“I Heard.” Words and music by Don Redman (1931). Recorded by Ray Starita and His Ambassadors’ Band with Elsie Carlisle on September 1, 1932. Four-in-One 5.
Video by David Weavings (YouTube)
“I Heard” is a novelty song written by the American musician, bandleader, and composer Don Redman. It involves interlocutors who discuss a piece of apparently scandalous gossip, but who cut each other off so as to leave the listener in the dark as to the real nature of the rumor. This 1932 British recording was made by the great American-born bandleader Ray Starita and his Ambassadors’ Band. Elsie Carlisle plays the person who has heard the rumor, and there is a male speaker who questions her, doubts her, and eggs her on. The latter was once thought to be Ray Starita himself, although it is now more generally supposed that it is Les Allen.
This recording of “I Heard” appears on a Four-in-One record. As the name would suggest, Four-in-One records pushed the limits of technology by fitting two songs onto each side of the disc, the result being a bargain for the record buyer. The downside of their concept is that the grooves are a bit narrower than usual and thus more prone to being scratched up by repeated playing. In the same recording session, Starita and Elsie did a separate take for the Sterno label, which used the more typical one-song-per-side approach. The Sterno recording is quite similar for the most part, but the violin solo is rather different and does not reach into such a high register.
The composer, Don Redman, recorded two versions of “I Heard” in late 1931 (here and here), and in 1933 appeared in a Betty Boop short of the same title. In 1932 it was recorded by Harlan Lattimore and His Connie’s Inn Orchestra, as well as by Chick Bullock. The Mills Brothers did a particularly popular 1932 version that led to their appearance singing it in the 1934 film Twenty Million Sweethearts.
In Britain in 1932, other recordings of “I Heard” were made by the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (Al Bowlly, vocalist), Billy Cotton and His Band ( Cyril Grantham, vocalist), Nat Gonella, and Harry Roy and His R.K. Olians (with vocalists Harry Roy, Bill Currie, and Ivor Moreton).