b. Percival Davis, 5 January 1887, Birmingham, West Midlands, England, d. 25 September 1941, Ipswich, Suffolk, England. A prolific lyricist and librettist for the London and New York stage, Grey started out as a performer before collaborating with composer Nat D. Ayer on the score for The Bing Boys Are Here. This immensely popular revue opened at the Alhambra Theatre in London in April 1916, and contained two of Grey’s most enduring numbers, ‘If You Were The Only Girl In The World’ and ‘Another Little Drink Wouldn’t Do Us Any Harm’. During the next few years, Grey contributed words to several other revues, such as Pell-Mell (Ayer), The Bing Girls Are There (Ayer, ‘Let The Great Big World Keep Turning’), The Other Bing Boys (Ayer), Hullo, America! (Herman Finck), The Bing Brothers On Broadway (Ayer, ‘First Love, Last Love, Best Love’), and Johnny Jones (Charles Cuvillièr), as well as a few musical plays: Theodore & Co. (Ivor Novello - Jerome Kern), Arlette (Jane Vieu-Guy Lefeuvre-Novello), Yes, Uncle! (Ayer), Who’s Hooper? (Howard Talbot -Novello), Kissing Time (Ivan Caryll -Willie Redstone), and A Night Out (Redstone).
In 1920, Grey went to America and renewed his association with Kern for Florenz Ziegfeld’s Sally. This lavish production, which starred Marilyn Miller, Leon Errol and Walter Catlett, ran for 570 performances. Among the appealing Kern/Grey numbers were ‘Sally’, ‘Wild Rose’, and ‘The Church ’Round The Corner’ (lyric also with P.G. Wodehouse). Grey remained in the USA for most of the 20s, although, during the early part of the decade, he was also represented in the West End by Phi-Phi (1922, Henri Christiné), The Smith Family (1922, Ayer), and The Rainbow (1923, George Gershwin). As for Broadway, he provided the lyrics - and some occasions the libretti - to a string of musical comedies and revues of variable quality. These included The Hotel Mouse (1922, Armand Vecsey-Caryll), Lady Butterfly (1923, Werner Janssen), Vogues Of 1924 (Herbert Stothart), Majorie (1924, Stothart- Sigmund Romberg -Stephen Jones), Artists And Models (1924, Romberg- J. Fred Coots), Annie Dear (1924, Romberg), Artists And Models (1925, Alfred Goodman-Coots-Maurice Rubens), June Days (1925, Coots), Gay Paree (1925, Goodman-Coots), Mayflowers (1925, Edward Kunneke), A Night In Paris (1926, Coots-Rubens), The Merry World (1926, Coots), The Co-Optimists (1928, Melville Gideon), The Madcap (1928, Rubens), Sunny Days (1928, Jean Schwartz), and Ups-A-Daisy (1928, Lewis E. Gensler). His most satisfying projects around this time were Hit The Deck (1927, Vincent Youmans - Leo Robin), which ran for 352 performances, and produced the rousing ‘Hallelujah!’; and The Three Musketeers (1928, Rudolph Friml -Wodehouse), a Ziegfeld production, with ‘Ma Belle’ and ‘March Of The Musketeers’ outstanding. Grey also wrote the English lyric to José Padilla’s spirited ‘Valencia’, which Hazel Dawn introduced in the 1926 Shubert revue Great Temptations. The song went on to become a big hit in the USA for Paul Whiteman, Ben Selvin And The Revelers, among others.
With the advent of talking pictures, Grey settled in Hollywood for a spell, collaborating with Victor Schertzinger on the score for the 1929 Maurice Chevalier / Jeanette MacDonald vehicle, The Love Parade (‘Dream Lover’, ‘Nobody’s Using It Now’, ‘Paris, Stay The Same’, ‘March Of The Grenadiers’, ‘My Love Parade’), and with Oscar Straus on another Chevalier vehicle, The Smiling Lieutenant (1931, ‘One More Hour Of Love’, ‘Jazz Up Your Lingerie’, ‘Toujours L’Amour In The Army’, ‘Live For Today’). He also contributed to two Ramon Novarro movies, Devil May Care (1929, Stothart, ‘Charming’) andIn Gay Madrid (1930, Stothart, ‘Dark Night’), as well as The Rogue Song (1929, Stothart- Franz Lehár, ‘When I’m Looking At You’, ‘White Dove’, ‘The Rogue Song’), which had operatic baritone Lawrence Tibbett as its main attraction. Another project with Stothart was The Floradora Girl (1930, UK title The Gay Nineties), which featured Marion Davies, and songs such as ‘Pass The Beer And Pretzels’, ‘Swingin’ Down The Lane’, and ‘My Kind Of Man’.
From then on, apart from having one or two numbers in the disappointing Broadway musical Smiles, including ‘I’m Glad I Waited’ (1930, Youmans- Harold Adamson), which was sung by Fred Astaire and Marilyn Miller, Grey spent the remainder of his career in England. He also served as librettist or co-librettist on the majority of shows he worked on there. The first of these was the immensely popular Mr. Cinders, for which Grey collaborated on the book and lyrics with Greatrex Newman. The music was composed by Vivian Ellis, and the show’s most memorable song, ‘Spread A Little Happiness’, which was sweetly sung by Binnie Hale, has been revived several times over the years by various artists, including the rock star Sting, who took it into the UK Top 20 in 1982. It has even received the ultimate accolade of being featured in a television commercial. Another appealing Grey song, ‘Got A Date With An Angel’, written with Jack Waller, Sonny Miller and Joseph Tunbridge, was introduced by Bobby Howes in the ‘play with tunes’, For The Love Of Mike (1931). Howes had quite a hit with it in the UK, and the number became popular in the USA for Skinnay Ennis with the Hal Kemp Orchestra.
Gray continued to work consistently during the 30s, on screenplays and songs for British films, and West End shows such as Out Of The Bottle (1932, Oscar Levant -Ellis), The One Girl (1933, a revised version of Smiles, with Youmans and Adamson), Command Performance (1933, Waller-Tunbridge), Mr. Whittington (1934, Waller-Tunbridge-Green, ‘Oceans Of Time’), Jack O’ Diamonds (1935, Noel Gay), Love Laughs! (1935, Gay), At The Silver Swan, (1936, Edmond Samuels), Oh, You Letty (1937, Paul Sheron), and Bobby Get Your Gun (1938, Waller-Tunbridge). Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Grey joined ENSA, and ran concert parties for the troops until his death, which was caused by the blast from a bomb.