Yes, Uncle!     (Henri Leoni, Crawford, Griffin)     (Palaeophonics 138)
Item# PE0273
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Product Description

Yes, Uncle!     (Henri Leoni, Crawford, Griffin)     (Palaeophonics 138)
PE0273. YES, UNCLE! (Clifford Grey & Nat D. Ayer), recorded 1917-18, w.Albert Ketelby Cond. Prince's Theatre Ensemble; Henri Leoni, Mimi Crawford, Norman Griffin, Davy Burnsby & Julia James; Additional material by The Savoy Quartet & De Groot Cond. Piccadilly Orch. (England) Palaeophonics 138, w.Elaborate ‘The Play’ 18pp. Brochure replete with numerous photos of the Prince of Wales Theatre 1917 production & biographies. Excellently transferred from the legendary Acoustic 78rpm HMV rarities. NB: Dominic Combe has recently located a far superior 78rpm pressing of the irrepressible 'Widows are wonderful', now replacing the earlier version on this CD. Anyone who purchased this in the past may have, at no charge, this replacement CD.


"YES, UNCLE! is by Austen Hurgon and & George Arthurs based on Jose G. Levy's version of LE TRUC BRÉSILIEN by Nancy and Armont. It follows in the path of a number of these shows in being based on saucy French farces - somewhat muted to escape the attentions of the Lord Chancellor (in charge of censorship). General idea is, ‘How do I get rid of my tiresome mistress, when I realise I love my wife rather more than her?’

The lyrics are by Clifford Grey with music by Nat. D. Ayer with an additional number by Guy Lefeuvre (not in the album). It was produced by George Grossmith and Edward Laurillard at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London, and ran for 626 performances.

It has 8 vocal tracks (HMVs) of 6 members of the original cast with Leslie Henson's understudy, together with orchestral introduction (Columbia) two tracks and two supplementary tracks - 12 in all. Represented are most of the cast of THEODORE & CO. Among them are Henri Leoni, Mimi Crawford, Norman Griffin who stood in for Leslie Henson, Davy Burnaby and Julia James. All in all, it is a very jolly, upbeat piece with music typical of its composer Nat. D. Ayer.”

- Ned Ludd

“YES, UNCLE! is a musical comedy by Austen Hurgen and George Arthurs, with music by Nat D. Ayer and lyrics by Clifford Grey (who also wrote THE BING BOYS ARE HERE and the following series of highly successful reviews). The story is based on the farce LE TRUC DU BRÉSILIEN by Nicolas Nancey and Paul Armont, and the musical takes its title from the catch-phrase used by Bobby Summers and Mabel Mannering, addressing Uncle Brabazon Hollybone. It was produced by George Grossmith, Jr. and Edward Laurillard and opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London on 16 December 1917 and ran for a very successful 626 performances. The piece starred Fred Leslie as G.B. Stark, Margaret Bannerman as Joan and Leslie Henson as Bobby Summers. Later, Madge Elliott and Cyril Ritchard starred in the musical.

YES, UNCLE! was one of a number of very successful musical hits of the London stage during World War I (the others include a revue entitled THE BING BOYS ARE HERE, the musical THE MAID OF THE MOUNTAINS, CHU CHIN CHOW, a mixture of comic opera and pantomime), THE HAPPY DAY (1916), THEODORE & CO (1916) and THE BOY (1917). Audiences wanted light and uplifting entertainment during the war, and these shows delivered it. A delightful example of the show’s charming wit is displayed in ‘Widows Are Wonderful’:

'Widows are wonderful You must admit they’re wise They’ve got the eyes Always hand you some surprise Widows are marvellous, They’ve got that kind of way. If they’re short or tall, the men are bound to fall, that’s all. Widows are dangerous, They’ve had experience. There’s just so many turtle doves, Single girls are much to tame, But a merry little widow knows the game. She’s beautiful, She’s marvellous. It’s the wonderful way she loves. Some boys go to college, And some to public school. They cram themselves with knowledge, But still they’re mostly fools. Girls are prepossessing, They may be sweet and fair, But a widow keeps you guessing And she gets right there. Widows are wonderful You must admit they’re wise They’ve got the eyes Always hand you some surprise Widows are marvellous, They’ve got that kind of way. If they’re short or tall, the men are bound to fall, that’s all. Widows are dangerous, They’ve had experience. There’s just so many turtle doves, She’s beautiful, She’s marvellous. It’s the wonderful way she loves'.

