Jack Harris

Elsie Carlisle recorded a number of good sides in 1937-1938 with Jack Harris, American-born bandleader and sometime business partner of Ambrose.

“The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” (1937)

“The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot.” Composed by Michael Carr, Tommy Connor, and Jimmy Leach. Recorded by Jack Harris and His Orchestra, with Elsie Carlisle as vocalist, on November 1, 1937. HMV BD-5290 mx. OEA 5120-1.

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

Jack Harris & His Orchestra w. Elsie Carlisle – "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" (1937)

Jack Harris & His Orchestra w. Elsie Carlisle – “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” (1937)

“The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot”  is a secular Christmas song concerning a boy who receives no visit from Santa Claus and therefore gets no Christmas gifts. He feels out of place when he considers the treasured argosies awaiting other children. The song reveals that the boy is fatherless, and suddenly we see things from an adult perspective: since we know that it is parents who play the role of the mythical jolly gift-giver, the lack of a father could mean missing out on a common seasonal joy.  In the end, the song changes its focus from a fictional character to the absent father who would normally impersonate him, and the boy’s unfortunate situation is revealed to be year-round, not seasonal.  Jack Harris’s band lends a rich tone to this sad composition, and although the song’s lyrics have the potential to be cloying, Elsie Carlisle’s singing emphasizes their more poignant aspects.

“The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” has been recorded countless times since its composition in 1937. Vera Lynn’s version of it, recorded with Ambrose and His Orchestra six days before Elsie Carlisle did hers with Jack Harris, notably appears in the opening sequence of Pink Floyd’s 1982 movie The Wall, the relevance of its inclusion being that the father of Pink Floyd band member and screenwriter Roger Waters (and that of the fictional character that he based on himself) was killed fighting in the Second World War when Waters was only an infant.

On the same day that Jack Harris recorded “The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot” with Elsie Carlisle, Billy Cotton did a version with Alan Breeze as his vocalist; it features a speech by a small child.  Soon afterwards there were recordings by Phyllis Robins and Arthur Tracy. An early American version was recorded by Jimmy Ray and the Southern Serenaders.

“Moonlight on the Waterfall” (1937)

“Moonlight on the Waterfall.” Words and music by Jimmy Kennedy and Wilhelm Grosz (the latter employing the pseudonym “Hugh Williams”). Recorded by Jack Harris and His Orchestra with Elsie Carlisle as vocalist on October 25, 1937. HMV B.D. 5290 mx. OEA 5108-1.

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-cel-a / Cyril Halliday-Joe Brannelly-g / Alf Gray-d

Jack Harris & His Orchestra (w. Elsie Carlisle) – Moonlight on the Waterfall (1937)

Jack Harris and His Orchestra (w. Elsie Carlisle) – “Moonlight on the Waterfall” (1937)

A composition by the prolific songwriter Jimmy Kennedy (collaborating with the exiled Austrian composer Wilhelm Grosz, who worked in Britain under the name Hugh Williams), “Moonlight on the Waterfall” associates the image of an lovely outdoor setting with the memory of a lost lover.  The lyrics do not have any claim to being particularly profound, but Elsie Carlisle does justice to the song’s melancholy beauty with the sweetness of her delivery.  This recording is the product of Elsie’s brief but productive collaboration with the band of American-born bandleader Jack Harris.

In 1937 there were recordings of “Moonlight on the Waterfall” by such bands as Ambrose and His Orchestra (with vocals by Vera Lynn), Mantovani and His Orchestra (Ken Crossley, vocalist), Billy Cotton and His Band (with vocalist Peter Williams), Billy Thorburn and His Music (with Eddie Guray, vocalist), and Maurice Winnick and His Sweetest Music (in “Melody Medley No. 2”).  There were also solo versions by Ramona Davies, Dorothy Squires and Arthur Tracy.

“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.

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