S Thru U (1900 - 1929 Songs)
- School Days (1907)
Recalling the "good old golden rule days," this song written by Will D Cobb (lyric) and Gus Edwards (music) was a huge seller. It sold over three million copies of sheet music and Byron C Harlan's recording of the song was the biggest Tin Pan Alley had seen up till that time. Edwards introduced the song in vaudeville with his kiddy act and found everyone seemed to be humming it throughout his show. In addition to many kiddie discs, Dizzie Gillespie, Johnny Mercer and Teresa Brewer have mad distinctive versions of it.
- She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1917)
Though it was first published in 1917 this is a folk song that goes back many generations. The first solid evidence of its existence is in 1838 is a number published in England called All 'Round My Hat. But this several songs similar to it go back even a hundred years earlier. An American version of the English song called 'Round Her Neck She Wears A Yellow Ribbon was being sung by the mid 1800s. George A Norton took the various versions of these folk songs and came up with the version most people know and published it in 1917. Yellow ribbons were a staple of the war effort and symbolized the hope the boys would return quickly in the First World War.
- The Sheik Of Araby (1921)
Harry B Smith and Francis Wheeler (lyric) with Ted Snyder (music) wrote this song inspired by Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik (1921). The number tells a story of an exotic sheik that sneaks into the tent of a maiden at night, seduces her, then promises her that she'll "rule the land with me." The Club Royal Orchestra made the song famous in the 20s and it was periodically revived throughout the 30s. Ironically the number is well known for producing many spoofs of it over the years. The Andrews Sister recording was heard in the film The Story Of Us (1999).
- She's Funny That Way (1928)
Is a bittersweet late-at-night song. The song describes a swain that marvels at how his darling gave up the high life and wealthy family to work and worship him. Neil Moret wrote the intriguing music and composer Richard A Whiting wrote they lyrics. Gene Austin had first crack at the number and almost instantly made it a hit. The song was heard in the movie The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) which revived interest in the song. When Frank Sinatra sang it in his film Meet Danny Wilson (1952) the record shot up to the top of the charts again. The song is sometimes listed as I Got A Woman, Crazy For Me .
- Shine On Harvest Moon (1908)
Perhaps the most recognized of the many "moon" ballads this song is decidedly old-fashioned and a product of twentieth century innocence.Vaudevillian Nora Bayes and her husband a dancer, Jack Norworth, wrote the song about nocturnal romance and Bayes made a hit of it in the 1908 edition of Ziegfeld Follies. It became Nora Bayes's signature song, sheet music sales were over a million and it was a favourite around player pianos and barbershop quartets. In 1931 Ethel Waters had a hit with it. In 1943 Kate Smith had an even bigger hit with it. Vera Lynn, Judy Garland, Glen Miller, and Liza Minnelli have recorded excellent versions of it. It can be heard in at least a dozen Hollywood films including, of course, Shine On Harvest Moon (1944) where Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan starred in it portraying Bayes and Norwoth.
- Short'nin' Bread (1928)
There probably isn't an American alive who can't hum this tune or sing a verse or two of it. This Negro spiritual that is especially suited to baritone singers is not a real spiritual but rather a good imitation of one. Jacques Wolfe is credited as the author but that is disputed. A song written in 1905 by Reee d'Pree is very similar to this.
The lyric about how "mammy's little baby" who happens to love shortening bread has several nonsense verses about the magical power of this confection, how a thief went to jail for stealing it and even details about the skillet used in the making of it. Oddly enough it was an opera singer Lawrence Tibbettthat included the piece in his recitals and made it popular.
The lyrics today are often changed and rearranged to eliminate the racial elements that the song was originally written with. The song can be heard on the I Love Lucy Show in one of the series best episodes, where Vivian Vance, as Ethel sings the song to her hometown of Albuquerque.
- Side By Side (1927)
This familiar companion song by Harry MacGregor Woods, became popular in vaudeville, then one of the top sellers of sheet music, then a top selling record by many artists. Paul Whiteman made the first hit recording of it and in 1953 Kay Starr too the song and had the biggest hit with it. The song which talks about friends who lack wealth ("we ain't got a barrel of money, maybe we're ragged and funny") says that's OK because they have real wealth in their companionship for each other.
