“Gee, Oh Gosh, I’m Grateful!” Words by Michael Carr, music by Max and Harry Nesbit (1934). Recorded by Sam Browne and “Girl Friend” (i.e. Elsie Carlisle), accompanied on the piano by Eddie Carroll and Bobbie McGhee, in London on March 2, 1934. Regal Zonophone MR-1254 CAR-2593-1.
“Gee, Oh Gosh, I’m Grateful!” was a collaboration between composer Michael Carr, who wrote other songs that Elsie Carlisle recorded, including “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” and “You’re in My Arms,” and the music hall comedian brothers Max and Harry Nesbit. In this 1934 Regal Zonophone recording, the song is a duet between “Sam Browne & Girl Friend.” The identification of “Girl Friend” as Elsie Carlisle is universally accepted on the strength of aural evidence, and the pair performs “What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander” on the other side of the record.
The scenario laid out in the lyrics of “Gee, Oh Gosh, I’m Grateful!” is a light and simple one: a bachelor and a single woman are out walking when their sudden attraction to one another coincides with a rainy downpour. No sooner has the chivalrous man shared his umbrella with the woman than…they are married with a house and baby — a quick and amusing transition. A comparable use of weather to bring potential lovers together can be found in the following year’s “Isn’t This a Lovely Day (To Be Caught in the Rain)?” sung by Fred Astaire in the Irving Berlin musical film Top Hat.
“Have You Ever Been Lonely?” Music by Peter De Rose, lyrics by Billy Hill (using the pseudonym George Brown; 1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle in London on February 14, 1933. Decca F. 3435 mx. GB5586-1.
In the 1933 song “Have You Ever Been Lonely?” one can detect the musical sensibilities of composer Peter De Rose, who would write “Deep Purple” to great acclaim the following year. The lyricist deserves attention, too; it was Billy Hill who collaborated with Harry Woods to produce “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By,” which Elsie Carlisle recorded twice in 1932, and which for modern listeners might be her trademark song, in no small part due to Dennis Potter’s Pennies from Heaven television series. “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By,” however, seems very much bound to the era of its composition and has inspired few interpretations by artists since the 1930s, whereas “Have You Ever Been Lonely?” has been recorded frequently and qualifies as a standard. Perhaps it is the latter song’s simple, timeless theme which makes it so attractive to different musical treatments.
Elsie Carlisle brings to this comparatively light torch song her talent for evoking pathos with a voice that quavers selectively and whose timbre (especially around the high notes) suggests an attractive vulnerability. Her delivery is dramatic but precise: when at 2:20 she asks “How can I go on living / Now that we’re apart?” there is the faintest hint of a mournful gulp when she pronounces the word “how.” The languid pace of the recording suits her melancholy interpretation (one might compare the excellent Ray Noble/Al Bowlly version for an example of a faster-paced, generally more upbeat rendition of the tune).
A collaboration of American expatriates Eddie Pola and Melville Gideon, “I Wish I Knew a Bigger Word Than Love” compares the depth and complexity of human affection with that four-letter word “l-o-v-e” and finds the latter wanting. This is a light song, an uncomplicated conceit with repetitive lyrics and a catchy tune attached. Elsie Carlisle’s rendition of it conveys a fair amount of innocent enthusiasm, but one gets the feeling that she is in on the fundamental silliness of the piece when she begins, about halfway through, to speak the lyrics in an exaggeratedly thoughtful way.
“Thank You So Much, Missus Lowsborough-Goodby.” Words and music by Cole Porter (1934). Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra with Elsie Carlisle on February 6, 1935. Decca F-5448.
Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. / Max Goldberg-t-mel / Harry Owen-t / Ted Heath-Tony Thorpe-Lew Davis-tb / Danny Polo-cl-as-bar / Sid Phillips-cl-as-bar / Joe Jeanette-as / Billy Amstell-cl-ts / Ernie Lewis-Reg Pursglove-vn / Bert Barnes-p / Joe Brannelly-g / Dick Ball-sb / Max Bacon-d
“Thank You So Much, Missus Lowsborough-Goodby” is a 1934 Cole Porter composition whose lyrics convey sarcasm dished up by a dissatisfied high-society house guest.The speaker fantasizes about the sort of thank-you letter that the host deserves to receive after a weekend of apparently sub-par entertaining; there follows an epistolary monologue “thanking” her by way of backhanded compliments for what are presumably overstated deficits in her hospitality (e.g. “For the ptomaine I got from your famous tinned salmon, / For the fortune I lost when you taught me backgammon…”). Cole Porter recorded the song himself on October 26, 1934, accompanying himself on the piano, and published the music in December. It is likely that “Missus Lowsborough-Goodby” was originally written for the 1934 hit musical Anything Goes, as a typescript of it was found amongst other material discarded from that project.1
Ambrose’s February 1935 version of the song benefits from an arrangement whose orchestral component highlights the musical merits of the piece independent from the funny acerbity of its lyrics. Elsie Carlisle’s contribution is the impersonation of a particularly snarky lady of the smart set. In the Decca recording, Elsie has just over two minutes in which to introduce and develop her character, and the result is a perfect picture of ridiculous ill will. A comparable mocking of the presumably petty concerns and silly pretensions of high society can be heard in her versions of “Home James, and Don’t Spare the Horses” and “Algernon Whifflesnoop John,” both recorded with Ambrose at around the same time.
“Whisper Sweet.” Words and music by James P. Johnson, Jo Trent, and Horatio Nicholls (a.k.a. Lawrence Wright). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle, probably with the Embassy Rhythm Eight, on February 1, 1935. Decca F. 5436.
The names James P. Johnson and Horatio Nicholls (a pseudonym of composer, music publisher, and impresario Lawrence Wright) are well known, that of Jo Trent considerably less so, and the origin of their song “Whisper Sweet” is comparatively obscure. Legendary stride pianist James P. Johnson composed many classic jazz tunes, including the original “Charleston.” Jo Trent was a lyricist who worked with many of the great composers, including Johnson; in 1931, for example, the two of them collaborated on the songs “Fooling Around with Love,” “Hanging Around Yo’ Door,” and “Hot Harlem,” but Trent appears to have avoided the spotlight; it has even been uncertain whether he was a man or a woman (he was the former, it seems: Joseph H. Trent). Lawrence Wright used his own name when publishing and sometimes even writing music, but he used the pseudonym Horatio Nicholls solely on compositions. There is sheet music for “Whisper Sweet” featuring a photograph of Eve Becke that credits Jo Trent and James P. Johnson as having written the words and music, with no mention of “Nicholls” at all (although the music was published by Lawrence Wright and bears that trademark). It might be asked if Lawrence Wright made some contribution to the arrangement that Elsie Carlisle sang. For what it is worth, I can find no fundamental difference between the arrangement that Elsie used and the one used by Bob Howard the next day in New York.
As with the flip side “Dancing with My Shadow,” it is assumed that Elsie’s accompanists for “Whisper Sweet” were the Embassy Rhythm Eight, as the matrices of Decca F. 5436 and two recordings that the Rhythm Eight did on February 1 and 5 form an interlacing sequence. “Whisper Sweet” is considerably livelier than “Dancing with My Shadow,” and its theme more upbeat. Elsie’s simple, sweet interpretation is suited to the dreamy lyrics, which focus primarily on the subtle outward signs of the beginning of romantic attraction.
The day after Elsie Carlisle recorded “Whisper Sweet,” Bob Howard and His Orchestra did a version in New York. Later in January there were London recordings by Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (with singer Brian Lawrance) and by Pat Hyde. In April Valaida Snow sang it for Parlophone, again in London. Sometime that year Eve Becke must have both broadcasted and recorded it, something which is asserted by the cover of the Lawrence Wright sheet music, but I have not identified an actual disc.
"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.