Tag Archive: Collie Knox


Hugh Wade 1928

Continued from   https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/hugh-wade-1927/

There are three identifiable Hugh Wade compositions from 1928, at least two of which were very successful.

“When the Swallows Fly Home”  (april 1928) 

This was another tune with lyrics by Collie Knox and was possibly a follow-up to “When the Lovebird Leaves the Nest” . I cannot find any evidence that this tune made it on to record but it was considered worthy of inclusion in Feldman’s 33rd  Song and Dance album (a book of sheet music, not a disc) along with “Why Am I Blue?”. These music publishers’ booklets were the “Now That’s What I Call Music” of their day. Number 33 (“Complete Words & Music with Tonic Sol-Fa Setting and Ukulele Accompaniment”) consisted of this perfect snapshot of late twenties “pop”,

“Under the Moon (Fox-trot) – I ain’t that Kind of a Baby (Fox-trot) – Why am I Blue? (Waltz) – When the Swallows fly home (Fox-trot) – So Tired (Fox-trot) – Community (Lancers) – Is Everybody Happy Now? (Fox-trot) – There’s Everything Nice about You (Fox-trot) – If all the Stars were pretty babies (Fox-trot) – Broadcast (Barn Dance) – I left my Sugar standing in the Rain (Fox-trot)”

Members of the Goofus Five were recruited by Fred Elizalde to play at the Savoy Hotel and had a big impact on British Dance-Band and jazz musicians and enthusiasts. Given that the list also includes Ted Lewis’ theme tune (“Is Everybody Happy Now?”) and the much recorded “I Ain’t that Kind of Baby”, I would suggest that Hugh’s music was regarded pretty highly (at least by his publishers) and would have found its way into a lot of homes. Until the 1940s, sheet music sales were considered more important than record sales.

“I’m Tired Of Waiting For You”  (april 1928 but probably earlier)

I’ve already posted about this tune here hugh-wade-the-savoy-orpheans-and-collie-knox  and would simply re-state that the Charlie Kunz version is a cut above the average. It is often hard to judge the quality of 1920s popular music as the quality of the recordings and arrangements is not always as one would wish.

The tune is often credited  just to Reg Batten but the copyright shows that both men wrote it. It is one of the rare examples of Hugh working with another musician rather than a lyricist.

“Rosalie” (May 1928)

This was another widely played tune of Hugh’s. It was, I think, also much recorded but as there are a number of songs called Rosalie and as the Gershwin show of that name also opened in 1928, it has been hard to pin down.

As you can see from the sheet music cover, Jack O’Connor sang it in the show “Miss 1928 Revue”.  There was also sheet music featuring Winifred Hammond on the cover. If anyone has any information on either of these artists, please let me know.

One recording we can be certain of is by Charles Hill, who also recorded I’M Tired of Waiting For You. Hill was a singer best known for orchestrated ballads such as Annie Laurie and Sweet Afton.

There is a recording of Rosalie by the Rhythmic Eight. It was released June 1928 so is likely to be the same tune. The Rhythmic Eight was essentially Bert Firman’s band and thus one of the classier outfits of the era. I’ve not heard a 100% certain Hugh Wade Rosalie so I don’t know if this Ciro’s Club Band recording is the right song. I hope so, firstly because I like it and secondly because Elvira was a regular at Ciro’s. The Ciro’s Club Dance Band was really the Debroy Somers Orchestra, who had already recorded When The Lovebird Leaves the Nest.

Somewhere floating around the internet is  a Midi file entitled

“Rosalie 1928
by Hugh Wade & Val Valentine
Featured by Herman Darewski and his band
at The Winter Gardens Ball Rooms at Blackpool
© 1928 by B. Feldman & Co.  London, England”

Though completely forgotten today Darewski had a long career in revue and as a composer.He was the king of light orchestral music in the 1920s and ruled the roost between the wars  in the great seaside resorts of Blackpool and Bridlington. If Rosalie was in his repertoire then it was heard by thousands of holidaymakers that year.

Eric Gordon “Val” Valentine, who provided the lyrics to Rosalie,  deserves a mention. He was to become a prolific screenwriter with at least fifty films to his credit, including the original stories for Waterloo Road and We Dive At Dawn. He also worked with Alfred Hitchcock on Elstree Calling. Strangely, his great bequest to British popular culture is more than likely “The St.Trinian’s School Song“, for which he provided the words. Like Hugh’s other lyricist, Collie Knox, Valentine died in Brighton in the 1970s. Whether these two were part of the social scene around Hugh, Elvira and others, or whether they were just professional partners, I cannot say but I would like to find out.

Who are the unidentified people in this photo?

From mid-1928 everything seems to stop on the songwriting front for Hugh, or at least slow down considerably. It is about this time that he takes up residency at the Blue Lantern, so maybe he was now seeing himself primarily as a performer. It may be that there are more tunes and I just can’t find them. Either way, I’ll explore the next phase in a subsequent post.

Thanks to William Wade for the 78 scan.

UPDATE William Wade has confirmed that the Ciro Club version is of Hugh’s tune.

