Partners & Accompanists

“You’ll Find Out” (1932)

“You’ll Find Out.” Words and music composed by Archie Gottler and Betty Treynor (a pseudonym of Lawrence Wright) for On with the Show. Recorded in London on June 15, 1932 by Ray Starita and His Ambassadors with vocalists Elsie Carlisle and Sam Browne. Sterno 984 mx. S-2477-2.

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

Ray Starita and his Ambassadors – You’ll Find Out – 1932

Transfer by Henry Parsons

Between 1932 and 1937, Elsie Carlisle would make some 42 record sides with Sam Browne, most famously with Ambrose and His Orchestra, but occasionally also with other bands. The two singers became best known for on-shellac vituperative bickering (the best examples being found in “Seven Years with the Wrong Woman,” “What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander,” and “I’m Gonna Wash My Hands of You”). But their fictional relationships could be much more playful and subtle, as we see here in “You’ll Find Out,” which they recorded with Ray Starita’s band.

“You’ll Find Out” was a joint composition of American songwriter Archie Gottler and the prolific British composer Lawrence Wright, who most frequently used the pseudonym “Horatio Nicholls.” (His pseudonym used here — “Betty Treynor” — may have been a one-off.) As far as I can tell, this West End musical song was only recorded one other time; that recording, from April 1932, featured Sam Browne with Billie Lockwood under the Zonophone pseudonyms “Jack and Jill.” Now, “Jack and Jill” numbers, while delightful, tend to be comparatively sedate, and that is definitely the case with the Browne-Lockwood version. The two singers slowly take their turns delivering the increasingly suggestive lyrics, leaving the song’s comic sensibility underdeveloped.

Browne and Carlisle, in the Ray Starita recording of the song, uncover the composition’s potential. Part of their success is due to an audible chemistry that few duettists could match. But just as important is their phrasing as they deliver the lyrics. The joke of the song is that the young couple asks each other questions that seem to answer themselves: “What do lovers do out in the moonlight?” “What will we do evenings when it’s raining?” Supposing I must leave you for a week or two / And you haven’t got as single thing to do / How would you spend all those lonesome evenings?” Answered with “You’ll find out!” the questions suggest sex, infidelity, and the like.

The repeated punchline risks seeming monotonous. But we hear Sam and Elsie breaking up that monotony by altering the line “You’ll find out” in such a way as to dramatize it. “You’ll find out” gives way to “Ah! You’ll find out…”; “Could I? You’ll find out!”; “Oh, but…you’ll find out!”; “It is! You’ll find out…”; “Hmm… You’ll find out!” and finally, “Try and find out!” By varying the response, they produce something resembling a witty, funny conversation.

The vocal chorus is unusually long in this dance band recording, and the arrangement is remarkably sophisticated. Ray Starita’s musicians remain comparatively quiet during the vocal refrain, but as it progresses they build momentum and come in strong at the end. Starita’s band was brassless at the time, and one gets the sense from the powerful sax section work in “You’ll Find Out” that the orchestra could execute a dynamically scored arrangement without  trumpets and trombone — instruments added only for recording purposes in Starita’s 1932 British Homophone sessions.1

Notes:

  1. My thanks to Henry Parsons for reminding me of this latter point.

“Won’t You Stay to Tea?” (1933)

“Won’t You Stay to Tea?” Words by Mack Gordon, music by Harry Revel (1932). Recorded in London on March 3, 1933 by Elsie Carlisle and Sam Browne with orchestral accompaniment. Decca F. 3510 mx. GB5633-1.

Elsie Carlisle and Sam Browne – “Won’t You Stay to Tea?” (1933)

Prolific songwriters Mack Gordon and Harry Revel turned out a great many successful tunes in the 1930s, particularly for Hollywood movies, and three of them made it into Elsie Carlisle’s discography. “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” (1933) and “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” (1934) were both written for Paramount films and were recorded by artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Elsie’s other Gordon-Revel song, “Won’t You Stay to Tea?” only saw treatments in Britain (as far as I know), no doubt because of its culturally specific premise.

