Jay Wilbur Articles

“Tell Me More About Love” (1929)

“Tell Me More About Love.” Words and music by Bert Page. Recorded by Elsie Carlisle, accompanied by Jay Wilbur and His Orchestra (uncredited) c. late June 1929. Dominion A. 168 mx. 1363-3.

Personnel: Laurie Payne-Jimmy Gordon-cl-as-bar / George Clarkson-cl-as-ts / Norman Cole-vn / vn / vn / Billy Thorburn-p / Dave Thomas or Bert Thomas-bj-g / Harry Evans-sb / Jack Kosky-d

Elsie Carlisle – "Tell Me More About Love" (1929)

Elsie Carlisle – “Tell Me More About Love” (1929)

“Tell Me More About Love” is a woman’s account of her love-making technique. Her approach is to seem innocent and to want instruction in the ways of love; hence the repetition of the title line “Tell me more about love.” She represents herself as a sort of student (“I don’t know what to do — / I can learn lots from you…”; “Teach me all — please don’t wait…”). She is “bashful” and “shy,” and explains that “love has never come [her] way,” but then she lets it slip that the various “lines” that she is rehearsing are ones that she practices every night with a different boy! In retrospect, her earlier request to have the lights dimmed or even turned off should have given her away.

Elsie Carlisle’s perky and chatty delivery in “Tell Me More About Love” showcases her talent for dramatizing a song and making it somewhat conversational, in spite of the absence of an interlocutor. Here Elsie’s delivery sounds a bit like that of Helen Kane, minus, of course, the exaggerated Bronx accent. Elsie’s romantic whimper at the end of the song is particularly precious, rivaled only by the primal girlish giggle in “Wasn’t It Nice?” (recorded the next year). A light  and upbeat piece of music, “Tell Me More About Love” contrasts nicely with Elsie’s decidedly plaintive rendition of “Mean to Me” on the flip side of the record.

“Tell Me More About Love” was also recorded that year by Mabel Marks, the Arcadians Dance Orchestra (under the direction of Bert and John Firman), Florence Oldham (accompanied by Sid Bright on the piano and Len Fillis on the guitar — Oldham  is sometimes portrayed on the sheet music), Kay and Kaye (a.k.a. Stanley Kirkby & Rita Bernard), and Billy Bartholomew, an English bandleader who recorded primarily in Germany from 1924-1938.

“When the Blackbird Says ‘Bye-Bye'” (1940)

“When the Blackbird Says ‘Bye-Bye’ (and the Bluebird Says ‘Hello’).” Words and music by Art Noel and Don Pelosi (1940). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur on December 31, 1940. Rex 9904 mx. R5204-1.

Elsie Carlisle – "When the Blackbird Says 'Bye-Bye'"

Elsie Carlisle – “When the Blackbird Says ‘Bye-Bye'”

British songwriters Art Noel and Don Pelosi co-wrote a good number of Elsie Carlisle’s later songs: “Little Drummer Boy,” “Kiss Me Goodnight, Sergeant Major,” “A Mother’s Prayer at Twilight,” and “Nursie, Nursie” are among them (and Art Noel made still further contributions to Elsie’s songbook). “When the Blackbird Says ‘Bye-Bye'” is a particularly beautiful representation of what the British music industry could turn out even during the dark months of the Blitz. The song’s theme of blackbirds departing and the apparently preferable bluebirds appearing does not appear to me to refer to ornithological facts about changing seasons. It is, rather, to musical tradition that we must look for the roots of this upbeat theme of better times and happy reunion, to the 1920s songs “Bye Bye, Blackbird” and “My Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now,” which also use breeds of birds to represent changing moods and fortunes.

The incredible sweetness of Elsie Carlisle’s later recording voice comes through nicely on this Rex record, which suffers from somewhat less “crackle” than the label was famous for. It is is quite satisfying to aficionados to hear Elsie reprise her famous theme of “The Clouds Will Soon Roll By” at 1:26. The orchestra is not identified on the label and the precise personnel is unknown, but the violin is particularly memorable.