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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).

Update on The Red and White Party

I posted something on Arthur Jeffress’  Red and White Party a while back ( see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-red-and-white-party/ ) ,

In John Montgomery’s “The Twenties” (1957)  there is a slightly more detailed account of the revelries than that found in D. J. Taylor or Alec Waugh’s account of the night. It does not provide names (Brenda Dean Paul, Arthur Jeffress and Sunday Wilshin were all still alive when the book appeared) but it does give a good sense of the extravagance and excess of the occasion.

Arthur Jeffress and Pals

“The last hectic party of the twenties, the party to end all parties,  surpassing even the Wild West party and the Court party, the final fling of the “Bright Young Things”, started at eleven o’clock on the evening of November 21, in the house of the dancer. Maud Allan, although it was not her party.

The invitation cards had been sent out a foretnight earlier, and were much in demand. Many were stolen from chimney pieces and were later presented  by uninvited, unwanted guests. The wording on each card, engraved in white on a brilliant scarlet background, requested guests to confine their costumes and clothes to the colours red and white. It was to be a red and white party, a “monster ball”, as the young men of the West End called it.

Some 250 cards were sent out, but nearly 400 guests arrived. Their host greeted them in the hall, wearing a modified sailor suit of white angel-skin with red trimmings, elbow length white kid gloves loaded with diamonds and rubies, two diamond clips and a spray of white star orchids costing about£2 a bloom. He posed for photographs holding a muff made of white narcissi, which  newspapers reported had been flown from North Africa, but which had been bought that afternoon in Chelsea. A pair of red leather shoes completed the ensemble.”

White and Pink Star Orchid

“The food at the party was entirely red and white – red caviare, lobsters, salmon, ham, apples (but no pears), tomatoes (but no lettuce), pink and red blancmanges, trifles and jellies. Everything was of the best, and cigarettes were contained in red and white boxes.

The upstairs rooms of the house were empty, and a rope across the stairs indicated that guests were not expected to leave the ground floor. However this did not prevent many people from disappearing upstairs, to descend, later, covered in dust.

Guests arriving at the house found the entrance guarded by Metropolitan policemen, who solemnly examined all invitation cards but let anyone in whether they had cards or not. In those days off duty policemen could be hired for private parties. inside, after being greeted by their host, guests walked over a long red carpet through a vast hall towards three large rooms, en suite, with big double-doors leading from one to the other.The centre and largest room was hung with broad strips of scarlet and white bunting.Banquettes were covered with red velvet. Dancing took place here to a negro orchestra – a sine qua non in those days – each musician wearing white tails with scarlet fittings. The two slightly smaller rooms were hung respectively with white and red bunting, the white room being a vast bar. The red room, furnished with red-covered mattresses, was for sitting-out.”

Red Caviare

” What began as a reasonably formal, although distinctly eccentric, gathering soon developed into a noisy and hilarious free-for-all. Hired servants, dressed in scarlet double-breasted coats with large white buttons, struggled among the seething, jostling, swaying, shrieking mass of dancers and drinkers. The orchestra, overwhelmed by the noise, played louder and louder; the rooms became thick with smoke and the smell of scent.

No whisky was available, only champagne, white or red win, or gin. There were plenty of bottles for everyone. The kitchen was stacked high with crates of liquor and boxes of hired glasses. Some guests mixed the drinks and gulped them down; then mixed their dancing partners. The huge room became a medley of red and white sailor suits, white dresses and sashes, red wigs, long  white kid gloves, pink hats, and even false red noses. Red and white “nuns” danced with men dressed as exotic birds with elaborate feather head-dresses, men danced stripped to the waist, wearing red sailors’ bell-bottom  trousers; a man dressed as Queen Elizabeth, wearing a red wig, sat in the hall solemnly playing Abide With Me on the organ.”

” At about half past one a girl had to be prevented from pulling the hair of another woman who was attempting to get herself a drink. Half-full glasses and bottles stood all around, under chairs, behind curtains, under tables. The girl was wearing only a choker of pearls ansd a large red and white spotted handkerchief  fixed around her middle by a thin white belt. People wearing more clothes found it  almost unbearably hot.

Hair Puller  – Brenda Dean Paul

Hair Pullee – Sunday Wilshin

The party finished with the dawn, long after the last policeman had finished guarding the doors and had gone home. It was afterwards estimated that the evening had cost about £500.”

Though it takes a suitably moralistic tone and reads like something cobbled together from a mixture of newspaper reports and  imaginative licence, there is a hint of insider knowledge here. I don’t know much about John Montgomery apart from the fact that he wrote a lot of books. This one is dedicated to Hugh Wade’s sometime musical collaborator, Collie Knox (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/hugh-wade-the-savoy-orpheans-and-collie-knox/ ) and there was an old chap who was supportive of the Gay Liberation Movement in Brighton in the 1970s of that name.  I think he might have been an attendee.