The question “Won’t You Stay to Tea?” is an amusingly pedestrian suggestion, but Gordon and Revel turn it into the occasion for a somewhat awkward romantic encounter. The impending rainstorm that prompts the social invitation transforms itself straightway into what the singer or singers describe as an indoor shower of “the loveliest love.” In this Sam Browne/Elsie Carlisle version of the song, the drama is allowed to play itself out fully, with Elsie lightly rejecting Sam’s various advances long enough that the outdoor weather actually improves — and yet she agrees to stay to tea anyway, signalling her genuine affection for him.

Other versions of “Won’t You Stay to Tea?” were recorded in 1933 by Lew Stone and the Monseigneur Band (v. Al Bowlly), Harry Roy and His Orchestra (v. Bill Currie), The Blue Mountaineers (v. Tom Barratt and Phyllis Robins), Ray Noble and His Orchestra (with vocalists Ace Roland and Frances Day, the latter of whom does an impressive Helen Kane-style warble at one point), and Syd Liption’s New Grosvenor House Band (v. Cyril Grantham).

“So Is Your Old Lady” (1926)

“So Is Your Old Lady.” Words by Al Dubin, music by Joe Burke (1926). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano accompaniment by Carroll Gibbons on May 25, 1926. Ariel 940 mx. Bb8427-1 (also on Zonophone 2757 and Ariel 1006).

Elsie Carlisle – “So Is Your Old Lady” – (1926)

“So’s your old man!” is a somewhat dated rejoinder to an insult, a suggestion that one’s interlocutor can take what he has said and apply it to his own father. One still hears the term “old lady” used to refer to a man’s wife or girlfriend. In this playful 1926 song, lyricist Al Dubin combines the two expressions in an exchange between a wife and a husband, the latter of whom has been philandering a little too obviously. The wife tells him to do as he likes, but to remember that while he is pursuing his affairs, “so is [his] old lady” — a suggestion of reciprocal infidelity. At this recording session in 1926 (which was her first), Elsie Carlisle handled the quick patter and formulaic repetition in the lyrics deftly, bringing something both cute and slightly titillating to the taunting threats of the wife. Carroll Gibbons’s piano playing complements Elsie’s quick, crisp delivery quite nicely. The recording was made for Zonophone but also appeared on the Ariel label under Elsie’s first known pseudonym: “Maisie Ramsey.”

Other versions of “So Is Your Old Lady” were done in 1926 in America by the Original Indiana Five, Ruth Etting,  and Warner’s Seven Aces. In Britain the song was recorded by Jack Hylton and His Orchestra, Teddy Brown and His Café de Paris Band (with vocalist Lionel Rothery), Bert Firman (under the pseudonym of Newton Carlisle’s Dance Orchestra), Hilda Glyder, Victor Sterling and His Band (directed by Nat Star), and the Edison Bell Dance Orchestra (with vocals by Tom Barratt).

“Since I Found You” (1927)

“Since I Found You.” Words by Sidney Clare, music by Harry Woods. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle at Studio B, Hayes, Middlesex, on May 6, 1927. HMV B. 2489 mx. Bb-10690-3.

Elsie Carlisle – “Since I Found You” (1927)

Video by David Weavings (YouTube)

“Since I Found You” is an effusive love song, but one vague on details: the song tells us very little about the “I” or the “you” of the title. Even the sex of the “I” is only implied by that of the singer; there is nothing internal to the song that suggests boy-loves-girl or girl-loves-boy, the two most obvious scenarios for a popular song of the early twentieth century. Ironically, the ambiguity of “Since I Found You” may be one of its strengths.

When I first began to listen carefully to different versions of popular songs from this period, I marveled that artists and arrangers were so adept at shifting the male and female pronouns in love songs around to suit the sex of the singer (and thus incidentally to preserve a heterosexual norm). At length I came to the conclusion that the lyrics were carefully written that way in the first place. A commercially ambitious Tin Pan Alley songwriter would never want to limit the number of artists who could record his music by using words that could not easily be swapped out. An example of success in this regard would be “I Can’t Get Over a Girl Like You (Loving a Boy Like Me)”; the pronouns in the title are simply begging to be reversed, as they were when Elsie Carlisle sang them.

