Tag Archive: Anna May Wong

Hugh Wade 1927

Thanks to the help of William Wade, I’m beginning to get a fuller picture of Hugh Wade’s musical output. I’ll deal with the first phase of his career here. then 1928-1936  and finally the latter stages in subsequent posts.

He seems to have emerged with a number of songs under his belt in 1927. This is not necessarily a complete list but it’s as much as I’ve got at the moment. The dates in brackets are the copyright dates.

“Like A Virginia Creeper (I’ll Creep Back to You)” (august 1927)

This song caught on and was featured in London shows. It quickly found its way as far as Australia where it featured in the Kelso Brothers Ace High revue at the Tivoli Theatre, Melbourne ,in which it was sung by the Famous Four, whose name has alas proved unfounded  as I can find no trace of them. The Tivoli, which had started life as the Melbourne Opera House, was the premier vaudeville theatre in the city – Anna May Wong appeared there. It closed in 1966.

Interior, Tivoli Theatre

The song was recorded at least once. This version is by The Rovers Dance Band and appeared on the Guardsman label. The youtube note suggests that it is Hugh Wade singing, but I’m not sure about that. The Guardsman label would have been of interest to a few of the West End club set as it ran a “Negro Race” series, offering a jazzier sound than usually available.

The most popular version would almost certainly be Jack Hylton’s but I have no soundclip for that.

When I Met Sally (Coming Down the Alley) october 1927   Wade and Lawrence Venn

The sheet music lists Marion Carr and Douglas Vine as the performers but again the public would more likely have come acroos through Jack Hylton’s  rendition.

When I met Sally” was one of a number of songs dedicated to that epitome of working-class pulchritude, Sally, whose virtues had been celebrated in song since the eighteenth century. Gracie Fields is the best known worshipper and one should remember that in the 1920s Fields was a West End star -much loved by Mayfair – she worked with Gerald Du Maurier and occasionally appeared at the Cafe De Paris.

Gracie Fields 1920s

Wade’s lyricist Lawrence Venn, if he is who I think he is, is a figure worth noting. An early PR man, working in the wine trade, he was an immaculately-dressed and debonair fixture of London Society for many years. He came up with the name “Tio Pepe” for the sherry most favoured by the fashionable. In the 1950s he became the head of the Champagne company Moet et Chandon and is partly responsible for the particular appeal that brand had, and still has, with the wealthy and hedonistic. What he or Hugh would have thought of Notorious B.I.G or Nas’s lyrical tributes to the drink is best left to the imagination.

“Somewhere In Samarkand”

“Voices From The Minarets”  (november 1927)

I can’t find much on these two songs, but judging from the titles they appear to be attempts to cash in on the phenomenal success of Albert Ketelbey  and the continuing popularity of James Elroy Flecker. Ketelbey’s In A Monastery Garden (1915) was as loved as any piece of music in the early twentieth century and Ketelbey followed it up with a stream of what would now be called exotica (In a Persian Market, In A Chinese Temple Garden, In the Mystic Land of Egypt and so on). Flecker’s Golden Journey To Samarkand was, as Hassan, one of the dramatic highlights of 1920s theatre – Ethel Mannin devotes almost a chapter of her memoirs to it. It influenced music,fashion and design and spawned a host of imitations.

“When The Lovebird Leaves The Nest” (1927)

This was another successful song for Hugh. It was sung by Alec Kelleway and Carl Brisson and recorded by the very popular Debroy Somers Orchestra. Alec Kelleway brings in the Australian connection again. Kelleway (usually Kellaway) was a star of Australia’s vaudeville circuit. If it’s the same person he is especially remembered as the very camp department store assistant, a sort of Pre-War John Inman, in Dad and Dave Come To Town.

Alec Kellaway 1938

 Carl Brisson was a Danish middleweight boxer who found fame on the London stage in The Merry Widow (as seen by Madame Fahmy on the night she shot her husband). He is fondly remembered for introducing the song Cocktails For Two in the 1934 film Murder at the Vanities.( That film also featured the remarkable song Marahuana – a cult favourite among the louche and raffish.)

Forgive the digression, I couldn’t resist it.

Hugh would have been particularly pleased to have Lovebird  recorded by Debroy Somers who was the most in demand arranger and orchestra leader of the day. Dublin born and, as you can hear, a graduate of military music training, Somers, a multi-instrumentalist, led bands at the Savoy, Ciro’s, The Blue Moon Club, The Cosmopolitan and The London Casino – all places Elvira and her friends knew well.

Lovebird was, I think, Hugh’s biggest “hit”.

“Why Am I Blue?”  (november 1927)

This was his first collaboration with the journalist and writer Collie Knox. There are so many songs of this title that it is hard to know which are Hugh’s versions. Certainly, Carl Brisson sang it as did Alma Vane for the BBC. There was also a version by Anona Winn,  50s radio star of Twenty Questions and The Petticoat Line, who had earlier sung with Al Bowlly and many top Dance-bands.

The sheet music, as with others in his portfolio has an arrangement for ukelele, another nice period touch.

Carl Brisson

All in all, it was an auspicious entry into showbusiness, as I’m sure you’ll agree. The magazine “The Child”  commented that his publishers “Feldmans have discovered a musical White Hope in Mr. Hugh Wade, who is barely 20 years of age.” which seems a fair assessment. The songs are generic rather than innovative but are very useful in allowing us to get a sense of how the late twenties sounded. They also show that Hugh was working in the mainstream of the business and was not just some back-street after-hours pianist, as some sources seem to suggest.

More very shortly.

UPDATE I’ve found another Hugh Wade composition copyrighted in 1926. It’s called “I Lost My Heart While Dancing” ( words and music by Hugh Wade).


Cafe De Paris and London Nightclubs

The Cafe De Paris was used as the setting for the 1929 film Piccadilly which starred Anna May Wong, who briefly hung out with London’s Smart Set. She had been brought to London by producer Basil Dean after her success in Berlin where she was friends with Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl. Constant Lambert was much taken with the actress and wrote a musical suite dedicated to her but Eric Maschwitz, with whom she probably had an affair, went one better, writing the lyrics to the most evocative song of the era, “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” in memory of their encounter.

Here’s a clip that gives a good sense of the atmosphere of the place (the music is a later addition).

British Pathe is the best source for film of pre-war London club-life although it concentrates very much on the cabaret acts rather than the bands and the dancers. http://www.britishpathe.com/results.php?search=london+cabaret

Here’s a Youtube compilation of some of those clips – fine, particularly if you like the Weston Brothers. The sequences include footage of the Kit-Kat club and Playtime at the Piccadilly.

High Society favourite and resident at Ciro’s, Chez Henri, Cafe De Paris, Monseigneurs, Cafe Anglais and elsewhere, Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, sings These Foolish Things