Billy Williams (1878–1915)
  “The Man In The Velvet Suit”

 

 

Williams and Godfrey (Norris Collection)

Billy Williams was, with Florrie Forde and Albert Whelan, one of the great Australian stars of the British Music Hall. Like Forde, who encouraged him, he was a prolific and enormously popular early recording pioneer. In the years just before the start of World War One, Williams formed a special partnership with Fred Godfrey that ended only with Billy’s untimely death at the age of 37. The great majority of the nearly 150 songs that Williams recorded were credited to Williams and Godfrey, and during the last three or four years of his life, he recorded virtually nothing but Godfrey compositions.

It is impossible to say what contribution Williams actually made to the songs for which he is credited as co-author. The author’s collection contains many letters in which Godfrey assigns to Williams, for a small fee — usually a pound or a guinea (21 shillings) each — his rights to songs he has written, sometimes in batches of a dozen or more at a time. Perhaps they shared the writing duties equally, but it seems likely that Williams’s heavy performing and recording schedule left little time to do more than tinker with the lyrics here and there. At the same time, it is certainly true that, as their business card attests, Williams and Godfrey advertised themselves as a songwriting team — perhaps one should let it go at that.

The known Williams and Godfrey compositions, by date, are as follows (an asterisk indicates that Billy Williams never recorded the song):

1906:
It’s The Only Bit Of English That We’ve Got (with Harry Castling)

1908:
Oh! The Girls Of Gottenberg (with Harry Castling)

1909:
The Colliers (with Harry Castling)
Come Into The Garden, John (with Fred E. D’Albert)
In The Land Where The Women Wear The Trousers (with Fred E. D’Albert)
My Girl From London Town (She’s Never Seen The Swanee River)
They Never Do That Where I Come From*

1910:
I’ll Lend You My Best Girl
Sally O’Malley
She’s Coming Home Tonight

1911:
All The Houses Were Going Round And Round
All The Silver From The Silvery Moon
Come And Have A Look At What I’ve Got!
Don’t Go Out With Him Tonight (with Alfred Glover; Harry Carlton should also be credited)
Don’t Let Me Get Any Better, Nurse
Don’t Sing A Song About A Rose To Me
Here We Are Again
I Didn’t Know What To Do*
I Do Wish I Were A Ladies Man
I Don’t Care
I Keep On Toddling Along (possibly with Paul Pelham and Herbert S. Rule)
I Never Heard Father Laugh So Much Before
I Wish It Was Sunday Night (with Huntley Trevor)
It’s A Far Better Thing I Do Than I Have Ever Done
John James Brannigan
Let’s All Go Mad
Let’s Go Where All The Crowd Goes (with Harry Carlton)
Let’s Have A Song On The Gramophone (with Harry Carlton)
My Father Was Born In Killarney (Don’t Run Down The Irish)
My Lass Frae Glasgae Toon
My Sweet Rosetta (with Harry Carlton)
My Young Man Is Not A Chocolate Soldier
Oh! Mister Macpherson
One Girl’s As Good As Any Other Girl (If That Little Girl Is Yours)
Sing Me An Irish Song (with Harry Carlton)
Take Me Back To U.S.A.
Take Me Where There Are No Eyes About
Tell Them You’re A Londoner
There’s Something Nice About A Girl
Wake Up, John Bull! (with Harry Carlton)
What Is A Fellow To Do!*
Why Can’t We Have The Sea In London?
Why Don’t Santa Claus Bring Something To Me?
You’re The One (with Fred J. Barnes)

Hello Little Miss Llewellyn1912:
Are We All Here?
Call Me Early In The Morning
Give My Love To Scotland, Maggie
Hello! Little Miss Llewellyn* (with Charles Wilmott)
I Don’t Know What To Do
I Met Alice*
I Wish I Were Back In Lancashire
If Mother Had Never Met Father*
I’ll Be Waiting At The Church For Mary Brown
In The House Next Door To Me*
It’s A Grand Old Song Is Home Sweet Home
It’s A Waste Of Time*
It’s Mine When You’ve Done With It
It’s Nothing To Do With You*
The Kangaroo Hop
Nobody Knows How To Kiss Me
Oh, Daniel Douglas (Won’t Ye Come Back To Douglas?)
*
Oh, For Another Day At Margate!
Oh! Molly McIntyre (I’ll Be A Scotchman For You)
Oh! The Sailors Of The King
On Her Pic-Pic-Piccolo
The Only Dream I Ever Dream (Is A Dream Of You)*
The Penny Wedding*
Sandy Macadoo
She Does Like A Little Bit O’ Scotch
She Is My Best Girl Now
Sheila O&rsquoNeil
Since Father’s Been A Gardener*
Squeeze Her, Ebenezer
Stick To The Major*
There’s A Little Bit Here, There's A Little Bit There*
There’s A Little Fairy Looking After You*
There’s A Sound Of Music In The Air*
Wait Till I’m As Old As Father
The Wedding Of Jeanie McKie (Come Along, You Heilan’ Lads)* (with Tom Mellor or Harry Gifford — sources differ)
We’ll Have A Night Out Together Tonight* (with Harry Castling)
What’s The Matter With The Daylight?*
When I’m Asleep* (with Fred E. Terry and Charles Collins)
Where Are The Girls We Used To Know?
Where Does Daddy Go When He Goes Out?
You’re Sure To Find A ——— [Sailor, Policeman, etc.] There*

