1916 - Words Nat D. Ayer, lyrics by Clifford Grey.
‘If you were the only Girl in the World’ was the most popular hit song from the revue “The Bing Boys Are Here”. It was sung by the Music Hall and musical theatre star, George Robey and Violet Loraine who inspired a character in a short story by Rudyard Kipling.
The first of several revues at the Alhambra Theatre in London, “The Bing Boys” opened in April 1916 and enjoyed a successful run throughout the remaining war years. Its story was typical of the time, an escapist yarn which centred on two very different brothers who venture to London from the provinces and experience quite an education.
The song became a signature tune for George Robey and, even now, the opening line alone evokes the era of World War One with an unforgettable melodic charm that taps into the undiluted power of nostalgia. “The Bing Boys are Here” was one of the three most important musical hits of the London stage during WW1 along with “The Maid of the Mountains” and “Chu Chin Chow”.
Sir George Robey was an English comedian, singer and actor in music theatre and is recognized as one of the greatest music hall performers of his time. His career lasted six decades and he was knighted shortly before his death in 1954. Violet Loraine was a chorus girl at the age of sixteen whose rise to fame came playing the part of Emma opposite George Robey’s Lucius Bing. She retired from the stage when she married in 1921.
The song has become a standard, recorded by many artists including Dean Martin and Perry Como.