Solo Recordings

It seems almost a misnomer to speak of Elsie Carlisle “solo” recordings, for she always had accompanists. What I here call “solo” recordings are records on which her name is featured, rather than that of a band, and usually only when the accompanists cannot be safely identified.

“One Little Kiss” (1934)

“One Little Kiss.” Written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby for the RKO Radio Film Kentucky Kernels (1934). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment in London on October 31, 1934. Decca F. 5289 mx. TB1698-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "One Little Kiss" (1934)

Elsie Carlisle – “One Little Kiss” (1934)

“One Little Kiss” was written for the 1934 RKO Radio Film Kentucky Kernels starring comedy duo Wheeler and Woolsey. In the movie, the various characters sing increasingly silly versions of the song in succession. The apex of the wackiness takes the form of child star Spanky McFarland’s singing to a dog and Woolsey’s serenading a donkey. It comes as no surprise that Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, who wrote the screenplay of Kentucky Kernels and composed its songs, had contributed to the 1932 Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers and composed the anthem “Everyone Says I Love You,” which is similarly rendered by the film’s various characters with increasingly comic bathos.1

Elsie Carlisle’s version of “One Little Kiss” lacks the silliness of its celluloid antecedent, the last vestige of which, perhaps, is the repetition of the phrase “One teeny little, weeny little kiss.” Instead, it is a comparatively serious interpretation of the lyrics which highlights the inherent merits of the catchy melody. As with most popular songs from musical comedies, “One Little Kiss” saw a number of treatments in 1934. In America, there were versions by Cliff Edwards and the Eton Boys, Harry Reser and His Orchestra (with vocals by Tom Stacks), and Ted Weems and His Orchestra (with Gene Glennan as vocalist). In Britain, in addition to Elsie Carlisle’s version, there were recordings of “One Little Kiss” made by Brian Lawrance and His Quaglino’s Quartet in November 1934 and by Kitty Masters and Val Rosing in February 1935.

Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar at the piano
Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar at the piano

Notes:

  1. See also Erin Elisavet Kozák’s article on “The Marx Brothers’ ‘Everyone Says “I Love You’ in Film and Popular Music.” The Discographer Magazine 3.5 (2016), especially p. 4.

“You’re My Everything” (1932)

“You’re My Everything.” Words by Mort Dixon and Joe Young, music by Harry Warren (1931). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with an instrumental trio in Manchester on September 23, 1932. Decca F. 3193 mx. KB135-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "You're My Everything" (1932)

Elsie Carlisle – “You’re My Everything” (1932)

An effusive expression of affection, “You’re My Everything” has its origins as the hit song of of a 1931-1932 two-act Broadway revue entitled The Laugh Parade, produced by and starring Ed Wynn, a comedian who twenty years later would provide the voice for the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The music for the play was composed by Harry Warren, with lyrics provided by Mort Dixon and Joe Young. It was French actress Jeanne Aubert and American actor Lawrence Gray who introduced the signature tune.

Elsie Carlisle, in her 1932 recording of the song, brings sincerity to its hyperbolic lyrics. Hers is a surprisingly straightforward and touching interpretation of the composition; we find absent the coyness of her torch songs, the levity of her racier music. The band provides a suitably atmospheric accompaniment to her professions of love and awe for the lucky “you” of the song.

“You’re My Everything” was recorded in September 1931 by the Arden-Ohman Orchestra (with vocals by Frank Luther) and in October by Abe Lyman and His Orchestra (Dick Robertson, vocalist). In 1932 America heard versions by Russ Columbo, Ben Selvin’s Ariel Dance Orchestra (Helen Rowland, vocalist), Jack Miller and the New Englanders,

 Britain produced recordings of “You’re My Everything” later in 1932, with versions by Roy Fox and His Band (with Al Bowlly as vocalist), Syd Lipton (as Sidney Raymond and His Commanders), the Blue Mountaineers (with vocals by Sam Browne), Ray Noble and His New Mayfair Orchestra (as part of a “Paul Jones” medley), Bertini and His Band (with vocals by Tom Barratt), and by Anona Winn and Jack Plant (as “Bob Mackworth”).

"You're My Everything" sheet music (from "The Laugh Parade," 1931")
“You’re My Everything” sheet music (from “The Laugh Parade,” 1931″)

“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” (1932)

“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye.” Words and music by Harry Woods (1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with an instrumental trio in Manchester on September 23, 1932. Decca F. 3193 mx. KB-134-1.

