Nellie the Elephant

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"Nellie the Elephant"
Single by Mandy Miller
B-side "It's Time To Dream"
Released October 1956
Format 7"
Recorded London, 1956
Genre Children's novelty song
Length 2:32
Label Parlophone R4219
Songwriter(s) Ralph Butler, Peter Hart
Producer(s) George Martin

"Nellie the Elephant" is a children's song written in 1956 by Ralph Butler and Peter Hart about a fictional anthropomorphic elephant of that name.[1]

Original version[edit]

The original version, released on Parlophone R 4219 in October 1956,[2] was recorded by English child actress Mandy Miller with an orchestra conducted by Phil Cardew.[3] It was arranged by Ron Goodwin and produced by George Martin. Although never a hit single, it was played countless times on BBC national radio in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly on Children's Favourites.

The chorus of the song is as follows:

Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk
And said goodbye to the circus
Off she went with a trumpety-trump
Trump, trump, trump

Children's author Jacqueline Wilson chose the song as one of her Desert Island Discs in October 2005.

Later versions[edit]

  • The punk rock band Toy Dolls did a cover of this song in 1982, which was later released on the 1983 album Dig That Groove Baby. Issued as a single, it reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart in 1984.[4]
  • In turn, the Toy Dolls' version was the basis of a cover by WC Experience when they recorded the Dutch (Brabantian dialect) version "Fritske d'n Olifant".[5]
  • 1987 saw Black Lace releasing their version of the song[citation needed] which later appeared on their 2011 album The Essential Collection.[6]
  • Lulu's version from the cartoon series of the same name was released as a single in 1990.[7]
  • Bernard Wrigley recorded a version which appeared on his 1976 album Songs, Stories and Elephants and later on the various artists collection This Label Is Not Removable: A Celebration of 25 Years of Free Reed, released in 2002.


The rhythm and tempo of this song is often used to teach people the rhythm of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The recommended rate for CPR is 100 chest compressions per minute. A study at Coventry University compared the effectiveness of this song in maintaining this rhythm with an alternative of "That's the Way (I Like It)" and no song at all. The version used for the study was from a Little Acorns brand children's record, and was found to have a tempo of 105 beats per minute. Singing the chorus of the song twice, with a compression on each beat, results in exactly 30 compressions, which is the international standard for CPR.[8]

The use of "Nellie" resulted in correct timing for 42 out of 130 cases, as compared with 15 for no music and just 12 for "That's the Way (I Like It)". However the depth of compression was found to be inadequate in most of those cases, and the use of "Nellie" was found to increase this inadequacy slightly, as compared with the use of no music (56% too shallow with "Nellie" and 47% without).[8]

More recently the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" has been promoted as an alternative.[9][10]


  1. ^ [1] Archived 9 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Popmusicinfo". Popmusicinfo. Retrieved 2014-01-28.
  3. ^ "jabw_vintage/78rpmdiscuss 2005". 2005-06-29. Retrieved 2014-01-28.
  4. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 793. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
  5. ^ "DISCOGRAFIE WC EXPERIENCE" [WC Experience Discography] (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2007-12-03. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  6. ^ "Nellie the Elephant ; Black Lace". AllMusic. All Media Network. LLC. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Lulu - Nellie The Elephant". Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 September 2014. (Label/Number: Mercury 875 346-7)
  8. ^ a b Rawlins, L.; Woollard, M.; Williams, J.; Hallam, P. (2009). "Effect of listening to Nellie the Elephant during CPR training on performance of chest compressions by lay people: Randomised crossover trial". BMJ. 339: b4707. doi:10.1136/bmj.b4707. PMC 2792674. PMID 20008376.
  9. ^ Woollard, M.; Poposki, J.; McWhinnie, B.; Rawlins, L.; Munro, G.; O'Meara, P. (2011). "Achy breaky makey wakey heart? A randomised crossover trial of musical prompts". Emergency Medicine Journal. 29 (4): 290–294. doi:10.1136/emermed-2011-200187. PMID 22048987.
  10. ^ "Does music have a role in CPR?". 3 November 2011.

External links[edit]