“Round about Sundown” (a.k.a. “‘Long about Sundown”). Words by Billy Moll, music by Joseph Meyer (1932). Recorded in London on January 20, 1933 by Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans with vocalist Maurice Elwin. Columbia CB-565 mx. CA-13370-2.
Personnel: Carroll Gibbons-p dir. Bill Shakespeare-Billy Higgs-t / Arthur Fenoulhet-t-tb / Paul Fenoulhet-Sam Acres-tb / George Melachrino-cl-as-vn / Laurie Payne-cl-as-bar / George Smith-ts / Ben Frankel-vn / Sid Bright-2nd p / Harry Sherman-g / Jack Evetts-sb / Rudy Starita-d-vib-x / Maurice Elwin-v
At first inspection, Carroll Gibbons’s recording of “Round about Sundown” with Maurice Elwin as vocalist would appear to be the only version of that song committed to shellac. In fact, the song was otherwise known as “‘Long about Sundown” and was recorded under that title in the United States. My suspicion is that someone at Columbia Records in London may have thought that “‘long about” (meaning “approximately at”) was an unintelligible North American expression and opted for the more transatlantic “round about” instead.
The theme of “‘Long about Sundown” is fairly conventional: the singer longs to return at day’s end to spend time with the one he loves. Both the title and the subject matter recall Walter Donaldson’s “At Sundown (When Love Is Calling Me Home)” (1927); there are also similarities with Donaldson’s “My Blue Heaven” (also 1927), which he wrote with lyricist George Whiting. 1 Moll and Meyer’s work does not seem unusually derivative to me, however. There may be a limited number of surefire themes in popular song, but that does not say anything about the manifold melodies and arrangements that songwriters may attach to them. For example, Robinson and Dubin’s “Halfway to Heaven” (1928) was another similarly themed song that was recorded no fewer than three times by Elwin, and it built on the same basic concept.
The Savoy Hotel Orpheans’ arrangement of “Round about Sundown” (as they called it) comes in punchy and upbeat. Their overall sound suggests an urbane sophistication that is typical of their recordings from this period but which might almost be said to clash with the simple, largely natural imagery of the lyrics. Maurice Elwin, on the other hand, is subdued, subtle, and confidential, not to mention vocally mellifluous. His precision and control as an artist who had mastered microphone technique are particularly on display — his every breath seems premeditated. It is not unusual for a vocal refrain to be considerably quieter than the rest of a dance band recording, but in “Round about Sundown” there would appear to be a conscious experiment in contrasts that allows allows us to experience both playful fun and tender sincerity in the same short time span.
“‘Long about Sundown” was recorded in 1932 by Hal Kemp and His Orchestra (v. ?Skinnay Ennis), Don Bestor and His Orchestra (v. Maurice Cross), Tom Berwick and His Ritz-Carlton Orchestra (as “Harold Mooney and His Orchestra; v. James Harkins), and Macy and Smalle (instrumental, with Eddie Lange, Joe Venuti, and Charles Magnante). There is also a surviving radio transcription of Phil Harris and His Orchestra performing “‘Long about Sundown” (v. Leah Ray).