1913:
All Girls Are Beautiful*
All The Ladies Fell In Love With Sandy
Blame It Onto Poor Old Father
Giving A Donkey A Strawberry
Good-bye, Rag-time!
How Do, Miss Winter-Time?
* (a hit for Ella Retford)
I Can’t Keep Still Tonight
I Come Frae Scotland
I Don’t Know How You Do It
I Don’t Know Where You Live (EMI also credits Charles Collins and Joe
     Burley)
I’m Out For The Day Today
It’s Not The Band That They Go To See (It’s Her Big Brown Eyes)*
Jean Loves All The Jockeys
Let’s Have Another One Together
Mr. John Mackenzie, O
Oh, That Ragtime Waltz! (Waltzing Ragtime With You)
The Ragtime Wedding
Some Day, Some Place, Somewhere*
There Must Be Something Nice About The Isle Of Man
We All Live At No. 24
What Time Tomorrow Night?
Who’s Your Friend?
The Worst Of It Is, I Like It

1914:
Do A Tango Dance With Me*
I’ll Have To Ask My Mother If She’ll Let Me
There’s Life In The Old Dog Yet
Our Little Kiddie Sings The Best Song Of All
They Can All Do As They Like With Me
When Mother Backed The Winner Of The Derby

Date uncertain:
Broncho Bill* (unpublished MS in author’s collection)
How D’You Do, My Little Sunshine Girl* (1912?, unpublished MS in author’s collection)
Hullo! Christmas Time* (1912?, unpublished MS in author’s collection)
Hurrah For Baden Powell (with Fred J. Barnes, 1912?, unpublished MS in author’s collection)
I Want To Marry A Hero* (1912?, unpublished MS in author’s collection)
I Wonder* (1912?, unpublished MS in author’s collection)
I’ve Just Been To A Wedding Today* (1912?, unpublished MS in author’s collection)
The Policeman’s Party (1912?, unpublished MS in author’s collection)
The Rose Of Rosetown (1912?, unpublished MS in author’s collection)
She Is The Leader Of The Band (1912?, title from Williams and Godfrey stationery in author’s collection)
Wedding Day* (credits to Williams, Godfrey, Charles Wilmott, Tom Mellor, Vesta Tilley, and John S. Baker, [EMI])
When Your Fairy Prince Comes Along* (1912?)

 

In addition, several of Williams’s songs are of uncertain authorship:

Postcards (1908): Andrews and Bayly1 credit Williams and William Hargreaves; some record labels credit Williams and Godfrey.

I Must Go Home Tonight (1909): Andrews and Bayly credit William Hargreaves; in an interview, Billy Williams’s widow credited Williams and Godfrey.

Since Poor Father Joined The Territorials (1909); EMI credits Will Hyde & Godfrey; other sources credit Hyde alone, or Hyde, ? Heath & Williams.

When Father Papered The Parlour (1910); most sources, including the published sheet music, credit R.P. Weston & Fred J. Barnes, others credit Billy Williams & Weston; Gammond credits “Weston, ______ another staff writer & Barnes”;2 claimed by Fred Godfrey (the other “staff writer”?).3

Why Do You Think I Look So Gay? (1910): Andrews and Bayly credit Williams and R.P. Weston; some record labels credit Williams and Godfrey.

__________________

Notes

1   Frank Andrews and Ernie Bayly, Billy Williams’ Records: A Study in Discography (Bournemouth: Talking Machine Review, 1982).
2  Peter Gammond, Music Hall Songbook: A Collection of 45 of the Best Songs from 1890–1920 (London: David and Charles; EMI Music,
    1975), p. 68.
3  The author’s collection contains a typed version of the lyrics with written corrections, but they are not in Godfrey’s hand.