The £500 (£25,000 today) is, if anything,  an under-estimate. The most prominent “Negro” orchestra in London at the time was Noble Sissle’s outfit, resident at Ciro’s, and they alone would have cost a few bob. I presume Queen Elizabeth was Hugh Wade but hope not – Abide With Me is rather naff in comparison to Body and Soul, a rendition of which Wade is supposed to have performed on said organ.

If nothing else, I like this piece because the room for “sitting-out” is the earliest example I know of a “Chill Out Space”, the presence of which has greatly enhanced the club scene since the 1980s. As for the political and moral implications of this event, I will leave that for future discussion.

Chez Henri, on the first floor of 8 and 9 Long Acre, was one of the more upmarket London night-spots. Barbara Cartland approved as it was one of those places where ” one always knew everyone”. Elvira and her friends were regulars there.

Charlie Kunz

Leslie ” Hutch” Hutchinson, Billy Milton and Douglas Byng all played there but the resident for nearly nine years was the pianist and bandleader Charlie Kunz. Kunz was to become nationally famous for his skilful but sentimental “easy-listening” piano pieces, popular right through to the 1970s. In the late twenties and early thirties his band was more geared to dancing, though always displaying a restrained elegance. In 1928 he recorded “I’m Tired of Waiting For You”. This was written by Reg Batten and Hugh Wade and is as evocative of the period as anything you could wish for.

Hugh Wade is usually presented as something of a failure and an insignificant ne’er-do-well. His residencies at the Blue Lantern and Blue Angel are seen as somehow “seedy”. However,if he collaborated with Reg Batten, then he was a respected part of London’s dance-band scene. Batten was a member, violinist  and sometimes leader of the Savoy Orpheans/ Savoy Havana Orchestra, the most accomplished and well-paid dance band of the era. Founded by Bert Railton , its illustrious leaders included Debroy Somers (whom Wade also wrote for), Caroll Gibbons ( who played at Elvira’s party in 1927) and the innovative Fred Eliziade. Based at the Savoy Hotel, by the late twenties, they were probably the best known dance outfit in Europe. They recorded all the popular hits of the day and occasionally sneaked in some jazz and latin stylings. One of their most popular pieces was an instrumental version of the Noel Coward song whose title is always appended to any recounting of Elvira’s tale.

Wade seems always to have written in collaboration with either a lyricist or another musician. One such joint-effort was with Collie Knox. Called “When the Swallows Fly Home” it was, presumably a follow up to Wade’s “hit”  “When the Lovebird Leaves the Nest“. Mercifully, I cannot locate an audio file for this lost gem. Collie Knox was a columnist on the Daily Mail, best remembered for his patriotic wartime journalism (especially the book Atlantic Battle). He was a also involved in the theatre as a writer and producer. He was one of the young men whose career the flamboyant Ned Lathom had backed in the 1920s before the young Earl’s many indulgences bankrupted him. Although Knox was a household name in his time the others are rather better known today – they were Beverley Nichols, Noel Coward and Ivor Novello.

Collie Knox (1899-1977)

Knox was partly responsible for Brighton becoming the Gay capital of England that it is today. He moved there in the 1930s with the designer Peter Coats ( not the Peter Cotes of Elvira fame) and by the 1950s was part of an elegant and rather socially exclusive circle. Reminiscences of this group do not portray them in a very favourable light, but they are of interest in that they could easily be describing Elvira’s crowd twenty years on. Here are two examples (taken from Daring Hearts)

“Brighton has always had a gay mafia – all those expensive queens, you know, throwing cocktail parties, with art dealers and old actresses. It was a very closeted place, there was an awful lot that went on behind heavily brocaded curtains. Robin Maugham lived down here and had crowds of the camp coming to visit. Terence Rattigan had a house here. Collie Knox, Dougie Byng, Gilbert Harding, Alan Melville, Sir David Webster… And Godfrey Winn lived out at Falmer. And they’d all have these pink champagne and sherry dos – ‘Oh, we must invite Enid Bagnold’.”

“Sex and money was at the heart of the gay community in Arundel Terrace, Lewes Terrace and Chichester Terrace. It was an upper-class jungle. When I came here it wasn’t such a mixed social group as it is now. The terrace had a class thing about it, moneyed thing.

I would be invited to cocktail parties, which isn’t my thing. Gay males, rich, living in swanky, elegant – piss elegant – places, ghastly taste, actually, to my mind, with the interior decorator boyfriend. They considered themselves classy; worked in the Theatre, banking, stockbrokers. They had all these cocktail parties full, also, of what we called the bridge ladies who liked faggots. And theatrical lezzies. Nothing was worse than theatrical lezzies of that period. They were even more superficial than anyone. They quarrelled all the time, they drank too much. They were all refined and ladylike, as it were, and then suddenly you’d realise they’d just had too many gins, so they’d start on each other: snip, snip, snip, snip. Sad. I don’t think they liked me, really, because I wouldn’t play.”

Some of these folk may well have been veterans of the Blue Lantern and The Blue Angel, perhaps even Collie Knox.

Hugh Wade, in cap, next to Elizabeth Ponsonby in 1929 when his songwriting skills were in demand

8/9 Long Acre today