Jack Yellen Articles

“He’s a Good Man to Have Around” (1929)

“He’s a Good Man to Have Around.” Composed by Milton Ager, with lyrics by Jack Yellen, for the 1929 film “Honky Tonk.” Recorded by Elsie Carlisle (as “Sheila Kay”), with Cecil Norman and His Band, in London, October 16, 1929. World Echo A. 1013.

Personnel: Lloyd Shakespeare-t / Ben Oakley-tb / Les Norman-as / vn / Cecil Norman-p / __ Stanley-bb

He's A Good Man To Have Around – Elsie Carlisle (as Sheila Kay)

He’s a Good Man to Have Around – Elsie Carlisle (as Sheila Kay)

Video by David Weavings (YouTube)

“He’s a Good Man to Have Around” is a torch song fashioned loosely after the model of Mistinguett’s “Mon homme” or its English adaptation “My Man” (introduced by Fanny Brice in the 1921 Ziegfeld Follies). The singer catalogues her “man’s” various faults and insists that she loves him in spite of them. One lyrical advantage that “He’s a Good Man to Have Around” has over comparable songs (such as “Hangin’ On to That Man”) is that the man’s moral deficits creep up comically in intensity; at first one expects the song to remain light, insofar as the man’s faults are merely not being good-looking, being a poor dancer and a poor speaker, and occasionally being mildly irritating. Indeed, the lyrics as used in Elsie’s August 23, 1929 recording of the song with Philip Lewis and His Dance Orchestra (a.k.a. the Rhythm Maniacs)1 stop at this point; they complement the comparatively upbeat instrumental interpretation nicely. In the October 16 Worldecho recording, however, Elsie sings the whole song, including the parts about how her lover is untrustworthy, unfaithful, and apparently such a dangerous fellow as to warrant her having bought a pistol — which she won’t use, for “He’s a Good Man to Have Around!” Elsie Carlisle recorded this record and three others with Worldecho under the name “Sheila Kay”; as she was recording under her own name for the Dominion label at the time, it may be that contractual obligations necessitated the use of the pseudonym.

Originally written for the 1929 film “Honky Tonky” starring Sophie Tucker (which does not survive as a movie, although the Vitaphone soundtrack is intact), “He’s a Good Man to Have Around” was first recorded by Tucker herself (with Ted Shapiro’s Orchestra). In 1929 versions of the song were also recorded in America by Herman Kenin and His Ambassador Hotel Orchestra, Lee Morse and Her Blue Grass Boys, The Cotton Pickers (both with Libby Holman and without), Kate Smith and the Harmonians, and Jimmy Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra (with vocals by Helen Savage).

“He’s a Good Man to Have Around” was recorded in 1929 in Britain by Florence Oldham (accompanied by Len Fillis on the guitar and by Sid Bright on the piano), Lily Lapidus, the Rhythmic Eight (with vocals by Maurice Elwin), The Picadilly Players (Eddie Collis, vocalist), Mabel Marks, Belle Dyson, the Blue River Band (with vocalist Sybil Jason), and Mabel Lawrence.

Notes:

  1. It is incidentally amusing to hear take one of this Decca recording, in which Elsie gets a couple of notes wrong!

“My Dog Loves Your Dog” (1934)

“My Dog Loves Your Dog.” Music by Ray Henderson, lyrics by Jack Yellen and Irving Caesar for the film “George White’s Scandals (1934).” Recorded by Elsie Carlisle and Sam Browne with orchestral accompaniment on June 22, 1934. Decca F. 5079.

Elsie Carlisle & Sam Browne – "My Dog Loves Your Dog" (1934)"

Elsie Carlisle & Sam Browne – “My Dog Loves Your Dog” (1934)

The various annual installments of George White’s Scandals, a famed series of Broadway revues which ran from 1919-1939, were responsible for introducing the world to countless people who would eventually become Hollywood stars, as well as to the early music of George Gershwin. In 1934 the music of the stage show was combined with a somewhat more robust plot and made into a feature film, George White’s Scandals (1934), starring Alice Faye, Rudy Vallée, Cliff Edwards, and Jimmy Durante. One long scene in that movie involves the male characters walking dogs in tandem with the female characters and engaging in lengthy observations about canine amorousness that always lead to the conclusion “If our doggies love each other, why can’t we?” Foremost among the singers of “My Dog Loves Your Dog” is Jimmy Durante, who at one point is shown in a dog collar, with his head in a woman’s lap, having his famously protuberant “schnozz” petted.

In June, Elsie Carlisle and Sam Browne would tackle the song themselves, but with less than three minutes to sing it — including an instrumental interlude — they present a considerably abbreviated version. Their male-female duet adds flavor to the song, though, and ultimately allows the entrance of the element of strife between lovers that one would expect in a Sam-and-Elsie bit. When Sam first accosts Elsie and begins to observe the growing familiarity of their respective dogs, she responds, “Yes.  Someone mentioned it today. You can see it in their eyes” in a stilted delivery that must either betoken haughtiness on the part of Elsie’s character or perhaps exhaustion on the part of Elsie herself! Either way, I find her awkward beginning intensely funny. Some very nice singing ensues, but Elsie’s observations about the dogs ultimately serve as a riposte to Sam’s advances. The dogs begin to fight, and the two singers conclude “And if our doggies bite each other, why can’t we?” — a comic twist not present in the movie.

“My Dog Loves Your Dog” was also recorded that year by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (as Bob Snyder and His Orchestra, with vocalist Kay Weber), by Cliff Edwards, one of the stars of the original movie sequence, Victor Young and the Brunswick Studio Orchestra, and Harry Roy and His Orchestra (with vocals by Bill Currie). Jay Wilbur and His Band did a medley based on the Scandals in which Mona Brandon and Sam Browne sing “My Dog Loves Your Dog.”

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

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