Carroll Gibbons

Before he took up his famous role as bandleader of the Savoy Hotel Orpheans, Carroll Gibbons provided piano accompaniment for Elsie Carlisle at her first recording sessions in 1926-1927.

Carroll Gibbons – Wikipedia

Carroll Gibbons c. 1934
Carroll Gibbons c. 1934

“My Cutey’s Due at Two-to-Two Today” (1926)

“My Cutey’s Due at Two-to-Two Today.” Music by Albert Von Tilzer, lyrics by Leo Robin (1926). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano and vocal accompaniment by Carroll Gibbons in London on October 6, 1926. Zonophone 2815.

My Cutey's Due At Two-To-Two To-Day – Elsie Carlisle

My Cutey’s Due At Two-To-Two To-Day – Elsie Carlisle

Video by David Weavings (YouTube)

Von Tilzer and Robin’s “My Cutey’s Due at Two-to-Two Today,” an example of the “train song” genre, is a light composition that makes up for a fundamental lack of profundity by being ridiculously catchy, almost addictive. It speaks primarily of faithfulness in one’s lover’s absence and of the giddy anticipation of reunion. Elsie Carlisle brings to it the requisite frantic, girlish enthusiasm and applies her vaguely conversational style of delivery to the song’s rhythmical patter with great effectiveness. She is accompanied on this record, not only by Carroll Gibbon’s piano playing, but also by his voice; he engages in a muted antiphony with Elsie for part of the song.

“My Cutey’s Due” was recorded in America in 1926 by Sam Lanin and His Orchestra (as the Missouri Jazz Band), Ted Weems (Park Gibbs, vocalist), the Happiness Boys (Billy Jones and Ernest Hare), The Clevelanders (with vocals by Tom Stacks), and the Little Ramblers (with vocalist Ed Kirkeby). In Britain there were 1926 versions by Bert Firman’s Dance Orchestra, Don Parker and His Band, Victor Sterling and His Band, Van Straten and His Riviera Dance Orchestra (with vocals by Harry Fay). In early 1927 there were recordings made by Alfredo’s Band and by the Picadilly Revels Band.

“Oh, My Bundle of Love” (1926)

“Oh, My Bundle of Love.” Words by George Price, music by Abner Silver. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano accompaniment by Carroll Gibbons on October 6, 1926. Zonophone 2829.

Elsie Carlisle's "Oh, My Bundle of Love" on Zonophone 2829 (label). Image courtesy of Erik HØst.
Elsie Carlisle’s “Oh, My Bundle of Love” on Zonophone 2829. Image courtesy of Erik HØst.

Elsie Carlisle – “Oh, My Bundle of Love” (1926)

Original 78 rpm transfer by Erik HØst

Elsie Carlisle sang “Oh, My Bundle of Love”1 at her third recording session, for her third record, accompanied, as she always would be that year, by a 23-year-old Carroll Gibbons on the piano. The composition has a bubbly energy typical of the dance music of its period, and the lyrics express the goofy enthusiasm of a young lover by way of precious, cutesy colloquialisms (e.g. “sweetie-sweet”). For this song, Elsie dons a persona of somewhat mindless ebullience that reminds me of her 1930 version of “Wasn’t It Nice?”; she is the picture of pure, giggly fun. The recording is also a good example of Carroll Gibbons’s developing piano virtuosity (he would not be known as a band leader for another year).

“My Bundle of Love” was recorded in America in 1925 by Gene Austin (accompanied by Jack Shilkret on the piano) and by Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards. In 1926 there were versions by Mal Hallett and His Orchestra, Emerson Gill and His Castle of Paris Orchestra (with vocals by Pinkey Hunter), Ben Bernie and His Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra, The Southerners (with vocalist Jack Kaufman), and Nick Lucas.  There is a piano roll of the song from that year by Ralph Reichenthal (a.k.a Ralph Rainger), the composer of “Moanin’ Low,” amongst other successful tunes.

Elsie Carlisle’s 1926 recording of “Oh, My Bundle of Love” was preceded that year in Britain by a take by Jay Whidden and His New Midnight Follies Band (rejected by Columbia) and by a version by Jack Hylton and His Orchestra.

Notes:

  1. “Oh, My Bundle of Love” more commonly has the simpler title of “My Bundle of Love,” and why not? The expression “Oh, My Bundle of Love” does not occur in the song.

“Coming Thro’ the Cornfield” (1926)

“Coming Thro’ the Cornfield.” Words and music by Horatio Nicholls (a.k.a. Lawrence Wright). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano accompaniment  by Carroll Gibbons on June 21, 1926 at the Gramophone Company’s Studio B at Hayes in Middlesex. Zonophone 2772 mx. Yy8563-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "Coming Thro' the Cornfield" (1926)

Elsie Carlisle – “Coming Thro’ the Cornfield” (1926)

Elsie Carlisle sang “Coming Thro’ the Cornfield” at her second recording session for what was to be her second record, accompanied by pianist Carroll Gibbons, who would soon become the famed director of the Savoy Hotel Orpheans. The song was written by performer, music publisher, impresario, and composer Lawrence Wright, who tended to use the pseudonym “Horatio Nicholls” on his own original compositions. Elsie handles this effusive expression of love in a rustic setting with her usual sweetness, and the pairing with “I Love My Baby” on the other side of the record allows her to adopt the personae of two very different girls in love.

