“I Heard” – Ray Starita with Elsie Carlisle (1932)

“I Heard.”  Words and music by Don Redman (1931).  Recorded by Ray Starita and His Ambassadors’ Band with Elsie Carlisle on September 1, 1932.  Four-in-One 5.

“I Heard” – Ray Starita and His Ambassadors’ Band (with Elsie Carlisle)

Video by David Weavings (YouTube)

“I Heard” is a novelty song written by the American musician, bandleader, and composer Don Redman.  It involves interlocutors who discuss a piece of apparently scandalous  gossip, but who cut each other off so as to leave the listener in the dark as to the real nature of the rumor.  This 1932 British recording was made by the great American-born bandleader Ray Starita and his Ambassadors’ Band.  Elsie Carlisle plays the person who has heard the rumor, and there is a male speaker who questions her, doubts her, and eggs her on.  The latter was once thought to be Ray Starita himself, although it is now more generally supposed that it is Les Allen.

This recording of “I Heard” appears on a Four-in-One record.  As the name would suggest, Four-in-One records pushed the limits of technology by fitting two songs onto each side of the disc, the result being a bargain for the record buyer.  The downside of their concept is that the grooves are a bit narrower than usual and thus more prone to being scratched up by repeated playing.  In the same recording session, Starita and Elsie did a separate take for the Sterno label, which used the more typical one-song-per-side approach.  The Sterno recording is quite similar for the most part, but the violin solo is rather different and does not reach into such a high register.

The composer, Don Redman, recorded two versions of “I Heard” in late 1931 (here and here), and in 1933 appeared in a Betty Boop short of the same title.  In 1932 it was recorded by Harlan Lattimore and His Connie’s Inn Orchestra, as well as by Chick Bullock.  The Mills Brothers did a particularly popular 1932 version that led to their appearance singing it in the 1934 film Twenty Million Sweethearts.

In Britain in 1932, other recordings of “I Heard” were made by the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (Al Bowlly, vocalist), Billy Cotton and His Band ( Cyril Grantham, vocalist), Nat Gonella, and Harry Roy and His R.K. Olians (with vocalists Harry Roy, Bill Currie, and Ivor Moreton).

“Conversation for Two” (1935)

“Conversation for Two.” Composed by Sammy Mysels, Billy Hueston, and Bob Emmerich (1935). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on September 7, 1935. Decca F. 5689.

ELSIE CARLISLE. Conversation For Two 1935

Elsie Carlisle – “Conversation for Two” (1935)

Video by Brighton Rock (YouTube)

Elsie Carlisle sings this languid love song about small talk leading to romance with considerably less of the dramatic element than is her wont. Instead, she adapts her delivery to the slow yet catchy tune in such a way as to make it atmospheric. Even her dreamy humming “Mm-mm-mm-mm…” followed by “I love you” is seductively sedating. It is perhaps fitting that the flip side of the record is “Star Gazing,” a song which is similarly leisurely in pace and vaguely mesmerizing.

Elsie’s 1935 rendition of “Conversation for Two” is the only recording that I have found of the song. Even the sheet music appears to be rare. The three composers were all prolific, however. Mysels and Emmerich got involved in composing music for motion pictures, and Emmerich, a pianist in the Tommy Dorsey Band and songwriter for Fats Waller, went on to write “The Big Apple,” a song which popularized New York City’s peculiar sobriquet.

“What’s the Use of Crying?” (1927)

“What’s the Use of Crying?” Lyrics by Verdi Kendel, music by Louis Forbstein (1926). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle, accompanied by violin and piano (the latter played by Arthur Young), on August 22, 1927. HMV B2579 mx. Bb11403-2.

“What’s the Use of Crying?” – Elsie Carlisle

This song’s lyricist is comparatively obscure; its composer, Louis Forbstein, would later change his surname to Forbes and gain some amount of fame as musical director for David O. Selznick films (including “Gone with the Wind”). “What’s the Use of Crying?” is a song of unrequited love that begins in a rather moody register but quickly becomes more upbeat as the tempo is twice ratcheted up and the singer professes to have acquired a spirit of resignation in the face of her troubles, asking, “What’s the use of crying just for someone like you?”

