“Dancing with My Shadow” (1935)

“Dancing with My Shadow.” Composed by Harry Woods for the British musical comedy Thank You So Much. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle, probably with the Embassy Rhythm Eight, on February 5, 1935. Decca F. 5436.

Dancing with my Shadow, Elsie Carlisle, 1930's

Elsie Carlisle – “Dancing with My Shadow” (1935)

Transfer by Clive Hooley (YouTube)

A song about the loneliness of lovers drawn apart, “Dancing with My Shadow” encapsulates its theme of longing in its refrain:

Dancing with my shadow,
Feeling kind of blue,
Dancing with my shadow
And making believe it’s you.

This slow foxtrot was composed by Harry Woods for the British musical comedy Thank You So Much. Woods wrote other notable songs that Elsie Carlisle recorded; one thinks particularly of “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.” The song also notably appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film adaptation of The 39 Steps. Elsie Carlisle, veteran torch singer, interprets the lyrics masterfully on this record, which she appears to have recorded with the Embassy Rhythm Eight, who went uncredited; this identification is strengthened by an examination of the sequence of matrices on the records they recorded with Decca on the same day.

“Dancing with My Shadow” had been recorded in the United States the previous year by Richard Himber and His Ritz-Carlton Orchestra and by Joe Reichman and His Orchestra (with vocalist Paul Small). In Britain in early 1935 there were versions by Billy Cotton and His Band (with Alan Breeze), Harry Roy and His Orchestra (Ivor Moreton, vocalist), the Piccadilly Hotel Band (with vocalist Jack Plant), the New Grosvenor House Band, Joseph Swindin and His Boys (Frank Gough, vocalist), and Harry Leader and His Band. The song was even popular in Swedish and Danish translations.

“I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me” (c. 1929)

"Gee-Oh! Gosh - Gosh-Oh! Gee - I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me" sheet music
“Gee-Oh! Gosh – Gosh-Oh! Gee – I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me” sheet music

I have not found any evidence of Elsie Carlisle’s having recorded “I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me”; she must have sung it on the radio. There is a very nice version of the song (going under an alternate title) by Nat Shilkret and His Orchestra, with Belle Mann on the vocals:

I want a Daddy to Cuddle me, Nat Shilkret and his Orch

“I Want a Daddy to Cuddle Me” –  Nat Shilkret and His Orchestra

Transfer by Clive Hooley (YouTube)

“Body and Soul” (1930)

“Body and Soul.”  Lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton, with music by Johnny Green (1930).  Recorded by Elsie Carlisle under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur in London c. early March 1930.  Dominion C307 mx. 1713-1.

Elsie Carlisle – "Body and Soul" (1930)

Elsie Carlisle – “Body and Soul” (1930)

In 1929, American composer Johnny Green got together with lyricists Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton to write a number of songs for British actress Gertrude Lawrence to sing on the London stage.  One of them, “Body and Soul,” was to become a jazz standard par excellence.  Lawrence, to her credit, recognized the inherent merit of the song and bought a share in it before going on to introduce it on the London stage and sing it on the radio, where it was heard by British dance band greats Jack Hylton and Bert Ambrose.  Their renditions caught the attention of the public and of bandleaders, singers, and instrumentalists alike.  After a spring fever of “Body and Soul” in London, recording of the infectious tune subsided for the summer and then resurged in America.  In mid-October the song appeared as part of the Broadway revue Three’s a Crowd and was performed and later recorded by Libby Holman.

Elsie Carlisle sang many torch songs early in her recording career; unrequited love was a theme as much in vogue then as it is now, and Elsie’s delicate, sometimes quavering voice was a suitable vehicle for conveying pathos.  Her March 1930 “Body and Soul” stands out from the rest because of her especially touching rendering of its mesmerizingly sad motifs.  It might seem amusing that this recording is paired on its flip-side with the ribald “My Man O’ War,” which is a sort of sublime, extended series of sexual double entendres, but there is something a little gritty, too,  about the lyrics of “Body and Soul” and the intensity with which Elsie expresses them.

“Body and Soul” had been recorded in early February 1930 by Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocalist Pat O’Malley, in a Billy Ternent arrangement).  Later that month Hylton’s group would do a longer “concert arrangement” of “Body and Soul,” also with O’Malley.  Soon after, Ambrose and His Orchestra recorded two takes of the song with Sam Browne; Ambrose and Browne would go on to issue two more versions of “Body and Soul” in 1933.  The Four Bright Sparks made a recording with singer Betty Bolton that was never issued, but their take with Lou Abelardo was.  Other February versions were done by Arthur Roseberry and His Dance Band (Harry Bentley, vocalist) and Bidgood’s Broadcasters (with vocalist John Thorne).

In March, in addition to that of Elsie Carlisle, there were British renditions of “Body and Soul” by Spike Hughes, Jack Payne and His Band (an unissued take with vocalist Jack Plant), Hal Swain and His Band, Marie Burke, Herman Darewski and His Famous Melody Band, and Gracie Fields.  As the spring went on, versions were made by Pete Mandell and His Rhythm Masters (three takes, including two with Jack Plant), Carroll Gibbons (on the piano, accompanied by violin and saxophone), Nat Star (as Bert Maddison and His Dance Orchestra, with vocalist Sam Browne), Jack Leon’s Dance Band (Jimmy Allen, vocalist), and Alfredo’s Band (with Sam Browne).