- Sleepy Time Gal (1925)
This comic lament of a husband who can't get his party-loving wife to stop dancing and come home to bed, complaining that she's turning the night into day. Joseph R Alden and Raymond Egan wrote the lyrics while Richard A Whiting and Ange Lorenzo composed the tune. This song was a hit for Gene Austin and Glen Gray. In 1944 Harry James had a hit with it and many Big Bands added it to their shows. Frances Langford sang it in Never A Dull Moment and of course it was heard in the movie Sleepy Time Gal (1942).
- Snookey Ookums (1913)
Irving Berlin's comic novelty song about a couple that drive everyone crazy with their baby talk. Natalie Normandy introduced this number in her vaudeville show. The song is pretty much forgotten but can be heard, as sung by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in the movie The Easter Parade (1948)
- Some Of These Days (1910)
Though unknown today this song is called the most important turning point in Tin Pan Alley history. It is called a landmark song because it was completely different from all other popular music of the day. Shelton Brooks and African American entertainer wrote this blues number as a waltz but infused it with background jazz. Music critics point out it was uniquely sophisticated for its day using an ABCD structure, each section uses a new melodic idea instead of merely repeating previously heard material. This loose structure leaves the door wide open for interpretation and improvisation that gave jazz musicians permission to change this and other songs as the mood suited them.
Introduced by Sophie Tucker at White City Park in Chicago, she recorded it and sang it for decades. Louie Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Bobby Darin and Cab Calloway all recorded memorable versions of the song. It has been performed in dozens of Hollywood films and in many Broadway reviews.
- Somebody Loves Me (1924)
This early George Gershwin hit is still heard today and doesn't seem to be at all dated. BG DeSylva and Ballard MacDonald wrote the lyric about a true love that has not yet appeared on the scene, but the one is confident that the person, never the less exists. The song first appeared in the Broadway review George White's Scandals of 1924. Blossom Seeley used it in her act for decades and the Four Lads had a big hit record with it in 1952. Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore, Peggy Lee and Maureen McGovern have made excellent covers of this song.
- Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child (1918)
This song is extremely powerful when song correctly. This was first published in 1918 but is actually a spiritual that goes back at least to the American Civil War. Though it has a touch of the blues it is often performed as a jazz number. Jo Stafford records the best version of this on her outstanding album Ballad Of The Blues The moaning lyric about being unloved and alone and "a long long way from home" can tear at your heart when sung appropriately. It is one of my all time favourite songs.
- Squeeze Me (1928)
This sexy, suggestive, song by Clarence Williams (lyric) and Thomas "Fats" Waller (music), invites a gal's "daddy" to squeeze her and kiss her every time she says so. Not necessarily a bad thing huh? Lena Horne recorded the most popular version of this song, and Louie Armstrong and Bessie Smith also had success with it. On Broadway it was heard in 1978's Ain't Misbehavin' a show about "Fats" Waller.
- St. Louis Blues (1914)
This song is considered the "blues standard," and probably has been recorded by more artists than another blues songs, it is unquestionable a landmark in blues history. WC Handy wrote the song that he tried to take the "humour of a 'coon' song, the syncopation of ragtime, and the spirit of a Negro spiritual and call it the blues." The torchy lyric about a woman's lament for a man with a heart "like a rock cast in the sea," yet she still love him.
Sophie Tucker first sang this song in vaudeville and later on Gilda Gray did her "shimmy" dance to it. But it was an instrumental version that prompted the sale of sheet music and piano player rolls that sold well into the millions. Bessie Smith had a hit with it in 1925, Louis Armstrong brought it back in 1930, and in 1932 the Mills Brothers again hit gold with it. Then in 1936 Benny Goodman revived the number once again making it a hit.
There have literally been over a thousand different recordings of it over the decades, with notable ones by Lena Horne, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo, Johnny Mercer, Pearl Bailey and even the author WC Handy recorded it. It is heard in over 25 Hollywood films including the biography of WC Handy called St Louis Blues where it is performed by Nat King Cole, who played Handy in the film. Also heard in dozens of Broadway shows, most recently as performed by Gretha Boston in It In't Nothin' But The Blues (1999).
- Star Dust (1929)
Personally I never liked this song, to me it doesn't hold true it sound like a deliberate effort to make a schmaltzy song and have it be a hit. Basically it smacks of effort. But I guess someone must like it because it is one of the most recorded songs in all history.
