The Hugh Wade of the years 1929-1935 is the one I first encountered a few months ago. It is Hugh Wade of  The Blue Lantern and The Blue Angel, of the jaunty cap and Bright Young parties, the “naughty boy” who symbolised Elizabeth Ponsonby’s fall from, if not exactly grace then social prominence and of course the Hugh Wade who gave evidence at Elvira’s trial.

On the surface Hugh seems to have abandoned composing for performing (and partying).As far as I can see, there is only one copyrighted tune to his name in the whole six years. It’s a good one though.

“Singing In The Moonlight” (1932)

This was recorded by Henry Hall and the BBC dance orchestra, Reginald Dixon (of Blackpool Tower Ballroom fame), The Melody Boys and Layton and Johnstone. There was also a French version (“Sous Le Clair De  Lune“)  which may be an indicator of the time he is supposed have spent living in Paris but is probably just a sign of the song’s popularity

The Layton and Johnstone version is of most interest to me as not only were they prolific recording artists but they were very much part of the “Smart Set” and its fascination with sophisticated black artists. I have posted about Turner Layton on more than one occasion (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/another-party-in-glebe-place/ ) and think he ought to be given the same prominence as Hutch in terms of 1930s musical culture.

“The Melody Boys” was a popular name and could refer to any number of acts, the most famous being Al Bowlly and his Radio Melody Boys. It’s unlikely to be Bowlly as he has been well served by discographers. As it is on Sterno, it is almost certainly an alias designed purely for that label. Sterno made good quality dance music, often quite jazzy, using London’s leading  dance-bands (Ray Starita, Tommy Kinsman etc.) often performing under alternative names.Sterno records were only available through Marks and Spencer and some are quite rare.See Sterno

The most widely circulated version would have been Henry Hall’s. His BBC Orchestra was heard in every home in England. Several generations of children grew up listing to “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” but among the novelty music there were many romantic, if slightly formal, arrangements of the popular music of the day.  Each weekday at 5.15pm  a large section of the British public tuned into listen.”Singing In The Moonlight” is the title of one retrospective Hall CD and is the Wade composition most readily available these days.

Hugh’s co-writer was Edward “Eddie” Pola. An American, he would later achieve great success in the States  working with George Wyle (they wrote “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”). He was in England throughout the 1930s and acted in films as well as recording (by the standards of the day) slightly risque songs such as “I Want to Be A Nudist” and “The Gigolo’s Wedding“. He also performed comic monologues parodying various musical genres. There are some Pathe short films online – but I can’t get any sound on them.

Most of Hugh’s time was taken up with the long residency at the Blue Lantern. This is the Hugh whose fans included Tom Driberg and Frederick Ashton and who Jocelyn Brooke, wittily but rather acerbically, turns into a symbol of the “louche” set. However, I think there were other projects.

Hugh had been providing music for revues since 1928 (“Quicksilver” and “Miss 1928”) and continued to do so. It seems he collaborated with Billy Milton’s partner Billy Noble at some point. He also wrote music for Douglas Byng and may have accompanied him in his nightclub act and possibly on record. Wade composed a score for Byng’s lyrics in a one-off revue that also starred Ernest Thesiger. I think it was probably “Past Bedtime”, a charity cabaret ball at the Savoy Hotel. Attendees were invited  to “Come as we were when we were very young”, another example of that fondness for infantilism among some elements of the Bright Young Things.

Hugh had other residencies apart from the Blue Lantern and Blue Angel. A notice in Flight International 1932 reads  “Every Sunday evening a dance will be held, and everybody is cordially invited ; arrangements have been made for Mr. Hugh Wade to be at the piano until further notice”. This is likely to have been at the Brooklands Aero Club or the Stag Lane dance pavilion, both popular with motor car and plane enthusiasts, but I haven’t been able to  pinpoint the venue as yet. The Royal Aero Club which published Flight International  also met at the Hambone in Ham Yard (next to the Blue Lantern) so it might have been there.

So it was a rather fuller professional life than one copyrighted song might indicate. On to 1936 and two prestigious projects.

 


Advertisements