While The Sahara Sleeps


While The Sahara Sleeps
Regal 8749 Columbia 4151 Duophone UB2052 HMV B5158
Listen to a
1926 recording
by Fred Douglas.

Currys 254-A Edison Bell Winner 4556 Parlophone E5686


Words by Fred Godfrey, as “Eddie Stamper”, music by Lawrence Wright, as “Horatio Nicholls” — London: Lawrence Wright Music, 1926; Melbourne: E.W. Cole, 1926.

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Modestly billed by the publisher (who also happened to be the co-writer) as “The Greatest Oriental Fox-Trot Ever Written” (Lawrence Wright Music advertisment, The Era, 1 December 1926, p. 6), While The Sahara Sleeps was one of the many songs on both sides of the Atlantic that capitalized on the success of the 1921 US hit The Sheik Of Araby (Snyder-Smith-Wheeler) and the Rudolph Valentino craze, and was a much-played favourite of British dance bands in 1926.


Newspaper ads for some of the record labels on which
While The Sahara Sleeps was released.

By this time, electrically recorded discs, introduced the previous year, had become the industry standard, giving Godfrey songs on disc a fidelity they had lacked in earlier acoustic reproductions. Most recordings of this song were instrumentals, so one must give credit to Lawrie Wright for the snappy, jazzy melody, but Godfrey, if no Cole Porter or Ira Gershwin, was always handy with lyric writing. And his words were usually heard in pantomime productions, even being sung, bizarrely, by a chorus of “South American Indians” in Robinson Crusoe, at the Stratford Theatre, London, in December 1926. Also among the song’s performers was Perci Honri (at the Holborn Empire and the Grand, Clapham, February 1927), whose style was to encourage the audience to sing along with him, and whose grandson Peter’s book, Working the Halls: The Honris in One Hundred Years of British Music Hall (London: Futura, 1974) is a fascinating and colourful record of one talented family’s life in the halls.

While The Sahara Sleeps was the sort of song that lent itself to exotic presentation, including the use of a live camel by Jack Hylton’s Band at the Nottingham Empire in February 1927 — sans Jack, who had met with a motoring accident a few days before (Nottingham Evening Post, 12 February 1927, p. 4). But it managed to raise the ire of the prudes in at least one instance, as the following report attests:

Following the production of “While The Sahara Sleeps,” a song-scena, at Covent Garden, London, the Directors of the Royal Opera House Dances sent to the producers a protest against the dress worn by the principal dancer. They order the withdrawal of the scena unless the dress is “instantly modified.” A Sheik’s tent, in which an Arabian slave dancing girl, dressed in silver tinsel, is dancing before the Sheik, is the part objected to. “Bare legs on the ballroom floor do not, in our opinion, accord with the traditions of the Royal Opera House,” the letter of protest says. Mr. Laurence [sic] Wright, the producer of the scena, stated: —“Frankly, we are bewildered....The scena contains nothing that would not be considered perfectly proper at any vicarage tea party, and, besides, bare legs are worn at all the smartest fancy dress balls nowadays.” (“Bare leg dancing taboo,” Falkirk Herald, 6 November 1926, p. 10)

Boy, they hadn’t seen anything yet! In response, however, it was reported that, “[f[ollowing the sensational banning by the Covent Garden authorities of the slave girl’s costume in “While The Sahara Sleeps,” the song-scena, produced in the ballroom at the Royal Opera House, Mr. Lawrence Wright, the producer, has announced the immediate withdrawal of the whole scena” (“Costume banned,” Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 1 November 1926, p. 4). Still, good old Lawrie wasn't going to take it lying down altogether, as the following newspaper ad attests:




Harry Bidgood’s Orch.; John Thorne, vocal, as “The Sunny South Dance Orch.” (Aco G-16116, 1926; Beltona 1120, 1926); as “The Coliseum Dance Orch.” (Coliseum 1960, 1926); as “The Cabaret Dance Orch.” (Guardsman 1994, 1926); Ariel Grand 1053, 1927)

Teddy Brown & His Café de Paris Band (Imperial 1674, 1926)

The Cabaret Novelty Orch.; dir. by Bert Firman; Eddie Collis, vocal (Zonophone 2836, 1926)

Will Charles (Currys 254, 1926)

Fred Douglas (Regal G8749, 1926)

Barrington Hooper (Zonophone 2843, 1926)

Jack Howard & His Covent Garden Band (Duophone UB-2052, 1926)

Percival Mackey’s Band (Columbia 4151, 1926)

Ronnie Munro & His Dance Orchestra; vocal chorus by John Curtis (Parlophone E-5686, 1926)

Don Parker & His Band At The Piccadilly Hotel And The Kit-Kat Club, London (Vocalion X-9924, 1926)

The Raymond Dance Band; dir. by Stan Greening (Regal G-8764, 1926)

Regent Dance Orchestra (Edison Bell Winner 4556, 1926)

The Savoy Havana Band; dir. by Reginald Batten (HMV B-5158, 1926)

Victor Sterling & His Band; dir. by Charles “Nat” Star (Pathé Actuelle 11212, 1926); and as “The Grafton Orchestra” (Grafton 9237, 1926)

Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band (Polydor 20789)

Bellwood & Burr [Albert Campbell & Harry H. McClaskey as “Henry Burr”] (Scala 1804)

[unidentified vocal & band] (Mimosa P87, 1926)

[unidentified band] (Little Marvel 1062)

[unidentified band & vocal, except as “Song, Fox-Trot”] (The Crown 905, 1926?) [6" disc]


Stage Performances

Performed by Jane Ayr in pantomime Jack In The Box, Princes, Bradford (December 1926); by Ernest Ball in pantomime Humpty Dumpty, Grand Croydon (December 1926); by Chester Barclay in pantomime Mother Goose, Brixton Theatre, London (December 1926); by Fred Barnes, Holborn Empire (December 1926); by John Birmingham & His Band, King’s, Dundee (December 1926); by Norman Bolt in pantomime Dick Whittington, Alhambra, Devonport (January 1927); by Amy Clair in revue Tick Tock, various theatres (Janauary 1927); by Fred Clifford in pantomime Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal, Plymouth (December 1926); by Betty Frew in pantomime The Forty Thieves, Theatre Royal, Edinburgh (December 1926); by Norman Green in revue The Mustard Club, various theatres (December 1926); by Oliver Hardwick in revue Wait For It, Queen’s, Poplar, London (January 1927); by the London Radio Dance Band, directed by Sidney Firman, Olympia, London (November 1926); by Billy Mayerl’s Salon Syncopators, Harringay, London (Dece,ber 1926); by Selma Milla in pantomime Aladdin, Opera House, Middlesborough (December 1926); by Peter Sinclair in pantomime Jack And Jill, Pavilion, Glasgow (December 1926); by Stuart Watson, Prince’s, Bradford (January 1927); by Fred Yule in pantomime Sleeping Beauty, Lyceum, London (December 1926). Also interpolated in revue A Week’s Pleasure (1926); in pantomime Dick Whittington, Hippodrome, Hulme [Manchester] (December 1926); in pantomime Dick Whittington, Hippodrome, Leeds (December 1926); and in pantomime Dick Whittington, Hippodrome, Lewisham, London (December 1926).