Fred Hillebrand Articles

Elsie Carlisle Medley (1937)

Elsie Carlisle committed her last Decca record to shellac on January 31, 1936 and would not start recording again with HMV until October 25, 1937 — a hiatus of one year and nine months in an otherwise consistently busy period of fifteen years (1926-1942). We must not assume a low point in her career, however, but much the opposite. Elsie’s status as “Idol of the Radio” was at an all-time high, as suggested by the evidence of newspapers and industry magazines, and her stage activities seem to have kept up unabated.

The BBC Genome project shows a fair number of radio appearances in 1936 and 1937. Importantly, a December issue of Melody Maker prints the results of a nationwide poll showing Elsie Carlisle as the most popular British female singer1. Meanwhile, a 1935 stage show featuring Sam Browne and Elsie Carlisle (accompanied by pianist Ronnie Aldrich and Freddie Aspinall) morphed in 1936 into an act that featured solely Elsie. This act would continue into at least July 19372 and seems to have featured “Home, James, and Don’t Spare the Horses,” ending with “No, No, a Thousand Times, No!”

It should not be a surprise, then, that within days of returning to recording, Elsie recorded a collection including those two songs that went under the name “Elsie Carlisle Medley.” It was the first of two such medleys that would be released under her name in a three-month period. The medleys, which include songs that must have been perceived as somehow representative of her whole career up to that point, must reinforce her special status as a premiere vocalist.

“Elsie Carlisle Medley.” Part 1: “Gertie, the girl with the gong,” “Home James, and don’t spare the horses,” “No, No, a thousand times no.” Part 2: “Dirty hands, dirty face,” “Little chap with big ideas,” “Little man, you’ve had a busy day.” Arranged by Con Lamprecht. Recorded on November 8, 1937 in London at Studio No. 1A, Abbey Roads by Elsie Carlisle under the musical direction of Ronnie Munro. HMV B.D. 476 matrices OEA 5869-1 and OEA 5870-1.

Elsie Carlisle - "Elsie Carlisle Medley" (1937)

Elsie Carlisle Medley (1937)

This medley, arranged, according to Richard J. Johnson, by Con Lamprecht,3 begins with Ronnie Munro’s own “Gertie, the Girl with the Gong” (Sonin-Munro; 1935), which Elsie famously recorded with Ambrose and His Orchestra in 1935 (Decca F. 5486). The next two numbers were, as I have already noted, famously a part of Elsie’s stage show, but they had also been memorably recorded with Ambrose and His Orchestra on Decca F. 5318 (“Home, James, and Don’t Spare the Horses” [Sherman-Lewis-Silver; 1934]; “No, No, a Thousand Times, No” [Fred Hillebrand; 1934]).

Part 2 of the “Elsie Carlisle Medley” is a group of songs with childhood themes. According to Richard J. Johnson,4, it was originally supposed to include “He’s an Angel” (Michael Hodges; 1936; recorded by Elsie Carlisle on Decca F. 5902), but that song was not ultimately recorded for the “Medley” session. Instead, Part 2 begins with “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face” (Leslie-Jolson-Clarke-Monaco; 1923), which Elsie had never recorded. Perhaps it was part of her stage act, or perhaps she had broadcast it on the radio. The song’s popularity was long-lived, especially after Al Jolson featured it in The Jazz Singer (1927). Elsie had not recorded the next song, either: “Little Chap with Big Ideas” (Drake-Damerell-Evans) was a new song in 1937, and Elsie may very well have sung it on the radio. The last song, “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day,” was one that Elsie had recorded twice in 1934, first solo, and then with Ambrose and His Orchestra on Brunswick 01790.

Newspaper ads for the first “Elsie Carlisle Medley” described it as “Elsie Carlisle sing[ing] a medley of her successes,”5 and the tabloid Illustrated Police News (Thursday, February 10, 1938, p. 15) included the following delightful review:

Croonette

Elsie Carlisle is probably the ace girl vocalist of the radio—British radio, at any rate. She has made a record of some of her most popular hits under the heading “Elsie Carlisle Medley.”

Elsie croons through these numbers in just as delightful fashion as she does when heard “on the air….”

The success of this collection of songs may be gauged by HMV’s decision to have the “ace croonette” record “Elsie Carlisle Medley No. 2” in January 1938, which similarly included four songs that Elsie had recorded in the late 1920s and early 1930s, as well as a couple that she had not recorded, but that she must have been associated with in some other way, whether through broadcast or stage.

Notes:

  1. Melody Maker 12.187 (Dec. 19, 1936) 11.
  2. The Stage issue 2,937 (July 15, 1937) 7.
  3. Elsie Carlisle: A Discography. Aylesbury, Bucks. (1994) 33.
  4. Ibid.
  5. In the Belfast News-Letter (Wednesday, February 2, 1938) 11 and elsewhere.

“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)

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”

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