“The Girl in the Hansom Cab” (1937)

“The Girl in the Hansom Cab.”  Words and music by Jimmy Kennedy (1937).  Recorded by Jack Harris and His Orchestra, with vocals by Elsie Carlisle, on November 1, 1937.  HMV B. D. 5289 mx. OEA 5119-1.

Elsie Carlisle – "The Girl in the Hansom Cab" (1937)

Elsie Carlisle (w. Jack Harris) – “The Girl in the Hansom Cab” (1937)

“The Girl in the Hansom Cab” was composed by Jimmy Kennedy in 1937.  Kennedy was a prolific lyricist and composer, with such well-known songs as “Isle of Capri” (1934), and “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” (1939) to his name, but “The Girl in the Hansom Cab” does not seem to be one of his more frequently covered compositions.  It involves a chorus girl who marries up (although her having committed bigamy is suggested!), and the song employs the sort of barely veiled sexual innuendo so perfectly suited to Elsie’s comic delivery.  Lyrics.

"The Girl in the Hansom Cab." Sheet music featuring Elsie Carlisle's image (1937).

Other Recordings with Jack Harris

“I’m a Little Prairie Flower” (1937)

“I’m a Little Prairie Flower.” Composed by Leslie Sarony and Leslie Holmes (1937).  Recorded by Jack Harris and His Orchestra with Elsie Carlisle as vocalist on October 25, 1937. HMV B. D. 5289 mx. OEA 5109-1.

Personnel: Jack Harris-vn dir. Alfie Noakes-Doug Holman-t / Lewis Davis-Don Binney-tb /Harry Karr-cl-as-f / Freddy Williams-cl-as / Harry Smith-cl-as-ts / George Glover-bar / Max Jaffa-Bill Sniderman-vn / Bert Read-Jack Penn-p-a / Cyril Halliday-Joe Brannelly-g / Alf Gray-d

Elsie Carlisle – "I'm a Little Prairie Flower" (1937)

Elsie Carlisle (w. Jack Harris) – “I’m a Little Prairie Flower” (1937)

“I’m a Little Prairie Flower” was composed by Leslie Holmes and Leslie Sarony in 1937, although the refrain is taken from an older song (anthologized by E. O. Harbin in 1927), with possibly some connection to the 1925 Jack Gardner tune “I’m a Little Prairie Flower (I’m Wild, I’m Wild).” It is a silly song that bases its comic effect on an extended but distracted botanical metaphor. The Two Leslies recorded it themselves in 1937:

[I'm a Little] Prairie Flower

The Two Leslies – I’m a Little Prairie Flower

They even performed it in a 1938 short (probably filmed at Pathé Studios in London), with Leslie Holmes singing at the piano and Leslie Sarony dancing and gesticulating:

The Two Leslies (1938)

The Two Leslies (1938)

British Pathé Video (YouTube)

Elsie Carlisle made her recording of “I’m a Little Prairie Flower” on October 25, 1937 with Jack Harris and His Orchestra, with altered lyrics. There were also versions done in November 1937 by Billy Cotton and His Band (with Alan Breeze as the vocalist) and by Jack Jackson and His Orchestra (with vocals by Helen Clare, Jackie Hunter, Jack Jackson, and Jack Cooper).

Elsie recorded five other songs with Jack Harris and His Orchestra in late 1937 and did radio broadcasts with them in 1938. Harris was an American bandleader who moved to England in 1927 and was an important figure in British dance band music through the 1930s. He even co-owned Ciro’s Club for a while with Ambrose. When war broke out in Europe, however, he went back to America, and was not able to return to Britain for want of safe passage.

“You’re My Everything” (1932)

“You’re My Everything.” Words by Mort Dixon and Joe Young, music by Harry Warren (1931). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with an instrumental trio in Manchester on September 23, 1932. Decca F. 3193 mx. KB135-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "You're My Everything" (1932)

Elsie Carlisle – “You’re My Everything” (1932)

An effusive expression of affection, “You’re My Everything” has its origins as the hit song of of a 1931-1932 two-act Broadway revue entitled The Laugh Parade, produced by and starring Ed Wynn, a comedian who twenty years later would provide the voice for the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The music for the play was composed by Harry Warren, with lyrics provided by Mort Dixon and Joe Young. It was French actress Jeanne Aubert and American actor Lawrence Gray who introduced the signature tune.

Elsie Carlisle, in her 1932 recording of the song, brings sincerity to its hyperbolic lyrics. Hers is a surprisingly straightforward and touching interpretation of the composition; we find absent the coyness of her torch songs, the levity of her racier music. The band provides a suitably atmospheric accompaniment to her professions of love and awe for the lucky “you” of the song.