“Coming Thro’ the Cornfield” was recorded two days later by the Savoy Havana Band, in late July 1926 by Bert Firman’s Dance Orchestra, and again in late September by Bert Firman’s band (as “Newton Carlisle’s Dance Orchestra” on Homochord and as “Dan Frederick and His Dance Orchestra” on Sterno).

“I Love My Baby” (1926)

“I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Me).” Words by Bud Green, music by Harry Warren (1925). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with piano accompaniment by Carroll Gibbons on May 25, 1926. Zonophone 2772.

Elsie Carlisle – I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Me) (1926)

Elsie Carlisle – “I Love My Baby” (1926)

Video by bsgs98 (YouTube)

Elsie Carlisle began her career as a recording artist 89 years ago today. Already an accomplished 30-year-old actress, she had started to do musical radio broadcasts on March 1, 1926. On May 25 she was joined at the Gramophone Company’s Studio B at Hayes in Middlesex by Carroll Gibbons, who was to be her piano accompanist — he was not yet the famed director of the Savoy Hotel Orpheans. In his 1938 journalistic paean to Elsie Carlisle (“Radio Sweetheart No. 1”), Ralph Graves tells how the two first met:

Now for another scene.

This time not a swank lunch, but a very informal party.

Elsie was asked to sing. No, she hadn’t her music, but a quiet, bespectacled young man at the piano knew all the latest numbers, and could instantly transpose into any key Elsie wanted.

She sang several numbers which went down well, but the outstanding thought in Elsie’s mind was what a good accompanist this young man was. And when he played some piano solos on his own afterwards her opinion of him went up.

She asked who he was.

“That chap at the piano? Oh, he’s a Mr. Gibbons. Just come over from the States with Rudy Vallee, you know. Carroll Gibbons I believe his name is….”

That was in the days when Carroll was striving to make a name for himself.

Elsie and Carroll used to meet quite often after that party, as they held each other in mutual esteem. Well, now here’s a secret. Even his best friends will admit that Carroll has a “queer” voice. Those melodious deep tones, so very “Southern” are a characteristic. His announcements are fun, but you can’t imagine him as a singer, can you!

Yet it is a fact that Carroll and Elsie not only made gramophone records together, but on at least one of them Carroll sang part of the vocals! Yes, that vocalist is a fine pianist!1

At this particular session Gibbons did not sing, but his piano accompaniment is flawless, as it would continue to be throughout his period of collaboration with Elsie Carlisle that year. The two songs that they recorded at their first session were a prescient snapshot of the Anglophone popular music of the time, insofar as Harry Warren’s “I Love My Baby” was paired with “So Is Your Old Lady,” whose lyricist was Al Dubin, the man now most associated with Warren. Those two men had already collaborated at that point, but it would be many years before they would begin their famous stint as the great songwriters for Warner Bros.

“I Love My Baby” expresses the enthusiasm of silly young lovers at an insistent tempo that is entirely infectious and is somehow as definitively redolent of the decade of its composition as “The Charleston.” Elsie Carlisle intones the lyrics with just the slightest hint of a chatty, dramatic delivery, and she adds color with vocal effects such as her husky second repetition of the refrain (most reminiscent, perhaps, of the versions recorded a few months earlier by Aileen Stanley and Lee Morse — see below). The persona Elsie takes on is one familiar from her later work, an example of brilliant, brainless fun such as we hear in her 1929 “Come On, Baby” with the Rhythm Maniacs. Elsie would appear on the sheet music for “I Love My Baby” that year.

Noteworthy early American recordings of “I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Me)” date from the autumn and winter of 1925-1926, and include those of Aileen Stanley, Mike Speciale and His Orchestra (with vocals by Jimmy Flynn), Sam Lanin’s Dance Orchestra (with vocalist Irving Kaufman), The University Six (with singer Ed Kirkeby), Bailey’s Lucky Seven (with vocals by Arthur Fields), The Little Ramblers, Esther Walker (with the piano accompaniment of Rube Bloom), Lee Morse, Isham Jones, Owen Fallon and His Californians, Peggy English (with Rube Bloom on the piano), Sally Freeman, and Jack Glassner and His Colonial Inn Orchestra.

Other British 1926 versions of the song are those of the New Princes’ Toronto Band (under the direction of Hal Swain, with vocalist Les Allen) and Don Parker and His Band; Frances White recorded it for HMV with the Kit-Cat Band, but it went unissued.

Elsie Carlisle c. 1926
Elsie Carlisle c. 1926

Notes:

  1. Radio Pictorial (November 4, 1938) 251 p. 8. The boldface is Graves’s and typical of the bombastic editorial style of the magazine. Graves is presumably referring to Gibbons’s faint antiphony in the 1926 “Ya Gotta Know How to Love” (Zonophone 2815), another composition by Bud Green and Harry Warren, as well as in the song on its reverse side, “My Cutey’s Due at Two-to-Two Today.”

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