to “Our Gracie” sing The Grandest Song
Of All before a
Drury Lane, London,
6 May 1940,
just days before the
Fred Godfrey, according to British Library, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and published
sheet music; Performing Right Society also credits Harry Parr-Davies
[possibly as arranger] — London: Chappell, 1940.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Gracie Fields introduced this song at a concert at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, on 30 April 1940; the other star on the bill was Maurice Chevalier. Here is how one newspaper reported the event:
Cheers greeted Gracie Fields last night during the Anglo-French performance at Drury Lane Theatre. On came Gracie...in a dress of red, white and blue, smiling and tossing back her blonde hair, and the boys of all ages showed her how much they appreciated her work of entertaining them.
During her half-an-hour on the stage she had the house in her spell, got colonels and Navy captains singing her choruses, and the battle-dressed pit whistling for more at the end of every song.
The concert was arranged by the N.A.A.F.I. as a “return” to that which took place a fortnight ago at the Paris Opera House and, as then, Maurice Chevalier appeared in the program with Gracie. His triumph was no less than hers.
Gracie sang a new song which went “The grandest song of all is Home Sweet Home”— a sentimental ditty in which she made everyone join.1
Brian Rust has a recording date of 6 May 1940 for the Regal Zonophone disc shown above;2 either Rust has the date wrong, or Gracie performed the song at another concert a week later, when it was recorded for posterity. Curiously, Chevalier biographer Edward Behr does not mention this London visit by the French star; instead, he claims that Chevalier’s return to London in 1947 was his first since 1939.3 Less than four weeks after the concert, Maurice was fleeing Paris ahead of the advancing Germans.
Wally Banks (Rex 9811, 1940)
Gracie Fields (Regal Zonophone MR-3288, 1940)
Sydney Lipton & His Grosvenor House Dance Orch.; Chips Chippendall,
vocal (Columbia FB-2433, 1940)
Joe Loss & His Band; Chick Henderson, vocal (HMV BD-5599, 1940)
Vera Lynn (Decca F-7459, 1940)
Jack Payne & His Band; Robert Ashley, vocal (Decca F-7509, 1940)
1 “Gracie makes the boys cheer,” Aberdeen Journal, 1 May 1940, p. 4.
2 Brian Rust, The Complete Entertainment Discography from the Mid-1890s to 1942, with Allen G. Debus (New Rochelle, NY:
Arlington House, 1973), p. 282.
3 Edward Behr, The Good Frenchman: The True Story of the Life and Times of Maurice Chevalier (New York: Villard Books, 1993), p. 334.