(Left to right) Al Alberts, Buddy DeFranco, Leonard DeFranco and Roxy Lee (Rocco Liuzzi)
The BandBusters on "The Children's Hour"
WCAU Radio
circa 1937

The BandBusters actually started in 1936 when four members of the group were attending Vare Junior High School at 24th and Snyder Avenue in South Philly. The quartet was actually a part of a larger group, a dance band made up of three saxophones, two trumpets, one trombone, a bass player, a drummer and a piano player and vocalist. Al was, of course, the pianist.

Four of them formed a small jazz group and auditioned for the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, a live national radio program broadcast over the CBS Radio Network and it had a large studio audience. Al Alberts said:

We passed the audition and made it to the broadcast but only because our man on clarinet was Buddy DeFranco. His brother, Lenny, was on bass. Roxy Lee on drums, and myself on piano. Although we didn't win, it was truly an exciting first experience knocking on the door of "The Big Time!" Buddy went on to become one of the truly great clarinetist of our time, and later, leader of "The Glenn Miller Orchestra."

Al Alberts was solo vocalist and piano player for The BandBusters. A little later on, the quartet was accepted on "The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour" which was hosted by Stan Lee Broza, our organization's first president. Stan Lee's wife, Esther was the producer of the program. Both Stan Lee and Esther Broza were inducted into our "Hall of Fame" in 1993.

The group didn't have a name so Esther Broza said that they should call themselves "The BandBusters." Esther also suggested another change. Seems that every time that Stan Lee Broza introduced Al for his solo, he would flub the name, Albert Albertini. Esther thought it would be easier to just shorten the name to Al Alberts. Alberts didn't care just as long as they would let him sing. And sing he did. That was in 1936.

Al Alberts said: "We continued to expand our jazz combo into a full orchestra consisting of four saxophones, three trumpets, two trombones, bass, drums and piano. Their son, Ellliot Lawrence Broza, joined us at that time as our arranger - conductor and we became the Elliot Broza Orchestra. Roz Patton and I were the singers with the orchestra and I also played piano."

Al Alberts at the piano
The BandBusters on "The Children's Hour"
WCAU Radio
circa 1938

In 1949, Broadcast Pioneers member Esther Broza said: "I firmly believe that if you handle a child with love, instead of sternness, you can get him to do just about anything." This was the approach used by the Brozas throughout the thirty years of the broadcasts.

(Left to right) The Band, Al Alberts at the piano and Elliot Broza
The Elliot Broza Orchestra
At a High School Prom
circa 1941

Al Alberts continued:

Whenever I had to sing a song, Elliot would fill in on piano. He later dropped his surname, Broza, and we became known as Elliot Lawrence and his Orchestra featuring Roz Patton and Al Alberts....

Broadcasting from the WCAU radio studios ...with the Horn and Hardart Hour gave me the opportunity to meet Jan Savitt, whose CBS broadcasts emanated from WCAU. That meeting with Jan and having the opportunity to sing in guest spots with his orchestra was to have a profound influence on my later career with "The Four Aces." ...It was with Jan Savitt that I met his pianist, a gentleman who was to go on to write the greatest arrangements I ever had the opportunity to record with "The Four Aces." ...His name was Jack Pleis.

Al Alberts e-mailed about the bottom two photo:

The Broza Orchestra was an outgrowth of "the Children's Hour," but the pictures were taken on location at High School proms.

(Left to right) The Band, Rosalind Patton (Roselyn Mae Piccurelli), Al Alberts and Elliot Broza
The Elliot Broza Orchestra
At a High School Prom
circa 1941

Rosalind (Roz) Patton would stay with the Elliot Lawrence band as the female vocalist and record dozens of sides with the orchestra. On some of the recordings, her name was spelled "Rosalyn." Al Alberts' role as the male singer was taken over by Jack Hunter who also stayed with the band for many years. Leonard DeFranco stayed in Philadelphia and in 1955 was featured in the Ed Harvey House Band heard over WCAU Radio.

Roxy Lee continued drumming and for a time, had his own big band, "Roxy Lee and his Orchestra." Roxy passed away on New Year's Day of 2005 in Brookhaven, PA. Rosalind Patton lived in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia and died at the age of 62 in January of 1985. Esther Broza passed away in June of 1990 and Stan Lee Broza died in December of 1970; both were from Philadelphia.

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photos originally donated by Al Alberts
These pictures are from Alberts' book, "Al's Song"
© 2009, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved

The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is pioneers@broadcastpioneers.com