Hoagy Carmichael wrote the music, which only has ten notes but changes cords making it difficult to play and to sing correctly. Carmichael says he wrote it to the memory of a girl he loved while at the University of Indiana, he wanted a career in music and travel while she wanted to stay put and build a home, thus the romance ended. Stuart Gorrel told Carmichael the tune sounded like stars falling down on a warm summer's night, Carmichael then titled the piece as Stardust.
Originally it was up-tempo and played quickly but Carmichael's publisher suggested he play it slow like a ballad, so Mitchell Parish came in and produced the lyric to the song. This vocal version didn't catch on till the mid 30s when Artie Shaw recorded it and it sold 2.5 million copies. Then a cover version by Isham Jones also went to the top of the charts. Soon Bing Crosby, Louie Armstrong and Wayne King had hits with the song. It has been recorded in over forty languages an estimate seven hundred times.
- Swanee (1919)
This was George Gershwin's first major hit. He never had a song before or after that sold more sheet music or records. This is a jazzed up version of a southern ballad that uses syncopation rather than sentiment. Irving Caesar wrote the sparkling lyric, and makes a nod of appreciate to Stephen Foster by mentioning the phrase "old folks at home."
It was introduced in the show Demi-Tasse Revue in New York City, but the staging was so lush and dazzling that the number was overlooked. It was Al Jolson who took this number to heart and made it his own, as he placed it in the tour of his Broadway show Sinbad. He continued to perform it and the recording sold over two million copies and the sheet music sold over one million copies all in less than a year. When Jolson recorded the song for the movie Rhapsody In Blue his new version sold yet another million copies.
This is among my personal favourite and though it's been recorded hundreds of times, perhaps the best version and defiantly from my standpoint the song is best performed by Judy Garland and she also featured it in her 1954 film A Star Is Born.
- Sweet Adeline (1903)
The ballad about a gal who is "the flower of my heart," has become a standard for barbershop quartets. Henry W Armstrong a barbershop quartet enthusiast wrote the music in 1890 with an echo effect new for the time.
He asked Richard H Gerard to proved a lyric and he came up with a song called You're The Flower Of My Heart Sweet Rosalie, the song was repeatedly turned down by publishers. It was published in 1903 and the girl's name changed to Adeline but it took another year before it became a hit. The way the title is echoed as "Sweet Adeline...My Adeline," make the number gold for anyone doing harmony.
Both prima donna Adeline Gerard and Italian opera singer Adeline Patti, have been noted as the inspiration. In 1906 John F "Honey" Fitzgerald ran for mayor of Boston and made it his campaign song. Not only did he win but he brought revived interest in it each time he ran for mayor. Each time he ran he used the song as his theme. He won in 1910 and 1914, reviving the song each time. In 1939 the Mills Brothers made it a hit again.
Fans of I Love Lucy will recognize this song as the song a very pregnant Lucy tries to sing while Ethel, Fred and Ricky keep shoving a brush full of shaving cream in her mouth.
- Sweet Sue (Just You) (1928)
Is a simple love song that was inspired by silent screen star Sue Carol whose picture is on the cover of the sheet music. Will J Harris wrote the words and Victor Young composed the music. The number quickly became a favourite. The Mills Brothers, Tommy Dorsey and John Long all had hits with it during the 30s. Artie Shaw revived the number in the movie Second Chorus (1940). TV Fans will recognize it from the I Love Lucy Show, it is sung by the Mertzes and the Ricardos a few times and at one point is claimed by Lucy Ricardo to be the only piece she knows on the saxophone (Though in a prior episode Glow Worm was her masterpiece).
- The Sweetheart Of Sigma Chi (1912)
Though the song is not remembered today the title phrase is. Written by Bryan Stokes (lyric) and F Dudleigh Vernor (music) two freshman at Albion College in Michigan, strangely neither one went into songwriting. The music allows for harmonizing and was popular among group sings. Rudy Vallee was the first entertainer to sing it on stage, then he moved it to radio and recorded it. Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians had the first hit disc of the song, but Tommy Dorsey, Dick Haymes, Hank Snow and Dean Martin also covered it. The song was heard in the movie The Sweetheart Of Sigma Chi (1912).