“When the Blackbird Says ‘Bye-Bye'” was also recorded in 1940 by the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra (under the direction of Ronnie Munro, with vocals by Sam Browne), Geraldo and the Savoy Hotel Orchestra (with vocalist Jackie Hunter), Lew Stone and His Band (with Sam Browne), and Joe Loss and His Band (in a “Quick-Step Medley”).

“The Moon Remembered, But You Forgot” (1939)

“The Moon Remembered, But You Forgot.” Words by Frank Eyton, music by Noel Gay. Composed for the comedy film Let’s Be Famous (1939). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur on August 4, 1939. Rex 9610 mx. R3786-1.

Elsie Carlisle – "The Moon Remembered, But You Forgot" (1939)

Elsie Carlisle – “The Moon Remembered, But You Forgot” (1939)

“The Moon Remembered, But You Forgot,”  from the British comedy film Let’s Be Famous, was composed by Frank Eyton, an English popular lyricist most famous for having contributed to the words of “Body and Soul,” and Noel Gay, a prolific composer who also wrote such popular hits as “The Sun Has Got His Hat On” and “Lambeth Walk.” Its singer describes an outdoor anniversary rendezvous to which her partner does not show up. Left all alone in the presence of the evening moon, she engages in the pathetic fallacy, attributing to the moon human faculties, qualities, and emotions: memory, patience, certainty, and regret. Elsie Carlisle applies her best sincerity and pathos to this song on the first record she made for Rex Records (1939-1942). Rex was the last label that she was signed to, and it was there that she was reunited with musical director Jay Wilbur, who had played the same role in her career in the late 1920s and early 1930s, at Dominion, Imperial, and Eclipse. This was also the last record that Elsie made before war broke out in Europe.

“The Moon Remembered, But You Forgot” was also recorded in 1939 by Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, Maxwell Stewart’s Ballroom Melody, Lew Stone and His Band (with vocalist Sam Browne), and Betty Driver.

Announcement of Elsie Carlisle's having signed on to Rex Records
Announcement of Elsie Carlisle’s having signed on to Rex Records

“The Hut-Sut Song” (1941)

“The Hut-Sut Song.” Words and music by Leo V. Killion, Ted McMichael, and Jack Owens (1941). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment under the direction of Jay Wilbur on July 4, 1941. Rex 10021 mx. R5971-2.

Personnel: Jay Wilbur dir. Alfie Noakes-Chick Smith-t / 2 unknown from Paul Fenoulhet (t-tb) (Ted Heath/George Rowe (tb) / Frank Johnson-Frank Weir-cl-as / George Smith-Cliff Timms-ts / Matt Heft-p / Jack Simmons-g / Billy Bell-sb / Jack Simpson-d / vocal chorus by the orchestra1

Elsie Carlisle – "The Hut-Sut Song" (1941)

Elsie Carlisle – “The Hut-Sut Song” (1941)

“The Hut-Sut Song (A Swedish Serenade)” has lyrics consisting primarily of the repetitive, catchy refrain

“Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit.”

There are recurring intimations that the mysterious words are Swedish — they are not, of course, anything of the kind, but rather nonsense of the first order. It would appear that “The Hut-Sut Song” is in some way an imitation of a much older song, “Hot Shot Dawson,” which begins with the words

“Hot Shot Dawson on a river boat with his brawlin’, sprawlin’ sweetie….”

In 1941, Time Magazine noted the existence of the older tune, but had difficulty finding anyone who could remember how it went. The similarity between the two songs probably indicates not plagiarism or authorial skullduggery, but mere hut-suttery.

