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).
“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 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).
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.
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.
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.