Nat D. Ayer was born Nathaniel Davis, born 30 September 1887, Boston, was a composer, pianist, and performer, before moving to England where his career really took off. Ayer wrote one enduring standard, ‘Oh, You Beautiful Doll’ (1911), with A. Seymour Brown and collaborated with Brown on several other numbers such as ‘Moving Day in Jungle Town’ (1909) (apparently a reference to Theodore Roosevelt’s hunting trip to Africa) and ‘If You Talk in Your Sleep, Don’t Mention My Name’ (1911). Ayer’s first trip to England was as a member of the Ragtime Octet, at a time when American jazzy and ragtime music - particularly that of Irving Berlin - was beginning to sweep Europe. In 1916 Ayer teamed with lyricist Clifford Grey to write the score for one of the West End’s biggest World War I hits, the revue THE BING BOYS ARE HERE, which starred George Robey and Violet Loraine, and contained the immortal ‘If You Were The Only Girl In The World’, along with ‘Another Little Drink Wouldn’t Do Us Any Harm’ and ‘The Kipling Walk’, among others. Ayer and Grey followed that with the music and lyrics for THE BING BOYS ARE THERE (1917, ‘Let The Great Big World Keep Turning’) and THE BING BOYS ON BROADWAY (1918), with its tender ballad, ‘First Love, Last Love, Best Love’, which was introduced by Robey and Clara Evelyn. As well as composing the music - and sometimes the lyrics - Ayer often appeared on stage himself, notably with Alice Delysia in the revue PELL-MELL (1916, Clifford Grey, Hugh E. Wright) and with Binnie Hale and Gertie Millar in the musical comedy HOUP-LA! (1916, Howard Talbot, Hugh E. Wright, Percy Greenbank). Among the many other London shows to which he contributed were HULLO, RAGTIME (1912, ‘You’re My Baby’ with A. Seymour Brown), 5064 GERARD (1915, ‘At The Foxtrot Ball’ Dave Comer, Irving Berlin, Henry Marshall, Stanley Murphy, et al.), YES, UNCLE! (1917, Grey), BABY BUNTING (1919, Grey), SNAP (1922, Kenneth Duffield, Herman Hupfeld), ‘SHUFFLIN’ ALONG’ (with Ralph Stanley), THE SMITH FAMILY (1922) and STOP-GO! (1935, Edgar Blatt).”


“Leslie Lincoln Henson was an English comedian, actor, producer for films and theatre, and film director. He initially worked in silent films and Edwardian musical comedy and became a popular music hall comedian who enjoyed a long stage career. He was famous for his bulging eyes, malleable face and raspy voice. Henson became interested in the theatre from an early age, writing and producing theatrical pieces while at school. He studied with the Cairns–James School of Musical and Dramatic Art as a child, making his professional stage début at the age of 19. His first West End role was in NICELY, THANKS! (1912) and he later starred in several hit West End Edwardian musical comedies, including TO-NIGHT'S THE NIGHT (1915) and YES, UNCLE! (1917). After briefly serving with the Royal Flying Corps, he was released from active service by the British government to help run a concert party called THE GAIETIES, which provided entertainment for the troops during World War I. After the war, he returned to the West End, playing in KISSING TIME (1919) and a series of musical comedies and farces throughout the 1920s and 1930s.”

-Zillah Dorset Akron

“If you are interested in what original audiences of early 20th century English operetta and musical comedy heard, there is a great source for such recordings – the record label Paleophonics. Dominic Combe prepares CDs for them from his huge collection of shellacs and a few cylinders.

I came across these somewhat hard-to-find CDs on the website of the mail-order company NORBECK, PETERS AND FORD, ( which is specialized in historical performances from the beginning of recorded sound all the way through to the 1960s.

There are now over fifty Paleophonics CDs, and more are being prepared or scheduled for future release. Each CD comes with a lavishly illustrated program booklet with reviews, information about the shows and fantastic publicity photographs, and artwork from the original London productions, in the form of reproductions of the magazine PLAY PICTORIAL.”