“The Hut-Sut Song” is a novelty song typical of its era (its nonsensical lyrics might remind one of the crypto-sensical and similarly infectious “Mairzy Doats,” which would be composed two years later). Its utter wackiness and surprising popularity inspired a short film portraying a boarding house full of people (played by “The King’s Men” ) who sing it incessantly. The proprietor has them removed to a mental hospital, where they continue singing “Hut-Sut” in a padded cell.

Elsie Carlisle’s version of “The Hut-Sut Song,” recorded under the direction of Jay Wilbur and with the instrumental and choral accompaniment of his studio band, is surprisingly pretty. It is perhaps precisely because the lyrics are so inane that they highlight nicely her crisp, sweet voice. Elsie’s wartime recordings are of a flavor very different from her earlier work, and while the underlying compositions are largely not to my taste, her vocal excellence shines with the aid of the slightly better bandwidth provided by more modern recording technology.

In 1941 “The Hut-Sut Song” was recorded by artists in America such as Freddy Martin and His Orchestra (v. Eddie Stone),  The Jesters, Joe Reichman and His Orchestra, Johnny Messner, Ella Logan, Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights (with vocals by Donna and Her Don Juans),  Frankie Masters and His Orchestra (with vocals by The Swingmasters), The Four King Sisters with the Rhythm “Reys,” The Merry Macs, Sammy Kay and His Orchestra, and The Hoosier Hot Shots. There were notable radio broadcasts of the song by Glenn Miller and also by Bing Crosby and Connee Boswell, who sang a duet incorporating verses that nonsensically combine items from Chinese restaurant menus.

Other British recordings of “The Hut-Sut Song” were made by Lew Stone and His Band (v. Carl Barriteau), Nat Gonella, Harry Roy and His Band (v. Marjorie Kingsley), Billy Cotton and His Band (v. Dolly Elsie), and Harry Leader and His Band (in a Paul Jones Medley).

I would also note that there were three recordings of “The Hut-Sut Song” in 1941 by artists in Sweden! One can only wonder what the Swedes thought about the ridiculous suggestion that the song had anything to do with them, but apparently they were amused.

Notes:

  1. According to Richard J. Johnson in Elsie Carlisle: A Discography (1994).

“Calliope Jane” (1941)

“Calliope Jane.” Composed by Hoagy Carmichael for Road Show (1941). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment, probably under the musical direction of Jay Wilbur, on June 24, 1941. Rex 10008 mx. R5917-1.

Elsie Carlisle – "Calliope Jane" (1941)

Elsie Carlisle – “Calliope Jane” (1941)

Hoagy Carmichael composed “Calliope Jane” for a 1941 musical comedy called Road Show, starring Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis, and John Hubbard. The movie features a musical number by a four-part close-harmony group named The Charioteers, former Vocalion gospel recording artists who were trying their hand at pop music with some success. Playing carnival workers, they sing to an absent party, “Calliope Jane,” asking her to ply her trade:

Calliope Jane,
Put on your bonnet and “ploop!” again,
For when you go “Ploop, ploop!”
You “ploop” all my cares away.

To their credit, The Charioteers lessened the awkwardness of this strange little song by singing the “ploops” in a very high register, so as to make it perfectly clear that they were imitating the sound of a calliope.

Not so Elsie Carlisle. I will concede that Elsie applies her most dulcet delivery to “Calliope Jane” in an arrangement that lets her play both the part of the interested audience (“Johnny”) and that of Calliope Jane herself, who explains that when she plays her calliope, she likes”to give it a dash of that swing.” But Elsie utters her “ploop, ploops” in the same register as the rest of the words, and I had to listen to her recording more than once to realize that the sounds were meant to be onomatopoetic. The overall impression made by her version is one of extreme silliness that verges on being somewhat embarrassing.

Not one of Elsie Carlisle’s finest moments, nor Hoagy Carmichael’s for that matter, and it would appear that few other artists took the bait and recorded “Calliope Jane.” The one exception was Arthur Young and His Swingtette, who had recorded it in London the previous day.

“Ploop, ploop!” indeed!

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

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