Songs of Uncertain Authorship

 

 

Did Fred Godfrey also have a hand in writing these great hits?

My Girl's A Yorkshire Girl
She's A Lassie From Lancashire
Ship Ahoy!
When Father papered The Parlour
My Girl’s A
Yorkshire Girl
(Ee, By Gum,
She’s A Champion)
She’s A
Lassie From
Lancashire
Ship Ahoy!
(All The Nice Girls
Love A Sailor)
When Father
Papered
The Parlour


Listen to a 1909 recording by Harry Fay, as “Herbert Forman”


Listen to Florrie Forde’s 1932 reprise of her great 1907 hit


Listen to Ella Retford
sing Ship Ahoy! in a
1930 medley of hits

Listen to a 1911
recording by
Billy Williams
for Beka Grand (from a
1913 reissue on Albion)

(Norris Collection) Fred Godfrey laid claim to several well-known songs of the Music Hall era for which he is never credited. Reproduced here is a postcard Godfrey gave to his grandson Peter sometime in the 1940s on which he printed in his own hand the names of some of his big hits as he remembered them, including the four great hits featured above. Every published obituary of Godfrey lists Ship Ahoy! (All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor) among his successes, but somehow the published credit goes to his frequent collaborators A.J. Mills and Bennett Scott — indeed, some recording credits mention Scott alone. Surely, with so many hits already under his belt, Godfrey had no need to pad his resumé. All the writers spent hours crowding around a piano working out songs, and nobody knew beforehand which, if any, would be hits. Afterward, who knew who did what? And at the rate the writers were cranking them out (several per week), if someone’s name went missing from the published version, the feeling no doubt was “Oh, well, there’s plenty more where that came from.” The true story likely will never be known.

Fred Godfrey is also sometimes credited for a few songs with which he may not actually be connected. Confusion also occasionally arises due to the existence of an earlier Adolphus Frederick Godfrey (1837–82), a composer and arranger of more serious musical works, usually brass band pieces, whose name is often shortened to “Fred. Godfrey.” In the 1980s I obtained, with much satisfaction, a gloriously coloured and expensively printed sheet music cover of an uncharacteristically serious work of the early 1900s bearing Fred Godfrey’s name, but it wasn’t my Fred Godfrey. To give him his credit, though, bands are still playing the other Fred Godfrey’s compositions and arrangements to this day, a legacy nearly a century and a half old — so, good on yer, Fred!

Here, then, are the “problematic” songs.

 

As The Years Roll On
Fred Godfrey as “Godfrey Williams” — London: Leonard & Co., 1901 [this may be an error, as no other Godfrey songs are known from this early date].

I Kissed Your Two Lips Among The Tulips
(1926). Authorship uncertain: British Library lists the composer only as “G. Williams”; it is either Lawrence Wright as “Gene Williams” or Fred Godfrey as “Godfrey Williams.”

I Must Go Home Tonight
(Melbourne: Stanley Mullen, 1909). Frank Andrews and Ernie Bayly, in their Billy Williams’ Records: A Study in Discography, credit William Hargreaves. Billy Williams’s widow Amy Jennings credits Williams and Godfrey in an interview with Peter Burgis of the National Film & Sound Archive, Canberra, but her recollections are considered to be of questionable accuracy.

Kitty, The Telephone Girl
(1915). Most sources credit Alf. J. Lawrance, Harry Gifford, Huntley Trevor & Tom Mellor, but some sources credit Fred Godfrey instead of Lawrance.

My Girl’s A Yorkshire Girl (Ee, By Gum, She’s A Champion)
(London: Francis, Day & Hunter; Melbourne: Stanley Mullen, 1908). The British Library and published sheet music credit C.W. Murphy & Dan Lipton, but Fred Godfrey claimed to have written it.

My Son John’s Just Like His Father
D.F. Godfrey, 1923. Title from a search of records at the British Library; a different Godfrey?

Postcards
(1908). Frank Andrews and Ernie Bayly, in their Billy Williams’ Records: A Study in Discography, credit William Hargreaves & Billy Williams. Cinch record label credits Fred Godfrey & Williams; the great majority of Billy Williams’s songs reissued on Cinch were indeed by Williams and Godfrey, so the label may have made a mistake; the song is not mentioned in any of the numerous letters in which Godfrey assigns his rights to Williams.

She’s A Lassie From Lancashire
(London: Bert Feldman; Melbourne: Stanley Mullen, 1907). Published sheet music credits C.W. Murphy, Dan Lipton & John Neat; claimed by Fred Godfrey. A great hit for Florrie Forde, for whom Godfrey wrote many songs. Godfrey was writing a lot of songs with John Neat in 1907; did this one fall somehow through the cracks?

Ship Ahoy! (All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor)
(London: Bert Feldman; Melbourne: Stanley Mullen; New York: Nove Music, 1908). Published sheet music credits A.J. Mills & Bennett Scott; the British Library credits Scott alone. Claimed by Fred Godfrey. Both Ella Retford, for whom Godfrey wrote some of her biggest hits, and the great male impersonator Hetty King made this song a huge success. Richard Anthony Baker, in his British Music Hall: An Illustrated History (London: Pen and Sword, 2014 e-book), notes that Mills and Scott “persuaded Hetty King to listen to a song they had written with Fred Godfrey, Ship Ahoy,” but does not provide a source. When queried by this author in an email, Baker referred to Michael Kilgarriff’s Sing Us One of the Old Songs: A Guide to Popular Song, 1860–1920 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), and said that, according to that source, Godfrey did not write the song. Kilgarriff, of course, despite his doubtless encyclopedic knowledge of the songs of that era, could only go by the names on the printed sheet music, so that did not help to resolve the matter. In response to a subsequent email from this author asking him to explain how he nonetheless came to associate Godfrey with Ship Ahoy!, Baker merely stated that he had been wrong to do so, but refused to say where he got the idea from in the first place.

When Father Papered The Parlour
(London: Bert Feldman; London: Francis, Day & Hunter, 1910). Published sheet music credits R.P. Weston & Fred J. Barnes; some sources credit Billy Williams & Weston. Music Hall historian Peter Gammond, in his Music Hall Songbook (p. 68), credits “Weston, ______another staff writer & Barnes.” Claimed by Fred Godfrey (the other “staff writer”?). It might seem a bit odd, considering the large number of songs that Fred Godfrey wrote for Billy Williams (indeed, all of Billy’s songs in the last three or four years of his life), that Billy’s greatest success by far was not one of them. Perhaps, given the many songs involved, Godfrey was confused about what he had contributed. Written corrections to a typed version of the lyrics in the author’s collection are not in Godfrey’s hand.

You Gave Me Love
(London: Bert Feldman, 1916; Bamforth songcards list publisher as Star Music; see below). The Performing Right Society credits Fred Godfrey alone as the composer of this song, while the British Library credits Bennett Scott. The sheet music of Some Night Waltz, an arrangement of Some Night, Some Waltz, Some Girl and You Gave Me Love credits A.J. Mills & Bennett Scott.