Sam Browne

Quintessential British dance band vocalist Sam Browne was often Elsie Carlisle’s recording partner from 1932-1937. He continued to tour and broadcast with her after that, and even appeared with her on television.

Sam Browne – Wikipedia

Sam Browne
Sam Browne

“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).

“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.

“Da-Dar-Da-Dar” (1933)

“Da-Dar-Da-Dar (Da-Dar-Da-Dee).” Words by Robert Hargreaves and Stanley J. Damerell, music by Tolchard Evans. Recorded on May 16, 1933 by Maurice Winnick and His Orchestra, with vocal refrain by Sam Browne (and with Elsie Carlisle in a speaking part). Panachord 25529 mx. GB5875-2.

Personnel: Maurice Winnick-vn dir. Charles Price-another-t / 2tb /Harry Hayes-Harry Turoff-as / Percy Winnick-cl-ts-o /Bert Whittam-p / Bill Herbert-g / Tiny Stock-sb / Stanley Marshall and possibly Max Bacon-d

Maurice Winnick and His Orchestra – “Da-Dar-Da-Dar” (1933)

“Da-Dar-Da-Dar” features Elsie Carlisle in only the tiniest speaking role (for eight seconds at 1:56, when she says, “Oh, d-d-d-darling!” and “Oh, d-d-d-dearest!”), but I include it in this collection for the sake of completeness and because it is a very good comic waltz with a vocal refrain by Elsie’s long-term singing partner Sam Browne. Elsie’s sole recording session with Maurice Winnick and His Orchestra yielded up a second comic waltz with Sam that was issued on Panachord 25527, “Seven Years with the Wrong Woman.” But whereas that song involves disgruntled married people, “Da-Dar-Da-Dar” involves the complications that young people face in arranging a tryst, what with the omnipresence of parents.  Indeed, its scenario includes a complication involving a younger brother whom Sam must pay off to get some time alone with his girlfriend (voiced by Elsie).1 The overall idea of the awkwardness of youthful rendezvous is comparable to that produced by the song “Sittin’ in the Dark,” of which Sam and Elsie had recorded three versions in March 1933. One might also be reminded of Elsie’s 1928 and 1930 versions of “Dada! Dada!” but the name of that song refers to the father who is listening in on his youthful daughter’s first encounter with the opposite sex — really a very different idea entirely, and much less wholesome, for the song title “Da-Dar-Da-Dar” is meant only to imitate the rhythm of a waltz, and Elsie’s father, we are grateful to hear from Sam, is not present.

“Da-Dar-Da-Dar” was also recorded in 1933 by Sydney Lipton’s New Grosvenor House Band (v. Sam Browne), the BBC Dance Orchestra (directed by Henry Hall, with vocal refrain by Les Allen, in a Ronnie Munro arrangement), and Syd Roy and His R.K. Olians (vocalists Bill Currie, Ivor Moreton, and chorus).

Notes:

  1. It is not clear who impersonates the brother. Perhaps drummer and comedian Max Bacon, who did funny voices in “Seven Years with the Wrong Woman” at the same recording session, or even Sam Browne himself?

“Hold Up Your Hands (In the Name of the Law of Love)” (1933)

“Hold Up Your Hands (In the Name of the Law of Love).” Words by Mercer Cook and Thomas Blandford, music by J. Russel Robinson (1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle and Sam Browne on March 3, 1933. Decca F. 3504 mx. GB5634-2.

Elsie Carlisle & Sam Browne – “Hold Up Your Hands (In the Name of the Law of Love)” (1933)

“Hold Up Your Hands (In the Name of the Law of Love)” was written by American songwriters Mercer Cook, Thomas Blandford, and J. Russel Robinson in 1932; that year they also wrote the very successful “Is I in Love? I Is,” as well as “Stop the Sun, Stop the Moon,” which Elsie Carlisle recorded with Ray Starita and His Ambassadors. This duet involves a fanciful metaphor in which it is not clear whether Sam Browne is an agent of “the law” he keeps invoking (viz. the law of love or of Cupid) or a robber carrying out a holdup; he seems to entertain both notions. At any rate, Elsie seems to acquiesce to his demands that she “put up [her]  lips, and hold up [her] hands” with little resistance. 1933 was the second year of Sam and Elsie’s recording duets together, and “Hold Up Your Hands” is fairly representative of their duetting style (when they are not bickering, of course).

“Hold Up Your Hands” had been recorded in America in September 1932 by Victor Arden, Phil Ohman, and Their Orchestra (with vocals by Frank Luther). It was also recorded in 1933 in Britain by Maurice Winnick and His Band (with vocalist Louis Spiro).

"Hold Up Your Hands" original sheet music

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