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.

“I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me” (c. 1929)

"Gee-Oh! Gosh - Gosh-Oh! Gee - I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me" sheet music
“Gee-Oh! Gosh – Gosh-Oh! Gee – I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me” sheet music

I have not found any evidence of Elsie Carlisle’s having recorded “I Want Somebody to Cuddle Me”; she must have sung it on the radio. There is a very nice version of the song (going under an alternate title) by Nat Shilkret and His Orchestra, with Belle Mann on the vocals:

I want a Daddy to Cuddle me, Nat Shilkret and his Orch

“I Want a Daddy to Cuddle Me” –   Nat Shilkret and His Orchestra

Transfer by Clive Hooley (YouTube)

“Fit as a Fiddle” (1933)

“Fit as a Fiddle.” Words by Arthur Freed, music by Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart (1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on January 13, 1933. Decca F. 3411 mx. GB5467-2.

Elsie Carlisle - "Fit as a Fiddle" (1933)

Elsie Carlisle – “Fit as a Fiddle” (1933)

The lyrics of “Fit as a Fiddle (and Ready for Love),” penned by Arthur Freed, are an ecstatic expression of a happy anticipation of marriage somewhat in the mold of the classic 1925 Henderson/Lewis/Young song “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” (made popular by Al Jolson). “Fit as a Fiddle,” however, is marked by its peculiarly infectious rhythm and its reliance on nonsense words. “Hi, diddle, diddle” and “Hey nonny nonny and a hot-cha-cha!” stand out, although Elsie Carlisle apparently could not get the latter colloquialism quite right, in spite of its being very clearly written on the cover of the sheet music (although “Hainy nainy nonny and a HAH-chah!” is a very cute variant, I will admit). Baby words aside, Elsie’s “Fit as a Fiddle” is nothing if not ebullient, and she is complemented nicely by her band.

In America the year 1932 had seen versions of  “Fit as a Fiddle” by The Three Keys, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra (with vocals by the Kahn-a-Sirs), Gene Kardos and His Orchestra (as Ed Lloyd and His Orchestra, with vocalist Chick Bullock), Will Osborne and His Orchestra with vocalist Annette Hanshaw (who naturally managed to sound not only fit as a fiddle, but a little bit naughty and lazy to boot), Paul Small, and The Ponce Sisters. In 1933 Phil Harris did a version with Leah Ray as the vocalist.

“Fit as a Fiddle” was recorded in London in January and early February 1933 by the Blue Mountaineers (vocalists Sam Browne and Nat Gonella), Ambrose and His Orchestra (with Sam Browne), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocals by Pat O’Malley, Jack Hylton himself, and Billy Ternent, who arranged the song), and Rudy Starita and His Band, and by soprano Frances Maddux (with Carroll Gibbons on the piano and Len Fillis on the guitar).

Post-War listeners are most likely familiar with “Fit as a Fiddle” because Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor sing it in a flashback in the 1952 musical comedy film Singin’ in the Rain, which was in fact produced by lyricist Arthur Freed himself.

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (1934)

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Composed by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Otto Harbach, for their musical Roberta (1933). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle in London on October 31, 1934.  Decca F. 5289 mx. TB 1696-1.

Elsie Carlisle - "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (1934)

Elsie Carlisle – “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (1934)

Elsie Carlisle, so often the torch singer, beautifully conveys the pathos of the lyrics of the show tune “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” As a veteran of light musical stage drama, Elsie had a voice suited to the song, with its memorable full-octave melodic ascension at the beginning (more reminiscent of European operetta than of popular song). It was perhaps in consideration of this perfect match between her vocal capabilities and the already popular song that Decca had Elsie record “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” twice in two days, first as a “solo” record, and again the next day with Ambrose and His Orchestra, in an arrangement that is perhaps somewhat less of a tear-jerker and more suited to dancing:

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra with vocals by Elsie Carlisle on November 1, 1934. Decca F. 5293.

"Smoke gets in your eyes" - Ambrose & His Orchestra

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – Ambrose & His Orchestra

Video by Playedback (YouTube)

It seems hard to believe, but the perennial favorite “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was twice discarded from shows before it actually got used in the Broadway musical Roberta. Jerome Kern originally composed it as a tap dance number to be performed during a scene change in his 1927 hit Showboat, but for one reason or another, it was cut. In 1932 Kern retooled it as a march to be used as the theme song for an NBC radio series which never aired. It was in the light, romantic 1933 drama Roberta that “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was finally introduced to the public, this time retooled as a sentimental ballad, either at the suggestion of the producer or of lyricist Otto Harbach. Harbach’s lyrics borrow their tag line “When you’re heart’s on fire, smoke gets in your eyes” from a Russian proverb. The original Broadway production of Roberta starred, amongst others, Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray, Fay Templeton, Ray Middleton, and Sydney Greenstreet, but it was Ukrainian actress Tamara Drasin, playing a Russian princess, who first sang “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

Notable American recordings in 1933 and 1934 include ones by Gertrude Niesen (with orchestral accompaniment directed by Ray Sinatra), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra (with vocals by Bob Lawrence), Emil Coleman and His Riviera Orchestra (with vocalist Jerry Cooper), Leo Reisman and His Orchestra (with vocals by Tamara Drasin, from the original Broadway production), Chick Bullock and His Levee Loungers, Dick Robertson, and Ruth Etting. Film audiences would hear the song performed by Irene Dunne in a 1935 movie of Roberta.

In 1934 there were other British recordings of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by Jay Wilbur and His Band (Sam Browne, vocalist), Charlie Kunz’s Casani Club Orchestra (with vocals by Harry Bentley), Harry Roy and His Orchestra (with vocals by Ivor Moreton), Jack Payne and His Band (Billy Scott-Coomber, vocalist), Henry Hall’s BBC Dance Orchestra (with vocals by Dan Donovan, in a Bert Read arrangement), Lew Stone and His Band (with Alan Kane as vocalist, in a Stanley Black arrangement), and Joe Loss and His Kit-Cat Band.

“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″)

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