W Thru Z (1900 - 1929 Songs)
- Wait 'Til The Sun Shines Nellie (1905)
A ballad by Andrew B Sterling (lyric) and Harry Von Tilzer (music) in which a beau tries to cheer up his sweetie, telling her tomorrow will be a brighter day. Sterling says he got the idea when he overheard a man say the title phrase to his wife when their trip to Coney Island was cancelled due to rain. Von Tilzer wrote the music as a slow and deliberate march. However in later years the tune would be played faster and become a jazz favourite. Winona Winter introduced it to vaudeville, and Bryon Harlan and Harry Talley popularized it and soon the song sold over a million copies of sheet music. The number is particularly effective when played by a banjo. Harry James, Jo Stafford, and Frank Novak and his Rootin' Tootin' Boys had hits with it. Of course it was heard in the movie Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie (1952).
As a trivia note to Carol Burnett fans, this was the song where Eunice, Mama, Ed and Mickey Hart were playing charades and it was Eunice trying to act out the title of this song as her Charade. Mama took forever coming up with an answer, spouting such wrong phrases as "wait till the sun shines belly."
- Waiting For The Robert E Lee (1912)
One of the most durable of all ragtime hits, this is a rhythm number about a bunch of folk waiting for the riverboat to come in. L Wolf Gilbert (ok now that's a name people get beat up for having) got the idea for the lyric when he watched African American dockworkers unloading the ship Robert E Lee at a levee in Baton Rouge. Louis F Muir composed the music composed the music, which changes from a key of C to the key of F, unusual for the time. Al Jolson introduced this song into his concert on the spur of the moment, and it was quickly picked up by other vaudevillians. Al Jolson, Benny Goodman, Beatrice Kay, and Dean Martin have made respectable versions of the song. It was performed by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in the movie Babes On Broadway (1942).
- Way Down Yonder In New Orleans (1922)
Is often considered the best song about the Louisiana city. It has been recorded hundreds of times and is still heard during Mardi Gras. J Turner Layton, composed the pulsating music that uses repeated notes that can best be described as a "stomp." Henry Creamer wrote the vibrant lyric about the desire to return to the city with the "Creole babies with flashing eyes." The repeated use of the words "Guess" and "Stop," in the lyrics gives the song a bounce quality to it. The song was first heard in the all Negro review Strut Miss Lizzy (1922), but it was later cut from the show. Blossom Seeley was the one to popularize this song in her vaudeville act. In 1960 Freddie Cannon revived the song and his country-rock version became a hit. Louie Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey made well selling discs of this song.
- When I Lost You (1916)
This song isn't well known, but is of historical interest, as it was Irving Berlin's first successful ballad, at a time when ragtime and dance numbers were associated with him. It is thought had this song not been a hit; it would have led him in an entirely different direction. It is also autobiographical in that it was inspired by the death of his young wife, Dorothy Goetz, when she contracted Typhoid on their honeymoon in Cuba. The song is a straightforward lament about how the world ceased to sparkle since her death, and it almost aches, as it is straightforward and not lost in poetry. Henry Burrsand the song first and it caught on selling over two million copies of sheet music.
- When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (1912)
This song was loved by the Irish immigrants in the years before World War I. Chauncey Olcott and George Graff Jr wrote the sentimental lyric and Ernest R Ball composed the music as a waltz-like tune. It was introduced in the Broadway show The Isle O'Dreams (1913). It became really popular many years later when Morton Downey put it on his radio show, singing it over a thousand times on the air.
- When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along (1926)
This is a somewhat silly song but completely infectious. It is hard not to sing along with it. Harry MacGregor Woods wrote this chipper song, using notes that repeat to create a bouncing effect. Sophie Tucker first introduced the song at the Woods Theatre in Chicago and Lillian Roth put it into her vaudeville act. Al Jolson also put it in his act and made an early recording of it. Jo Stafford also did an excellent version of it. Susan Hayward sang it in the Roth biography I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955).
- When You Wore A Tulip And I Wore A Big Red Rose (1914)
This up tempo nostalgic song by Jack Mahoney (lyric) and Percy Wenrich (music) recalls a day long ago when a couple living in a Kentucky town professed their love for each other. It was heard often in vaudeville but didn't achieve hit status until much later when Eddie Cantor sang it on his radio show. It proved to be vary popular as a duet among singers, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly sang it in the film For Me And My Gal (1942).
- When You're Smiling (1928)
This song, about how when you smile, "the whole world smiles with you," may not be one hundred percent accurate but it sure is fun to sing. Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin and Larry Shay wrote the tune that states laughter is contagious and tears only "bring on the rain." Louie Armstrong helped popularize the tune and made it standard to his act. Dean Martin also added it to his routine. It was a favourite of Judy Garland usually performed at her concerts.
- The Wiffenpoof Song (1909)
The title is better remembered than the song, the song is also known as We Are Poor Little Lambs. This is the theme song for the Wiffenpoof Club at Yale University. Meade Minnegerode and George S Pomeroy wrote the words while Todd B Galloway wrote the music. They were members of the Class of 1910 at Yale University. Although they are credited with the song, there is more than ample evidence the song was actually the work of Guy Scull.
The Song originated in 1909 when The Wiffenpoof Society was founded as a branch of the Yale Glee Club. The idea comes from Rudyard Kipling's Poem Gentlemen Rankers, and a Wiffenpoof is an imaginary character from Victor Herbert's operetta Little Nemo (1908).
