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8.120751 - LAUDER, Harry: Roamin' in the Gloamin' (1926-1930)
Harry Lauder – Roamin' In The Gloamin'
"In 1900 a Scotch coal miner stood on the street opposite the Tivoli Music Hall. He had taken a week off to visit London to seek a vaudeville engagement… It was a Tuesday morning and a comic at Gatti's Music Hall had laid an egg the previous night. (George) Foster sold the act sight unseen to Tom Tinsley, manager of Gatti's, and before the week was out the miner was booked for 300 consecutive weeks over the Moss Empire and Syndicate music halls, playing three houses a night some weeks, at $900 a week." Thus did the show business bible Variety describe the London premiere of Harry Lauder, 19 March 1900. For the next fifty years, Lauder would exemplify the Scotsman… kilted, bandy-legged, thrifty, sentimental, an eye for a bonnie lass and a taste for a wee drap.
He was born in Portobello, Scotland, 4 August 1870, the son of a potter. Young Harry worked in a flax mill and then in a coal mine for ten years, singing in amateur shows from the age of twelve. In 1894 he turned professional and began touring Scotland in concert parties, doing English and Irish speciality numbers. Thus it was a seasoned veteran who took to the English stage, and one who knew that a broad Scots accent would be more easily understood by a wider audience than lyrics filled with local idioms. His image may have been a walking cliché, but its appeal was universal. "We are easily the most 'clannish' race in the world", Harry wrote in his autobiography Roamin' In The Gloamin'. "We love each other even if we don't trust each other. Wherever we scatter ourselves over the Seven Seas we seem to smell each other out and gravitate as sure as Newton's law operates." For the record, Harry was a MacLennan.
Lauder's success in London came just as the phonograph was finding its way into the home, and he made his first of almost six hundred recordings in February 1902 for the Gramophone Company. Edison and Pathé also issued Lauder records between 1904 and 1912, but most of his recording activity was for the combined forces of Victor and His Master's Voice, with his last issued recordings dating from 1933. Radio would not figure in Harry's career till fairly late, and then it would be a prestige occasion for which he was paid, for one broadcast in 1929, $15,000… for three songs. Because it was on a Sunday evening and he was in breach of his usual no-work-on-Sunday rule, he threw in an encore: a hymn, gratis.
Stories abound of Lauder's generosity and his thriftiness. According to Variety editor Abel Green, he was well paid for his work, and wanted his salary in two or three $1000 bills, one $500 bill, and the rest in small currency… "for ma piggy bank". But after his son John was killed in action in 1916, Harry donated to the war charities, organized entertainment and recruitment troupes and paid for uniforms and costumes himself, for which he was knighted in 1919. His agreement with the William Morris Agency was a "grasp o' the thumb contract" (in other words, a handshake) and he once returned $3000 to Bill Morris for performances he missed, stating "I want to be paid for the work I do but I don't want money for something I didn't do."
Harry Lauder is said to have been the first to do a one-man show, as well as to have pioneered the "farewell tour". Following his phenomenal success in the States in 1907, he returned the following year, along with a fifteen-piece orchestra, Scots pipers and supporting performers, travelling in three train coaches, a baggage car, a sleeping car and a parlour car, the "Harry Lauder Special". This was his first "farewell tour", and there would be dozens more over the next quarter century. Lauder appeared in a few films, including Huntingtower (1927), Auld Lang Syne (1929) and the musical The End Of The Road (1936). He was also an author – in addition to several novels, he turned out reminiscences and autobiographical notes in Roamin' in the Gloamin', Harry Lauder: At Home And On Tour, A Minstrel In France and Wee Drappies.
Of the songs in this collection, Stop Your Tickling, Jock was in his repertoire and on records as early as 1903. Harry wrote most of his own material, with the occasional help of other songwriters including his son John. In 1905, Lauder met the one writer who would be the most important of his collaborators, Gerald Grafton. The rising comedian was wrestling with a phrase when he met the established songwriter, and after a few weeks they came up with Lauder's first big hit, I Love a Lassie. Together they also produced many other favourites including Breakfast in Bed on Sunday Morning and A Wee Deoch an' Doris, the popular tribute to a farewell drink at the door. Roamin' in the Gloamin' was another favourite, first recorded in 1911. The Wee Hoose 'Mang the Heather heralded the gradual shift to sentimental songs in 1912, and was a great favourite of the troops during Lauder's wartime entertainments. And during the darkest days of World War II, Sir Winston Churchill is said to have listened over and over to Harry's record of (Keep Right On To) The End Of The Road.
At the time of Sir Harry Lauder's death, 26 February 1950, only a couple of his records remained in the HMV catalogue, although many were still available on Victor in Canada and the States. The best of them soon began to reappear in the new long-play and 45 rpm formats, and would remain popular for another half century. Here are sixteen prime examples, recorded between 1926 and 1930. As Harry himself put it: "Aye, I'm tellin' ye, happiness is one of the few things in this world that doubles every time you share it with someone else."
David Lennick, 2004
Roamin' In The Gloamin' (Harry Lauder)
Breakfast In Bed On Sunday Morning (Gerald Grafton – Harry Lauder)
Stop Your Tickling, Jock (Frank Folloy – Harry Lauder)
I Love A Lassie (My Scotch Blue Bell) (Gerald Grafton – Harry Lauder)
It's Nice To Get Up In The Morning (But It's Nicer To Lie In Bed) (Harry Lauder)
Soosie McLean (Harry Lauder)
I Love To Be A Sailor (Harry Lauder)
There Is Somebody Waiting For Me (A Chanty Dedicated to "Every Sailor That Sails The Sea") (Harry Lauder)
She's The Lass For Me (Harry Lauder)
The Wee Hoose 'Mang the Heather (Gilbert Wells – Fred Elton – Harry Lauder)
When I Met MacKay (John & Harry Lauder)
Doughie The Baker (It's Nicer When You Make It Up Again) (Harry Lauder)
Just Got Off the Chain (Harry Lauder)
That's The Reason Noo I Wear A Kilt (Harry Lauder)
The End Of The Road (William Dillon – Hary Lauder)
A Wee Deoch An' Doris (Gerald Grafton – Harry Lauder)
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