baby’, a prized possession that he couldn’t put a price on.

He also painstakingly assembled a collection of every film that Bowlly ever appeared in.

“I went out of my way to track down everything that he had ever done on film, with the co-operation of the BBC,” he said.

Hefner still loves to watch ‘The Chance Of A Night Time’ (1931), ‘A Night Like This’ (1932) and ‘The Mayor’s Nest’ (1932).

Bowlly was killed on April 17, 1941 by the explosion of a parachute mine outside his flat in Jermyn Street, London during the Blitz.

“I feel a sense of sadness because, as great as Al Bowlly was, I don’t think he ever really found his full audience,” said Hefner.

“I think he should be remembered as a much greater artist than he is to most iconic voices from that era and it was a magic time,” he added.