“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.
“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 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.” 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.
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.
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.
“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)
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.
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.