HARRY LAUDER Roamin' In The Gloamin'
Original 1926-30 Recordings
\In 1900 a Scotch coal miner stood on the street oppositethe Tivoli Music Hall. He had taken a week off to visit London to seek avaudeville engagement ... It was a Tuesday morning and a comic at Gatti's MusicHall had laid an egg the previous night. (George) Foster sold the act sight unseen to Tom Tinsley, manager ofGatti's, and before the week was out the miner was booked for 300 consecutiveweeks over the Moss Empire and Syndicate music halls, playing three houses anight some weeks, at $900 a week." Thus did the show business bible Variety describe the London premiere ofHarry Lauder, 19 March 1900. Forthe next fifty years, Lauder would exemplify the Scotsman ... kilted,bandy-legged, thrifty, sentimental, an eye for a bonnie lass and a taste for awee drap.
He was born in Portobello, Scotland, 4August 1870, the sonof a potter. Young Harry worked ina flax mill and then in a coal mine for ten years, singing in amateur showsfrom the age of twelve. In 1894 heturned professional and began touring Scotland in concert parties, doingEnglish and Irish speciality numbers. Thus it was a seasoned veteran who took to the English stage, and onewho knew that a broad Scots accent would be more easily understood by a wideraudience than lyrics filled with local idioms. His image may have been a walking cliche, but its appeal wasuniversal. "We are easily the most'clannish' race in the world", Harry wrote in his autobiography Roamin' In TheGloamin'. "We love each other evenif we don't trust each other. Wherever we scatter ourselves over the Seven Seas we seem to smell eachother 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 wasfinding its way into the home, and he made his first of almost six hundredrecordings in February 1902 for the Gramophone Company. Edison and Pathe also issued Lauderrecords between 1904 and 1912, but most of his recording activity was for thecombined forces of Victor and His Master's Voice, with his last issuedrecordings dating from 1933. Radiowould not figure in Harry's career till fairly late, and then it would be aprestige occasion for which he was paid, for one broadcast in 1929, $15,000 ...for three songs. Because it was ona Sunday evening and he was in breach of his usual no-work-on-Sunday rule, hethrew in an encore: a hymn, gratis.
Stories abound of Lauder's generosity and histhriftiness. According to Varietyeditor Abel Green, he was well paid for his work, and wanted his salary in twoor three $1000 bills, one $500 bill, and the rest in small currency ... "for mapiggy bank". But after his sonJohn was killed in action in 1916, Harry donated to the war charities,organized entertainment and recruitment troupes and paid for uniforms andcostumes 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 toBill Morris for performances he missed, stating "I want to be paid for the workI 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-manshow, as well as to have pioneered the "farewell tour". Following his phenomenal success in theStates in 1907, he returned the following year, along with a fifteen-pieceorchestra, Scots pipers and supporting performers, travelling in three traincoaches, a baggage car, a sleeping car and a parlour car, the "Harry LauderSpecial". This was his first"farewell tour", and there would be dozens more over the next quartercentury. Lauder appeared in a fewfilms, including Huntingtower (1927), Auld Lang Syne (1929) and the musical TheEnd Of The Road (1936). He was also an author -- in addition to several novels,he turned out reminiscences and autobiographical notes in Roamin' in theGloamin', Harry Lauder: At Home And On Tour, A Minstrel In France and WeeDrappies.
Of the songs in this collection, Stop Yer Tickling, Jock wasin his repertoire and on records as early as 1903. Harry wrote most of his ownmaterial, with the occasional help of other songwriters including his sonJohn. In 1905 Lauder met the onewriter who would be the most important of his collaborators, GeraldGrafton. The rising comedian waswrestling with a phrase when he met the established songwriter, and after a fewweeks they came up with Lauder's first big hit, I Love a Lassie. Together they also produced many otherfavourites 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 anotherfavourite, first recorded in 1911. The Wee Hoose 'Mang the Heather heralded the gradual shift tosentimental songs in 1912, and was a great favourite of the troops duringLauder's wartime entertainments. And during the darkest days of World War II, Sir Winston Churchill issaid to have listened over and over to Harry's record of (Keep Right On To) TheEnd Of The Road.
At the time of Sir Harry Lauder's death, 26February 1950,only a couple of his records remained in the HMV catalogue, although many werestill available on Victor in Canada and the States. The best of them soon began to reappear in the new long-playand 45 RPM formats, and would remain popular for another half century. Here aresixteen prime examples, recordedbetween 1926 and 1930. As Harryhimself put it: "Aye, I'm tellin'ye, happiness is one of the few things in this world that doubles every timeyou share it with someone else."
- David Lennick, 2004