“Since I Found You” is particularly ingenious in this regard, insofar as it mostly involves the first and second grammatical persons (“I” and “you”); there are no he’s that need to become she’s. In fact, the “I” of the song tells us practically nothing about himself (or herself) or about the “you” of the song, except to say that the former is absolutely ecstatic about having found the latter. The singer expresses his or her joy by insisting that the whole universe feels it, by transferring his or her feelings to heavenly bodies, birds, bees, and insects. This clever use of the pathetic fallacy renders the song simultaneously more general and even vague (and thus requiring no adaptations for sex) and yet entirely effective as an effusive emotional outpouring.

I do not mean to suggest that there is any doubt as to Elsie Carlisle’s identity in her version of “Since I Found You”; to the contrary, she is ebullient in a feminine and perhaps even girlish way. The lack of a real plot line does not prevent her from vocally caressing each of the lyrics’ hyperbolic claims regarding the transformation of the natural world by her love life. Elsie’s dulcet cooing is complemented in this 1927 recording by the piano playing of Carroll Gibbons.

“Since I Found You” was recorded in 1926 and 1927 in America by Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) and His Hot Combination, Vincent Lopez and His Casa Lopez Orchestra, Jim Miller and Charlie Farrell, and Vaughn de Leath (in January with an orchestra and in February with piano accompaniment).

British recordings were made in 1927 by Bert Firman’s Dance Orchestra, Bert and John Firman (as Eugene Brockman’s Dance Orchestra), Teddy Brown and His Café de Paris Band (with vocalist John Thorne), Jack Payne and His Hotel Cecil Orchestra (with Jack Payne singing), and the Savoy Havana Band. In late 1927 Al Bowlly recorded “Since I Found You” with Arthur Briggs’ Savoy Syncopaters Orchestra in Berlin.

“Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” (1932)

“Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” Originally titled “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?”; words and music by Hughie Cannon (1902). Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra with vocalists Sam Browne and Elsie Carlisle in London on March 18, 1932. HMV B. 6162.

Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-Harry Owen-t / Ted Heath-Tony Thorpe-tb / Billy Amstell-cl-as / Joe Crossman-cl-as-bar / Joe Jeanette-cl-ts / Ernie Lewis-Teddy Sinclair-Peter Rush-vn / Bert Read-p / Joe Brannelly-bj-g / Don Stuteley-sb / Max Bacon-d1

Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey? Ambrose & his Orchestra (with Sam Browne & Elsie Carlisle

Video by David Weavings (YouTube)

Now a jazz standard, “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” originated as a ragtime piece by American songwriter Hughie Cannon and predates Ambrose’s recording by thirty years. It has as its characters an emotionally desperate and abandoned battered wife and a smug husband who seems to think her situation serves her right. Somehow the song usually manages to sound upbeat, most often perhaps because musicians keep the refrain and omit the verses, leaving us to wonder who Bill Bailey is and why he is gone in the first place. In this her first recording session with Ambrose and His Orchestra, Elsie Carlisle plays the wife, who has ejected her husband from their home after he “took and throwed her down, / Bellowing like a prune-fed calf” — but she nevertheless blames herself. For this piece, Elsie adopts an attempt at negro dialect suited to her character:

Won’t you come home, Bill Bailey?
Won’t you come home?
I moans de whole day long.
I’ll do de cooking honey,
I’ll pay de rent!
I knows I’ve done you wrong!
‘Member that rainy eve that
I throwed you out
With nothin’ but a fine-toothed comb?
I knows I’s to blame —
Well, ain’t dat a shame?
Bill Bailey, wont you please come home?

The Ambrose recording lacks the second verse, in which it is revealed that Bill Bailey has somehow become rich and experiences Schadenfreude as he hears his wife moan for him.

“Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” had been recorded in Britain in late 1931 by Jay Wilbur and His Band (with vocalist John Thorne) and by Jack Leon’s Band — in both cases as part of a medley.

Notes:

  1. Brian Rust and Sandy Forbes, British Dance Bands on Record (1911-1945) and Supplement, p. 25.

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