- Swing Low Sweet Chariot (1917)
One of the most beloved of all Negro spirituals this song has unknown origins but was being sung before the American Civil War in various forms. They song is hymn like and is morose in that it is about dying yet it speaks of hope as one waits for the chariot to take them up to paradise. The repeated phrase "comin' fo' to carry me home" is both conversational and matter-of-fact, yet reverent too. The phrase "my soul feels heavenly bound" is still potent.
Although the song was song in churches and other gatherings for decades it wasn't put into sheet music and published until 1917, by Henry Thacker Burleigh. A variety of artists have recorded this song over the years including Judy Garland, Boxcar Willie, Glen Miller, Peggy Lee and the Lennon Sisters. It's been featured in over fifty Hollywood movies such as Cruising Down The River (1953), Nashville (1975) and Pastime (1991). Carol Bryd sang it in the Broadway revue Bubbling Brown Sugar (1976).
- T'Aint Nobody's Business If I Do (1922)
This song was the first song recorded by Thomas "Fats" Waller. It is best known to today's audience when Diana Ross sang it in the story of Billie Holiday Lady Sings The Blues (1972). While the Waller disc is the definitive disc other artists such as Holiday, Betty Joplin, Dinah Washington, and Bessie Smith have made excellent versions as well.
- Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1908)
The unofficial anthem of American baseball this was co written by vaudevillian Albert Von Tilzer who wrote the music despite never seeing a ball game till some twenty years after it was published. Jack Norworth penned the lyric but only the refrain remains recognized today.
The first verse concerns a Katie Carson whose beau wants to take her out to a show, but Katie prefers the bleachers of the ballpark. And she sings the title of the song to let her beau know. In the second verse her team is losing so she repeats the refrain to cheer the players on.
Over the years such artists as Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Tiny Tim, Frank Zappa, and Carly Simon have recorded the song. Though it was never a hit record it is well known and popular. It is usually heard in movies about baseball, and is also heard in the film Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949) as sung by Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Esther Williams.
- That's My Weakness Now (1928)
This song is unrecognized today and wouldn't be remembered for much except that it introduced Helen Kane and made her a star by introducing the world to "boop-oop-a-doop." Four days after singing the song her name went up in lights and she became a star. Bud Green and Sam H Stept wrote the number for a show at the Paramount Theatre in New York City. The song explains how a guy never cared for blue eyes, dimple cheeks, and billing and cooing until a "certain girl" came along. The audience loved her scatting the "boop-oop-a-doops" throughout the song and soon everyone was imitating her baby-voiced cooing. This song was actually bigger than her better known hit I Want To Be Loved By You.
- There'll Be Some Changes Made (1924)
On a personal note for as many people that loved this song is just as much as I hate it. This short and simple song is about one turning over a new leaf. Billy Higgins and W Benton Overstreet (now that's a good pompous name), wrote this song in which one vows to change his ways, his address, his close and even his "long tall" sweetie for a "short fat" one. Ethel Waters had the first success with the song but it wasn't a big hit until 1928 when Sophie Tucker put it in her show. Benny Goodman had a hit in 1941 with it. The song has been heard in countless movies, on Broadway and even in television commercials.
- There's A Broken Heart (1915)
Sometimes titled as There's A Broken Heart For Every Light On Broadway. This song is almost completely forgotten today but remains a part of show business jargon. Howard Johnson (lyric) and Fred Fisher (music)wrote the ballad that warns unsuspecting folk in the country that to leave the farm to find fame in New York City, means heartbreak and disillusionment. This number is purely of historic interest because it illustrates the "Great White Way," as a place without outdoor lighting. Electricity enabled the New York City theater district to glow with hundreds of bulbs. As a side note at the time this song was written the district was centered at Broadway and Twenty-Third Street. The song was never a hit for anyone but has been recorded by Rosemary Clooney and Mel Torme. It can also be heard in the film Oh, You Beautiful Doll (1949).
- They Didn't Believe Me (1914)
This is the kind of song that doesn't sound like much but will grow on you with repeated playings, it is quite a pretty song. The ballad written by Herbert Reynolds (lyric) and Jerome Kern (music) is known as a model for the thirty-two bar Tin Pan Alley ballad that became standard for the time. While not exactly slangy it is written in a conversational tone, and I especially like the line "And I'm cert'nly goin' to tell them," it is almost spoken yet remains sung.
