b. Nathaniel Davis, 30 September 1887, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, d. 19 September 1952, Bath, England. A composer, pianist, and performer, before moving to England where his career really took off, Ayer wrote one enduring standard, ‘Oh, You Beautiful Doll’ (1911), with A. Seymour Brown (b. 1885, d. 1952), and collaborated with Brown on several other numbers such as ‘Moving Day In Jungle Town’ (1909) (apparently a reference to Theodore Roosevelt’s hunting trip to Africa) and ‘If You Talk In Your Sleep, Don’t Mention My Name’ (1911). He also contributed to Broadway musical comedies and revues such as Miss Innocence (1908), The Newlyweds And Their Baby (1909), The Echo (1910), A Winsome Widow and The Wall Street Girl (1912). Ayer’s first trip to England was as a member of the Ragtime Octet, at a time when American jazzy and ragtime music - particularly that of Irving Berlin - was beginning to sweep Europe. In 1916 Ayer teamed with lyricist Clifford Grey to write the score for one of the West End’s biggest World War I hits, the revue The Bing Boys Are Here, which starred George Robey and Violet Loraine, and contained the immortal ‘If You Were The Only Girl In The World’, along with ‘Another Little Drink Wouldn’t Do Us Any Harm’ and ‘The Kipling Walk’, among others. Ayer and Grey followed that with the music and lyrics for The Bing Boys Are There (1917, ‘Let The Great Big World Keep Turning’) and The Bing Boys On Broadway (1918), with its tender ballad, ‘First Love, Last Love, Best Love’, which was introduced by Robey and Clara Evelyn. As well as composing the music - and sometimes the lyrics - Ayer often appeared on stage himself, notably with Alice Delysia in the revue Pell-Mell (1916, Clifford Grey, Hugh E. Wright) and with Binnie Hale and Gertie Millar in the musical comedy Houp-La! (1916, Howard Talbot, Hugh E. Wright, Percy Greenbank). Among the many other London shows to which he contributed were Hullo, Ragtime (1912, ‘You’re My Baby’ with A. Seymour Brown), 5064 Gerard (1915, ‘At The Foxtrot Ball’ Dave Comer, Irving Berlin, Henry Marshall, Stanley Murphy, et al.), Yes, Uncle! (1917, Grey), Baby Bunting (1919, Grey), Snap (1922, Kenneth Duffield, Herman Hupfeld), ‘Shufflin’ Along’ (with Ralph Stanley), The Smith Family (1922) and Stop-Go! (1935, Edgar Blatt).
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