Elsie Carlisle – "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" (1932)

Elsie Carlisle – “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” (1932)

A light, romantic song about two lovers’ reconciliation, Harry Woods’s “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” is noteworthy for its fanciful personification of pieces of furniture. When the couple is on the verge of parting, a chair and a sofa cry. A smiling clock expresses its feelings about the situation and brings the two people back together again, at which point the room in which everything happens sings and dances. Elsie Carlisle’s delivery of the lyrics is varied; it starts out somber, almost plodding, and becomes more upbeat as the relationship between the lovers improves. She engages in a sort of call and response with the clarinet at one point and almost whispers the final “I tell you confidentially.” Elsie’s is not exactly a lively take on the tune; it is, rather, a very deliberate interpretation of the sense of the lyrics, and of the other versions of the song recorded that year, it most closely resembles that of the American-born but London-based Layton and Johstone.

In America in 1932 there were versions of “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” recorded by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, Chick Bullock and His Levee Loungers (with vocals by Chick Bullock), Ralph Bennett and His Seven Aces, The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (with the Boswell Sisters), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (Mildred Bailey, vocalist), and Freddy Martin and His Orchestra. Annette Hanshaw sang it on a record and August 1932 and would go on to sing it in a film (the 1933 Captain Henry’s Radio Show). Even Shirley Temple sang it, in the 1933 film Kid in Hollywood, which is as cute as it is cacophonous.

In Britain, 1932 saw recordings of “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” by the Blue Mountaineers, the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (with vocals by Jack Plant), Ambrose and His Orchestra (Sam Browne, vocalist), Billy Cotton and His Band (Cyril Grantham, vocalist), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocals by Pat O’Malley), Nat Star (as Bernie Blake and His Band, with Les Allen as vocalist), Jay Wilbur and His Band (vocalist Tom Barratt), and Jack Plant (as Jack Gordon). Notable duets were recorded by, as I have noted, Layton and Johnstone, and also by Hardy and Hudson.

"We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" sheet music
“We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” sheet music

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (Decca F. 3146 – 1932)

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By.” Written and composed by Harry Woods and Billy Hill (using the pseudonym George Brown) in 1932. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano accompaniment and with Len Fillis on the steel guitar on September 19, 1932 in Chelsea Town Hall, London.  Decca F. 3146 mx. GB4844-4.

Elsie Carlisle – "The Clouds Will Soon Roll By" (Decca F. 3146)

Elsie Carlisle – “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” (Decca F. 3146)

“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” is one of Elsie Carlisle’s best-known songs, but it is her recording of it with Ambrose and His Orchestra (in a remarkable arrangement by Ronnie Munro) that is most recognizable and most often cited in popular culture. I have written about that version in another article, where I provide other examples of 1932 recordings of the song.

The Ambrose recording is from July 1932, but in September of that year Elsie would record another version that contrasts greatly with the earlier one. Here, instead of a large band using an elaborate orchestration, we have a single pianist and Len Fillis on the steel guitar. The arrangement is basically that of the original sheet music, with the omission of the second verse and the addition of Elsie dreamily humming part of the melody and then proceeding to engage momentarily in what might almost be considered scat singing. As seems so often to be the case with meteorologically optimistic songs, the lyrics are upbeat but the rendering of the music is purely melancholy (compare some versions of “Blue Skies,” especially Al Bowlly’s 1927 version). Elsie’s subtle vocal flourishes make the recording a particularly touching part of her catalogue.

"The Clouds Will Soon Roll By" sheet music
“The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” sheet music

Photograph of “Grey clouds over Marwell Zoo” by Uli Harder.

“Conversation for Two” (1935)

“Conversation for Two.” Composed by Sammy Mysels, Billy Hueston, and Bob Emmerich (1935). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on September 7, 1935. Decca F. 5689.

ELSIE CARLISLE. Conversation For Two 1935

Elsie Carlisle – “Conversation for Two” (1935)

Video by Brighton Rock (YouTube)

Elsie Carlisle sings this languid love song about small talk leading to romance with considerably less of the dramatic element than is her wont. Instead, she adapts her delivery to the slow yet catchy tune in such a way as to make it atmospheric. Even her dreamy humming “Mm-mm-mm-mm…” followed by “I love you” is seductively sedating. It is perhaps fitting that the flip side of the record is “Star Gazing,” a song which is similarly leisurely in pace and vaguely mesmerizing.

Elsie’s 1935 rendition of “Conversation for Two” is the only recording that I have found of the song. Even the sheet music appears to be rare. The three composers were all prolific, however. Mysels and Emmerich got involved in composing music for motion pictures, and Emmerich, a pianist in the Tommy Dorsey Band and songwriter for Fats Waller, went on to write “The Big Apple,” a song which popularized New York City’s peculiar sobriquet.

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