“You’re My Everything” was recorded in September 1931 by the Arden-Ohman Orchestra (with vocals by Frank Luther) and in October by Abe Lyman and His Orchestra (Dick Robertson, vocalist). In 1932 America heard versions by Russ Columbo, Ben Selvin’s Ariel Dance Orchestra (Helen Rowland, vocalist), Jack Miller and the New Englanders,

 Britain produced recordings of “You’re My Everything” later in 1932, with versions by Roy Fox and His Band (with Al Bowlly as vocalist), Syd Lipton (as Sidney Raymond and His Commanders), the Blue Mountaineers (with vocals by Sam Browne), Ray Noble and His New Mayfair Orchestra (as part of a “Paul Jones” medley), Bertini and His Band (with vocals by Tom Barratt), and by Anona Winn and Jack Plant (as “Bob Mackworth”).

"You're My Everything" sheet music (from "The Laugh Parade," 1931")
“You’re My Everything” sheet music (from “The Laugh Parade,” 1931″)

“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” (1932)

“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye.” Words and music by Harry Woods (1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with an instrumental trio in Manchester on September 23, 1932. Decca F. 3193 mx. KB-134-1.

Elsie Carlisle – "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" (1932)

Elsie Carlisle – “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” (1932)

A light, romantic song about two lovers’ reconciliation, Harry Woods’s “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” is noteworthy for its fanciful personification of pieces of furniture. When the couple is on the verge of parting, a chair and a sofa cry. A smiling clock expresses its feelings about the situation and brings the two people back together again, at which point the room in which everything happens sings and dances. Elsie Carlisle’s delivery of the lyrics is varied; it starts out somber, almost plodding, and becomes more upbeat as the relationship between the lovers improves. She engages in a sort of call and response with the clarinet at one point and almost whispers the final “I tell you confidentially.” Elsie’s is not exactly a lively take on the tune; it is, rather, a very deliberate interpretation of the sense of the lyrics, and of the other versions of the song recorded that year, it most closely resembles that of the American-born but London-based Layton and Johstone.

In America in 1932 there were versions of “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” recorded by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, Chick Bullock and His Levee Loungers (with vocals by Chick Bullock), Ralph Bennett and His Seven Aces, The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (with the Boswell Sisters), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (Mildred Bailey, vocalist), and Freddy Martin and His Orchestra. Annette Hanshaw sang it on a record and August 1932 and would go on to sing it in a film (the 1933 Captain Henry’s Radio Show). Even Shirley Temple sang it, in the 1933 film Kid in Hollywood, which is as cute as it is cacophonous.

In Britain, 1932 saw recordings of “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” by the Blue Mountaineers, the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (with vocals by Jack Plant), Ambrose and His Orchestra (Sam Browne, vocalist), Billy Cotton and His Band (Cyril Grantham, vocalist), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocals by Pat O’Malley), Nat Star (as Bernie Blake and His Band, with Les Allen as vocalist), Jay Wilbur and His Band (vocalist Tom Barratt), and Jack Plant (as Jack Gordon). Notable duets were recorded by, as I have noted, Layton and Johnstone, and also by Hardy and Hudson.

"We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" sheet music
“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” sheet music

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (Decca F. 3146 – 1932)

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.” Written and composed by Harry Woods and Billy Hill (using the pseudonym George Brown) in 1932. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano accompaniment and with Len Fillis on the steel guitar on September 19, 1932 in Chelsea Town Hall, London.  Decca F. 3146 mx. GB4844-4.

Elsie Carlisle – "The Clouds Will Soon Roll By" (Decca F. 3146)

Elsie Carlisle – “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (Decca F. 3146)

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” is one of Elsie Carlisle’s best-known songs, but it is her recording of it with Ambrose and His Orchestra (in a remarkable arrangement by Ronnie Munro) that is most recognizable and most often cited in popular culture. I have written about that version in another article, where I provide other examples of 1932 recordings of the song.

The Ambrose recording is from July 1932, but in September of that year Elsie would record another version that contrasts greatly with the earlier one. Here, instead of a large band using an elaborate orchestration, we have a single pianist and Len Fillis on the steel guitar. The arrangement is basically that of the original sheet music, with the omission of the second verse and the addition of Elsie dreamily humming part of the melody and then proceeding to engage momentarily in what might almost be considered scat singing. As seems so often to be the case with meteorologically optimistic songs, the lyrics are upbeat but the rendering of the music is purely melancholy (compare some versions of “Blue Skies,” especially Al Bowlly’s 1927 version). Elsie’s subtle vocal flourishes make the recording a particularly touching part of her catalogue.

"The Clouds Will Soon Roll By" sheet music
“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” sheet music

Photograph of “Grey clouds over Marwell Zoo” by Uli Harder.

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

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