Ray Starita

Elsie Carlisle’s recordings in 1932 with Ray Starita  and His Ambassadors are amongst her best. It is also worth noting that he played the tenor sax in her 1927 recordings with the Gilt-Edged Four.

The Starita Family – John Wright

“On a Dreamy Afternoon” (1932)

“On a Dreamy Afternoon.” Lyrics by Robert Hargreaves and Stanley J. Damerell, with music by Montague Ewing (1932). Recorded by Ray Starita and His Ambassadors’ Band on September 15, 1932, with vocals by Elsie Carlisle. Four-in-One 7.

Personnel: Ray Starita-cl-ts dir. Nat Gonella-t / t / tb / prob. Chester Smith-cl-as-bar-o / Nat Star-cl-as / George Glover-cl-ts-vn / George Hurley-vn / Harry Robens-p / George Oliver-bj-g / Arthur Calkin-sb / Rudy Starita-d-vib-x

Ray Starita and His Ambassadors w. Elsie Carlisle – “On A Dreamy Afternoon” (1932)

“On a Dreamy Afternoon” was composed by Montague Ewing, who was known for his light music. The lyricists Hargreaves and Damerell (who sometimes used the joint pseudonym “Erell Reaves”) more frequently collaborated with composer Tolchard Evans, turning out such popular tunes as “Lady of Spain” and “If.”

Ray Starita’s version of “On a Dreamy Afternoon” was made in 1932, the last year of his recording career and one of the best, when his band included such greats as Nat Gonella and Nat Star. It was also the only year he used Elsie Carlisle as a vocalist, though he did so quite a bit, turning out excellent recordings of “Kiss by Kiss,” “Let That Be a Lesson to You,” and “I Heard,” amongst others. “On a Dreamy Afternoon” has music and lyrics that are mellow and atmospheric and showcase nicely the sweet quality of Elsie’s voice — this is definitely not one of her torch songs, and there is nothing particularly naughty in it — it is soothingly beautiful and romantic.

The recording in the YouTube video above is one of two takes of the song recorded by Ray Starita with Elsie Carlisle that day; the other appears on Sterno 1026:


Other versions of this song were recorded in October 1932 by Arthur Lally (Maurice Elwin, vocalist), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocals by Pat O’Malley; hear the unissued take 3 on jackhylton.com), and Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans, with Cavan O’Connor singing).

“Let That Be a Lesson to You” (1932)

“Let That Be a Lesson to You.”  Words and music by Isham Jones (1932).  Recorded by Ray Starita and His Ambassadors with vocals by Elsie Carlisle on June 15, 1932.  Sterno 985.

Personnel: Ray Starita-cl-ts dir. Sid Buckman-Nat Gonella-t / tb / ?Chester Smith-cl-as-bar-o / Nat Star-cl-as / George Glover-cl-ts-vn / George Hurley-vn / Harry Robens-p / George Oliver-bj-g / Arthur Calkin-sb / Rudy Starita-d-vib-x

Let That Be a Lesson to You – Ray Starita and his Ambassadors (w. Elsie Carlisle)

Video by David Weavings (YouTube)

“Let That Be a Lesson to You” has a long instrumental introduction that is mellow but catchy, and one might almost expect it to lead up to a conventional love song. The vocal refrain, however, consists of Elsie Carlisle scolding her love for being unfaithful and returning to her in disgrace. In spite of this theme, the sound of the piece somehow fits in nicely with Elsie’s other work with Ray Starita’s band in 1932, the only year of their collaboration. It is light and dreamy; one might compare its atmosphere to “Leave Me Alone With My Dreams” or “On a Dreamy Afternoon.”

In 1932 “Let That Be a Lesson to You” was recorded in America by the Isham Jones Orchestra and by the Coon-Sanders Orchestra.  In Britain, in addition to the Starita recording with Elsie Carlisle, there were versions by the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (with Chick Endor and Charlie Farrell as vocalists), by Jay Wilbur and His Band (with vocals by Tom Barratt), and by Sam Browne and Eve Becke (under the pseudonyms “Jack and Jill”).

Happy 110th Birthday, Ray Starita!

Ray (Renato) Starita, an Italian-American, along with his brothers Al and Rudy (and the less well-known Julio) were influential in British dance band music in the 1920s and early 1930s.  Ray, a saxophonist and clarinetist, led the Piccadilly Revels Band and the Ambassadors’ Band.

John Wright has compiled some interesting historical data regarding the Starita family, drawing on the accounts of their children, and he provides a unique photo gallery of Ray Starita‘s career in England and later life in the United States.

Elsie Carlisle made a number of noteworthy recordings with Ray Starita and His Ambassadors’ Band in 1932, including “Let That Be a Lesson to You,” “I Heard,” and Noël Coward’s “Mad About the Boy.”

Ray Starita and His Ambassadors' Band c. 1930
Ray Starita and His Ambassadors’ Band c. 1930

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