Elsie Carlisle’s is the only British recording of this song that I have discovered. It was in vogue in America in late 1926-early 1927, with versions by Lee Sims, Charley Straight’s Orchestra, Ted Weems, Bessie Coldiron (as “The Sunflower Girl”), Greta Woodson, Gypsy & Marta (unissued), Peggy English (as Jane Gray), Bob Haring’s Dixie Music Makers, Harry Raderman (Arthur Hall, vocalist), and Willard Robison (accompanying himself on the piano).

"What's the Use of Crying" sheet music
“What’s the Use of Crying” sheet music

“Poor Kid” (1931)

“Poor Kid.” Music by Jesse Greer, lyrics by L. Wolfe Gilbert. Recorded in London by Elsie Carlisle c. August 1, 1931 under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur. Imperial 2532 mx. 5770-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "Poor Kid" (1931)

Elsie Carlisle – “Poor Kid” (1931)

This melancholy 1931 torch song saw American versions  by Don Bigelow, Ben Selvin, and Ben Bernie. In Britain there were versions by Ambrose and His Orchestra (Sam Browne, vocalist), Jack Payne, Roy Fox and His Band (Al Bowlly, vocalist), Eddie Gross-Bart and His Café Anglais Band (Eddie Gross-Bart doing the vocals), Harry Hudson (Al Bowlly, vocalist), and Howard Godfrey’s Aldwych Players (Les Allen, vocalist).  Betty Bolton did a solo version under the pseudonym Gracie Collins.

"Poor Kid" sheet music featuring Ben Bernie
“Poor Kid” sheet music featuring Ben Bernie

“Pardon Me, Pretty Baby” (1931)

“Pardon Me, Pretty Baby.” Words by Ray Klages and Jack Meskill, music by Vincent Rose. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur c. August 1, 1931. Imperial 2532.

Elsie Carlisle – "Pardon Me, Pretty Baby" (1931)

Elsie Carlisle – “Pardon Me, Pretty Baby” (1931)

Elsie Carlisle recorded this version of the popular “Pardon Me, Pretty Baby” for the Imperial label in August 1931 under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur. It is a light song with a chatty patter representing a persistent but inept attempt at a pickup. The tune is catchy, but a trifle repetitive. Elsie makes the song exciting by alternating between playful singing and exaggerated conversational interjections, a technique which reminds one that she was a veteran of musical theater.

In 1931 there were many treatments of “Pardon Me, Pretty Baby” on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, they include those of Joe Venuti’s Blue Four, Rudy Vallée and His Connecticut Yankees, Fred Rich and His Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Frank Novak’s Collegians, Ben Bernie and His Orchestra, “Whispering” Jack Smith, Sam Lanin’s Ipana Troubadours, and Gus Arnheim’s Cocoanut Grove Orchestra.

The song was equally popular in Britain, with versions by Jack Payne (with a vocal trio including Billy Scott-Coomber), Ambrose (with two takes on June 19, 1931 — both with Sam Browne as vocalist — one take as Ambrose and His Orchestra and the other as the Blue Lyres), Jack Harris and His Grosvenor House Band (vocalist Harry Bentley), Maurice Winnick and His Band (“Topical Tunes,” with Al Bowlly on the vocals), the Arcadians Dance Orchestra (Bert and John Firman, with a vocal trio including Maurice Elwin), Harry Hudson (Sam Browne, vocalist), the Rhythmic Eight, Eddie Gross-Bart and His Café Anglais Band, Arthur Lally (credited as Al Dollar and His Ten Cents, with Sam Browne as vocalist), Jan Ralfini and His Band (with Tom Barratt as vocalist), Harry Bidgood’s Broadcasters (Tom Barrat, vocalist), Jay Wilbur and His Band (as the Radio Syncopators, with Les Allen singing), and Howard Godfrey’s Aldwych Players (also with Les Allen as vocalist). Betty Warren was notable in her live renditions of the song in Lawrence Wright’s Blackpool North Pier production “On with the Show” (1931).

The composer of “Pardon Me, Pretty Baby,” Vincent Rose, also wrote “Umbrella Man,” which Elsie Carlisle recorded in 1939.

"Pardon Me, Pretty Baby" sheet music
“Pardon Me, Pretty Baby” sheet music

"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.