The song was written for the London musical The Girl From Utah and was brought to Broadway in 1914. It didn't seem to make an impression with anyone but the sheet music sales were an astonishing two million. While it's never been a major hit such artists as Bing Crosby, Johnny Mercer, Barbra Streisand, Pearl Bailey, Gogi Grant, Dinah Washinton and Tommy Dorsey recorded it.
- Till We Meet Again (1918)
This was the most successful of all the ballads of the First World War. It is a heartfelt farewell of a beau who promises to return and wed his love guaranteeing that "ev'ry tear will be a memory," (darn I wish I wrote that, I'll probably steal it, look for it in my songs ..LOL). Raymond B Egan (lyric) and Richard A Whiting (music) wrote the waltz after America entered the war but disliked it so much it wound up in the wastebasket. Their secretary who heard it and liked it fished it out of the wastebasket and sent it in to their publisher, and as they say, the rest is history. It wound up selling over fifteen million copies of sheet music. It was revived again during World War II. Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page, Mitch Miller and Jaye P Morgan had success with the song. For many years the song was played in the halls of the United States Congress at adjournment.
- Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (1913)
Also called That's an Irish Lullaby. This song came to America, not via the Emerald Isle but Tin Pan Alley yet it retains enough of the Gaelic touches to fool people. James R Shannon wrote this lullaby for the musical extravaganza Shameen Dhu, where it was sung by Chauncey Olcott (why aren't people named Chauncey anymore???). Though it wasn't a hit, it was a steady seller and always sold a good amount of sheet music, and seemed to be in every Irish singer's routines. In 1944 it was featured in the film Going My Way where Bing Crosby sang it to Barry Fitzgerald as a lullaby. This disc went on to sell well over a million copies, and open the floodgates. Suddenly it seemed every artist had to record their own version of it, including Kate Smith, Dennis Day, Rosemary Clooney, Dick Haymes, Ruby Murphy, Frances Faye, Connie Francis, Mitch Miller and Joni James.
- Toot Toot Tootsie (Goodbye) (1922)
This is yet another number that is strongly identified with Al Jolson, although even Kim Fields as "Tootie" on The Facts Of Life sang it, replacing Tootsie with Tootie of course. Al Jolson interpolated it into the Broadway show Bombo (1922), he also recorded and sang it in four of this feature films. Gus Kahn, Ernie Erdman and Dan Russo wrote this song in a slaphappy manner that bids goodbye to his sweetheart "Tootsie," as he takes off. He reminds her that if she doesn't get a letter from him she'll "know he's in jail." Eddie Cantor, Judy Garland and Tony Martin have made decent covers of this song but something is lacking if anyone other than Al Jolson sings it, it is that strongly identified with him. Of course it was sung in The Jolson Story (1946) and Jolson Rides Again (1949). It is also heard in I'll See You In My Dreams (1952) sung by Doris Day.
- Trouble In Mind (1926)
This is one of the best "blues" songs ever written. This anguished tune by Richard M Jones, in which the dejected one is so depressed he considers "puttin' his head on the railroad iron" and letting the "2:19 train ease my troubl'd mind." Jones introduced the number on a record with his band, but the best selling version is by Bertha "Chipie" Hill, with Louie Armstrong on coronet. The song has many verses and the words vary from artist to artists, the song's music lends itself to the scatting of lyrics and making up new verses as one sings the song, typical of jazz and blue styles. Jo Stafford does one of the best recordings of it and one of her best recording is this song. Ray Charles, Janis Joplin and Ella Fitzgerald have made recordings of this tune. It was sung by Marianne Faithful on the soundtrack of Trouble In Mind (1985).
- Under The Bamboo Tree (1904)
This is a ragtime classic that was originally called If You Look Lak-a-me. It was a novelty song about a Zulu warrior and a maiden who decide that two can live as cheaply as one in the jungle. Robert Cole and J Rosamond Johnson wrote the number as a variation on a Negro spiritual Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen. The two writers put it in their act but was Arthur Collins who picked it up and made it a hit, first on stage and then on recording. The number went over so well that for the next ten years animal songs became the rage on Tin Pan Alley. It was performed in Meet Me In St Louis (1944) by Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien. Donna Kane and Courtney Peldon sang it in the Broadway version of the film in 1989.