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Everything Stops for Tea is a song written by Maurice Sigler with lyrics by Al Goodheart and American Al Hoffman, for the 1935 musical Come Out Of The Pantry. It is about tea being England’s favourite drink, however both the composer and the musical were American. Jack Buchanan performed the song for the musical and recorded another version which you can watch here.

Despite tea rationing during the Second World War, the English were addicted to the drink throughout the following decades. The Ministry of Food used the song in its 1940 exhibition and workers expected 15 minute tea breaks twice a day in all British industries in the 1950s, much to the annoyance of managers aiming to boost productivity.

Everything stops for tea – Jack Buchanan

Every nation in creation has its favourite drink
France is famous for its wine, it’s beer in Germany
Turkey has its coffee and they serve it blacker than ink
Russians go for vodka and England loves its tea

Oh, the factories may be roaring
With a boom-a-lacka, zoom-a-lacka, wee
But there isn’t any roar when the clock strikes four
Everything stops for tea

Oh, a lawyer in the courtroom
In the middle of an alimony plea
Has to stop and help ’em pour when the clock strikes four
Everything stops for tea

It’s a very good English custom
Though the weather be cold or hot
When you need a little pick-up, you’ll find a little tea cup
Will always hit the spot

You remember Cleopatra
Had a date to meet Mark Anthony at three
When he came an hour late she said “You’ll have to wait”
For everything stops for tea

Oh, they may be playing football
And the crowd is yelling “Kill the referee!”
But no matter what the score, when the clock strikes four
Everything stops for tea

Oh, the golfer may be golfing
And is just about to make a hole-in-three
But it always gets them sore when the clock yells “four!”
Everything stops for tea

It’s a very good English custom
And a stimulant for the brain
When you feel a little weary, a cup’ll make you cheery
And it’s cheaper than champagne

Now I know just why Franz Schubert
Didn’t finish his unfinished symphony
He might have written more but the clock struck four
And everything stops for tea


This is a well-known wartime song Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, written by  Harold Arlen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. It was originally recorded by Mercer with The Pied Pipers and Paul Weston’s orchestra, on 4th October 1944. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on January 4, 1945 and lasted 13 weeks on the chart, peaking at number 2.

It was then recorded by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, Kay Kyser and then  Artie Shaw, all within weeks of the original recorded. Another version was recorded by Johnny Green in the United Kingdom on April 6, 1945, and released by Parlophone Records. Despite the British version released during the war, the Bing Crosby version is the one most are familiar with now and it is known as a quintessentially American upbeat wartime song.

When I started reading about the song, I came across this video. It shows Bing Crosby and Sonny Tufts performing the song in 1944 as part of the show Here Comes the Waves, performed at U. S. S. Traverse Bay Aircraft Carrier in a Pacific port. Crosby and Tufts are performing in blackface, which is shocking, but it’s a fascinating little window into Wartime American culture – the kind of footage that you rarely see these days.

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