"Home, James, and Don't Spare the Horses." Detail from sheet music.

“Home, James, and Don’t Spare the Horses” (1934)

“Home, James, and Don’t Spare the Horses.” Words and music by Fred Hillebrand (1934). Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra with Elsie Carlisle as vocalist on December 11, 1934. Decca F. 5371 mx. GB6806-2 (also F. 6926; Brunswick A. 81929).

Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-t-mel / Harry Owen-t / t / Ted Heath-Tony Thorpe-tb / Danny Polo-Sid Phillips-Billy Amstell-reeds / Joe Jeannette-as / Ernie Lewis-Reg Pursglove- others?-vn / Bert Barnes-p / Joe Brannelly-g / Dick Ball-sb / Max Bacon-d

Ambrose & His Orchesta (w. Elsie Carlisle) – “Home, James, and Don’t Spare the Horses” (1934)

“Home, James, and Don’t Spare the Horses” is an expression of pressing urgency that goes back to the mid-nineteenth century, but the statistics on its recorded use skyrocket around the time that Elsie Carlisle recorded the song with Ambrose and His Orchestra. Like the other comedy waltz “No! No! A Thousand Times No!” that Elsie had recorded the previous month (in November 1934), this song is set in the nineteenth century and is rather cartoonish. In it Elsie tells a funny story about a classy lady rebuffing a lover who has paid too much attention to other women. “Home, James, and Don’t Spare the Horses!” she declares at various points in the story as she dashes off in anger. Elsie’s recitative is delivered in an exaggerated upper-crust accent with many a trilled  “r” as she describes the heroine and her footman kicking the penurious former lover’s posterior. Elsie would record other such comic songs about high society in the following year, such as Cole Porter’s “Thank You So Much Mrs. Lowsborough-Goodby” and “Algernon Whifflesnoop John.”

The popularity of “Home, James” is attested to by its being mentioned as particularly successful on the backs of 1934 and 1935 cigarette cards. Elsie would issue a record of medleys in late 1937 that featured “Home, James” along with its comedy waltz partner “No, No, a Thousand Times No!” (HMV BD 476).

Other versions of “Home, James” were recorded in Britain in late 1934 and early 1935 by Jay Wilbur and His Band (with vocalist Bertha Willmott), Charlie Kunz’s Casani Club Orchestra, Jack Jackson and His Orchestra, the Debroy Somers Band (with vocals by Bertha Willmott), Billy Cotton and His Band (with Alan Breeze as vocalist), and Harry Roy and His Orchestra (with singing by Bill Currie and chorus).

I discuss this song in greater detail in my article “Elsie Carlisle’s Top Hits, Then and Now” in the December 2014 issue of the Discographer Magazine.

A photograph of Elsie Carlisle, signed "Home, James - Elsie Carlisle"
A photograph of Elsie Carlisle, signed “Home, James – Elsie Carlisle”

2 thoughts on ““Home, James, and Don’t Spare the Horses” (1934)”

  1. The “posh accent” is of course a lovely caricature of old-time upper crust speech, or perhaps of someone straining to speak more posh than they actually are – “buss-ell”, stab-ell”, “haccent” etc. Elsie Carlisle’s delivery reminds me a bit of Marie Lloyd’s “Every little movement has a meaning of its own”, also posted on YouTube.

    1. Paul,

      Thanks so much for your feedback. I agree entirely that Elsie’s overenunciation in “Home, James” caricatures upper-crust speech, rather than simply imitating it, and, as you point out, there is a throwback quality to the whole thing: “It was in the gay ‘nineties….”

      Thanks for referring me to the very fun 1912 Marie Lloyd recording, which other readers may find here: Marie Lloyd – "Every Little Movement Has a Meaning of Its Own"


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