Jay Wilbur

An accomplished bandleader in his own right, Jay Wilbur (1898-1970) had enormous influence over the recording of British dance band music and over Elsie Carlisle’s “solo” output in his role as musical director for such labels as Dominion, Imperial, Eclipse, and Rex. Just as it has long been the custom to identify the glorious voices (including Elsie’s) credited only as “vocal refrain” on dance band records, it is increasingly common to recognize the part that people such as Wilbur played in determining the sound of British popular music. It would be fair to say that Wilbur’s contributions to Elsie’s career rival those of Ambrose.

Jay Wilbur – Wikipedia

Jay Wilbur

Jay Wilbur

“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” (1940)

“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”  Words by Eric Maschwitz, music by Manning Sherwin (1940).  Recorded by Elsie Carlisle under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur on April 11, 1940.  Rex 9816.

Elsie Carlisle - A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square – Elsie Carlisle

Video by Brian’s 78’s (YouTube)

“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” is a simple, sentimental love song that recounts the circumstances of the first meeting of two lovers in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, which happens to be only five blocks from where Elsie Carlisle lived for decades.  On April 11, 1940 she recorded this atmospheric composition for the Rex label to the accompaniment of an electric organ.  Hers remains one of the memorable early versions of the piece, which continues to see treatments by popular artists to this day.

First performed in the musical revue New Faces by Judy Campbell, the song was popular with British dance bands in June and July of 1940:  there were versions by Carrol Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (with Anne Lenner singing), Ambrose and His Orchestra (with Anne Shelton as vocalist), Geraldo and His Orchestra (with Dorothy Carless), Billy Cotton and His Band (Alan Breeze, vocalist), and Joe Loss and His Band (with Paula Greene singing).  It was included in medleys by Jay Wilbur and His Band (Sam Browne, vocalist) and by Joe Loss.  Other than Elsie Carlisle’s, the most notable solo recording that year was by Vera Lynn, who is unusual in having sung the first stanza, which is traditionally omitted.

“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” was popular in America that fall and was recorded by Gene Krupa and His Orchestra (with vocalist Howard Dulaney), Ray Noble and His Orchestra (Larry Stewart, vocalist), and Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (with singer Ray Eberle)Kate Smith would make a notable solo recording of the song (like Vera Lynn, she sings the first stanza).

Sadly, German bombs would fall on Berkeley Square only months after Elsie Carlisle made her recording.

“She Had Those Dark and Dreamy Eyes”

Clive Hooley has given us quite a treat: an Elsie Carlisle song recorded 73 years ago that was not previously on the Internet and is on no vinyl album or CD that I have ever seen. It is a wartime tune on the flip side of the album with the famous “Hut Sut Song.” Copyrighted in 1941, “She Had Those Dark and Dreamy Eyes” appears to have its roots in older sea shanties, and recurs in a truly filthy form in the doggerel of WWII airmen.1

“She Had Those Dark and Dreamy Eyes.” Music and words by Jimmy Hughes and Ted Douglas (1941). Recorded by Elise Carlisle on July 4, 1941. Rex 10021.

She had those dark and dreamy eyes, Elsie Carlisle, 1941

She Had Those Dark and Dreamy Eyes, Elsie Carlisle, 1941

“Please Leave My Butter Alone” (1940)

“Please Leave My Butter Alone.” Recorded by Elsie Carlisle on December 27, 1940 in the context of war rationing:

“Everybody pinches my butter;
They won’t leave my butter alone!
And nothing is better than butter
For keeping the old man at home.

Everybody says I’m old-fashioned
To sit on the things that are rationed, etc.”

Elsie Carlisle - Please Leave My Butter Alone

Please Leave My Butter Alone – Elsie Carlisle

Video by Twenties Girl (YouTube)

It must have seemed obvious to have Miss Carlisle express herself with such double-entendre, but the song had actually been first recorded that year by Elsie and Doris Waters (a.k.a. Gert and Daisy). There was even a version by the comedian Arthur Askey:

Arthur Askey - Please Leave My Butter Alone

Arthur Askey – Please Leave My Butter Alone

Video by Andrew Oldham (YouTube)

All of which raises the question: in wartime, if you were inclined to pinch someone’s butter, whose butter would you pinch?

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