This song is really nonsense about sheep that are lost but the music makes it almost sound like a hymn, leading people to read more into it than is actually there. Rudy Vallee, who went to Yale, heard the song and adapted it into the Tin Pan Alley format and sang it on his radio show in 1936, this was the first time the local New England hit became nationally known. Vallee's record took off and was so popular even gospel groups were recording it.
- Who's Sorry Now? (1923)
This song has become closely identified with 50s singer Connie Francis but was written fifteen years before she was born. This is a revenge song but you have to listen closely to understand that as it ends with "I'm glad that you're sorry now." Written by the trio of Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and Ted Synder. The vaudeville team of Van and Schenck popularized this in their act and it soon sold over a million copies of sheet music.
In 1958 Connie Francis revived the song in more of an upbeat tone in a record that sold well over a million records and went to number one in the United Kingdom for six weeks and hit number three in the United States. Though it wasn't her biggest selling record it was her first hit. It was her father who suggested she record it, and after several failures, Connie decided that if this song didn't go over, she'd start looking to other careers. Fortunately for everyone, the song took off and Francis became the number one female artist of the Rock Era. A record she held until 1985.
- Wreck Of The Old 97 (1923)
This ballad based on a true incident is a moralistic warning to women to never speak harshly to your man because the next time he goes off to work he may never return. This song was based on the 1865 song by Henry C Work titled The Ship That Never Returned . After a famous train wreck Charles K Noell and Fred J Lewery wrote a new version about an engineer who died at the throttle, between Lynchburg and Danville, Kentucky. The song did little when it was first published until Henry Whittier recorded a song and it became of the first cross over country western hits. Wittier's song was so close to Noell and Lewery's song that they sued and won. The judge ruled the songs were in fact identical. In addition to money the settlement required all three names to appear on any subsequent sheet music. Today whenever the song is performed by country artists, performing in the classic country style, they often make up verses as they go, often intertwining local events into their versions.
- Yankee Doodle Blues (1922)
This is pretty much just a jazzed up version of Yankee Doodle. Adapted by Irving Caesar and BG DeSylva (lyric) and George Gershwin (music), this song was interpolated into the revue Spice Of 1922, where it was sung by Georgie Price. The vaudevillian team of Van and Schenck made it popular in their act. Though fairly well known despite being in many Hollywood films and Broadway revues it never became a hit record though it has been put on record quite a few times.
- Yes Sir, That's My Baby (1925)
This is another 20s song that is so popular the title became a catchphrase. Gus Kahn wrote the lyric that is put into questions "Who's that walking down the street," that are answered by the title "Yes sir, that's my baby." Walter Donaldson composed the music with a Charleston like feel to it. In fact it remained so popular because one can dance the Charleston to it. This song was long associated with Eddie Cantor, who sang it on this radio show and had a hit record with it. Other artists who recorded it include Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Rick Nelson, and Cliff Edwards.
- Yes! We Have No Bananas (1922)
This song is a lot more famous for it's title than anyone remembering it. It seems whenever there is a movie or TV show where one wants to make fun of old songs they pull this title out. This song however was the best selling nonsense song ever to come out of Tin Pan Alley. Frank Silver and Irving Cohn got the idea from a Greek peddler selling fruit, who had the title phrase painted on his wagon. Bananas were a very popular fruit but until refrigeration methods were improved were not a common fruit in America and were hard to come by.
The song was popularized by Eddie Cantor who interpolated it into his Broadway show Make It Snappy (1922), when it was on tour in Philadelphia. The number stopped the show and Cantor's record went on to become a best seller. Various other artists made recordings of it and put it into their vaudeville and Broadways shows to make it the best selling novelty song in Tin Pan Alley history.
- A Yiddishe Momme (1925)
This song, which is a sentimental ballad, became popular even though the title was foreign to most people. Lyricist Jack Yellen wrote the words and music after his mother died. Lew Pollack helped a bit smoothing out the music a bit, and they gave it to Sophie Tucker who introduced it in the Palace Theatre in New York City. The song was a smash and Tucker kept it in her act and it became one of her signature songs. Tucker sang it so much that in Europe it became the song most identified with her. The song is sometimes titled My Yiddish Mamma.
- You Got To See Mama Ev'ry Night (1923)
This is a great song in that it almost is a novelty song but never quite makes it. It is amusing and sassy and long associate with Sophie Tucker. Con Conrad composed the jazz music and Billy Rose wrote the lyric, in which a suspicious gal insists her beau include her in his plans or "you can't see your mama at all." With phrase like, "Monday night you took your bath, Tuesday night you dodged my path. Wednesday night you had a date, and by the looks of everything I guess that I don't rate." are truly inspired.
Kay Starr revived the song with a hit in 50s and Carol Channing used it in her nightclub shows.
George Burns tells an amusing story about the song. It seems that the song was a favourite of Groucho Marx, so whenever they went to dinner together and Burns ordered sea bass, Groucho would say "You have to Sea Bass every night or you can't sea bass at all." Burns said it got so bad that he refused to order sea bass whenever in the presence of Groucho. But that didn't stop Groucho soon no matter what Burns ordered when he had dinner with Groucho, Groucho would repeat the "sea bass" line. Burns states he didn't like Groucho much.