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James W. Tate


    James W Tate was born in Wolverhampton, 30 July 1875. He died in London, 5 February 1922. He was a songwriter and conductor for revue and musical theatre of the early 20th century.

    The brother of Margaret Tate, who later became opera and operetta singer Maggie Teyte, Jimmy Tate was also the third husband of Lottie Collins, the famous singer of `Ta-ra-ra-boom-di-ay', and thus stepfather to her three daughters. The eldest, Jose Collins, was to have a career to more than rival her mother's.

    Tate began his career as a musician with ambitions in the operatic field but he soon turned himself rather towards popular songwriting and to intermittent work in the musical theatre. In 1898 he went on tour as conductor with Miss Collins in the musical comedy The White Blackbird, and he later went into management to stage the only subsequent musical in which his wife appeared, an adaptation of the Parisian hit play Coralie et Cie, briefly staged at the Islington Grand in 1902 as The Dressmaker. In 1903 he toured with the musical All at Sea, but his principal activity over the two following decades was as a popular songwriter. He had numbers interpolated in shows from Sergeant Brue (1904, `Instinct, `And So Did Eve') to High Jinks (1916), scored song hits with `If I Should Plant a Tiny Seed of Love' (1909, ly: Ballard MacDonald) and the enduring `I Was a Good Little Girl Till I Met You' (1914, w Clifford Harris), and found his theatrical metier with the arrival of the fashion for the variety revue just before the First World War.

    Tate put together the scores for the Palladium revue I Should Worry (1913) and the Victoria Palace's A Year in an Hour (1914), shared the musical credit for the more successful Samples (1916) with Herman Darewski and Irving Berlin and came out of this show with the evenings hit song, `Broken Doll. The Vaudeville Theatre revue Some produced another successful song, `Ev'ry Little While, but a revue built around his variety theatre act with his new wife, Clarice Mayne, This and That (1916) ('That' was Tate, off handedly referred to at his seat at the piano by his comedienne spouse), lasted only 48 performances.

    His biggest success came about almost by accident. During the pre-London run of The Maid of the Mountains at Manchester he happened to be on hand when Robert Evett decided that Harold Fraser Simsons score needed some strengthening. Thus, Tate was called in to provide, firstly, the waltz song `My Life is Love' for his ex-step-daughter Jose and the duet `A Paradise for Two' for Miss Collins and Thorpe Bates. After the notable success of these two pieces a third song, for Bates `A Bachelor Gay Am I' followed them into the shows score. These comic-operatic numbers, far distant in style from `Broken Doll' and `I Was a Good Little Girl, proved to be Tates biggest successes, and `A Bachelor Gay Am I' became one of the most popular baritone songs in the British concert repertoire.

    He subsequently wrote the score for the revusical wartime piece Lads of the Village and another revue-musical, The Beauty Spot, created for Regine Flory and produced by Parisian revue specialist P-L Flers at the Gaiety Theatre, without any of his material winning equivalent notice. He continued, however, to turn out popular songs ('Somewhere in France with You' w Arthur Anderson and Valentine, `Give Me a Cosy Little Corner' w Clifford Harris, etc) and provided the scores for his most successful revues, Peep Show and Round in 50 (w Herman Finck) at the London Hippodrome, in the postwar years, but the musical which it was persistently paragraphed that he would write for his famous sister never eventuated. He did not venture again into the field of the book musical where his memorable contribution to The Maid of the Mountains remains his only real reference.

    1904 The Belle of the Orient (w Paul Knox/Clifford Harris, George Arthurs, J B Peterman) 3 scenes Islington Empire 18 July

    1915 Very Mixed Bathing (Clifford Harris, Lawrence Wright/ P T Selbit) 3 scenes Palace Theatre, Bath 26 April

    1915 Kiss Me, Sergeant (Harris/Laurie Wylie, Alfred Parker) 1 act Leicester Palace 2 August

    1917 Lads of the Village (Harris, Valentine) 1 act Oxford Theatre 11 June

    1917 The Beauty Spot (Harris, Valentine/Arthur Anderson, P-L Flers) Gaiety Theatre 22 December

    1921 Swindells Stores (Valentine) 1 act Finsbury Park Empire


    Adapted from The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre by Kurt Gänzl.

    Page created 24 December 2003