From America, starting in September 1930, we have an unissued take of “Body and Soul” by Helen Morgan.  Leo Reisman appears to have been quite fond of the song, and issued three recordings, one with Don Howard, one with Frank Luther and horn player Bubber Miley, and one with Frances Maddux. There were also records by Fred Rich and His Orchestra, Ruth Etting, Annette Hanshaw, Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra, Louis Armstrong and His Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra, Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (with vocalist Jack Fulton), Seger Ellis, Libby Holman, and Vee Lawnhurst (accompanying herself on the piano, of course).

“Fit as a Fiddle” (1933)

“Fit as a Fiddle.” Words by Arthur Freed, music by Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart (1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on January 13, 1933. Decca F. 3411 mx. GB5467-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "Fit as a Fiddle" (1933)

Elsie Carlisle – “Fit as a Fiddle” (1933)

The lyrics of “Fit as a Fiddle (and Ready for Love),” penned by Arthur Freed, are an ecstatic expression of a happy anticipation of marriage somewhat in the mold of the classic 1925 Henderson/Lewis/Young song “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” (made popular by Al Jolson). “Fit as a Fiddle,” however, is marked by its peculiarly infectious rhythm and its reliance on nonsense words. “Hi, diddle, diddle” and “Hey nonny nonny and a hot-cha-cha!” stand out, although Elsie Carlisle apparently could not get the latter colloquialism quite right, in spite of its being very clearly written on the cover of the sheet music (although “Hainy nainy nonny and a HAH-chah!” is a very cute variant, I will admit). Baby words aside, Elsie’s “Fit as a Fiddle” is nothing if not ebullient, and she is complemented nicely by her band.

In America the year 1932 had seen versions of  “Fit as a Fiddle” by The Three Keys, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra (with vocals by the Kahn-a-Sirs), Gene Kardos and His Orchestra (as Ed Lloyd and His Orchestra, with vocalist Chick Bullock), Will Osborne and His Orchestra with vocalist Annette Hanshaw (who naturally managed to sound not only fit as a fiddle, but a little bit naughty and lazy to boot), Paul Small, and The Ponce Sisters. In 1933 Phil Harris did a version with Leah Ray as the vocalist.

“Fit as a Fiddle” was recorded in London in January and early February 1933 by the Blue Mountaineers (vocalists Sam Browne and Nat Gonella), Ambrose and His Orchestra (with Sam Browne), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocals by Pat O’Malley, Jack Hylton himself, and Billy Ternent, who arranged the song), and Rudy Starita and His Band, and by soprano Frances Maddux (with Carroll Gibbons on the piano and Len Fillis on the guitar).

Post-War listeners are most likely familiar with “Fit as a Fiddle” because Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor sing it in a flashback in the 1952 musical comedy filmSingin’ in the Rain, which was in fact produced by lyricist Arthur Freed himself.

“My Kid’s a Crooner” (1935)

“My Kid’s a Crooner.” Composed by Marion Harris and Reg Montgomery. Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra, with Elsie Carlisle as vocalist, on January 3, 1935. Decca F. 5393.

Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-t-mel / Harry Owen-t / t / Ted Heath-Tony Thorpe-tb / Danny Polo-Sid Phillips-Billy Amstell-reeds / Joe Jeannette-as / Ernie Lewis-Reg Pursglove-others?-vn / Bert Barnes-p / Joe Brannelly-g / Dick Ball-sb / Max Bacon-d

My kid's a Crooner, Ambrose, 1935

Elsie Carlisle – My Kid’s A Crooner (1935)

Video by Clive Hooley (YouTube)

“My Kid’s a Crooner,” a song whose subtitle is, naturally, “(Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo),” was written by British composer Reg Montgomery and American songstress Marion Harris, who had relocated to London in the early 1930s and had retired there. It involves a mother who is concerned about her infant child’s future, seeing as he mostly makes the sound “boo-boo-boo-boo” (and occasionally “ah-cha-cha!”). Concluding that he aspires to be a crooner, she resolves to contact Bing Crosby for advice. Elsie Carlisle takes this song, which is inherently very silly, and makes it even funnier by sounding almost genuine in her mock-maternal concern — yet not so much so as to let her quavering voice overwhelm her rather cute, moderately infantile, and decidedly Crosbyesque boo-boo-booing.

“My Kid’s a Crooner” was also recorded in London in December 1934 by Pat Hyde (accompanied by Edgar Jackson and His Orchestra) and in early 1935 by Harry Roy and His Orchestra (with vocals by Harry Roy himself), the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra under the direction of Carroll Gibbons (with vocals by Frances Day and five-year-old Sybil Jackson, the latter of whom is surprisingly not that bad), Lou Preager and His Romano’s Restaurant Dance Orchestra (with Pat Hyde), and Billy Cotton and His Band (with vocalist Harold “Chips” Chippendall). There were other 1935 recordings by Phyllis Robins, Kitty Masters, and Eve Becke, and an apparently unissued take of Helen Raymond singing “My Kid’s a Crooner” is extant.

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

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