M Thru Z (1930 - 1941 Songs)
- The Moon Was Yellow (And The Night Was Young) (1934)
This standard was quite popular in the 30s especially among radio shows. Edgar Leslie wrote the unusual lyric while Fred E Ahlert composed the music. It was Bing Crosby that popularized the number and the Dorsey Brothers also had a hit with it. Frances Langford, Frank Sinatra, and Robert Goulet also made notable recordings of the song.
- Moonglow (1934)
This love ballad by Eddie DeLange, Will Hudson and Irving Mills, argues that it must have been the hypnotic glow of the moon that brings someone special into your life. It has been recorded hundreds of times but it is best known from the film Picnic (1955) where it was only heard briefly. Bennie Goodman, Artie Shaw, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Frances Langford and Debby Reynolds have made recordings of this song.
- Moonlight Serenade (1939)
This familiar fox trot became a standard and Glenn Miller's theme song and one of the most renowned of all Big Band tunes. Miller asked lyricist Edward Heyman to write a lyric and he came up with a song called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, but Miller found it too negative and discarded the whole number. It wasn't till Miller formed his own band in 1940 that he asked Mitchell Parish to provide a new lyric and he came up with this song. When Miller recorded the record it became a huge hit and forever associated with his band. In addition to Miller, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman and the Ray Conniff Singers found success with it.
- My Happiness (1933)
This ballad sat around for fifteen years collecting dust before it became a hit. Borney Bergantine composed the music to Betty Peterson's lyric. Although the songwriters had great faith in the song they couldn't find anyone to record it, until 1948 when Jon and Sandra Steele made a disc that sold a million copies. Soon afterwards, Paul Weston recorded it followed by Ella Fitzgerald. In 1958 Connie Francis took the song all the way to number two on the pop charts. Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, Andy Williams, Hank Snow and Fats Domino are among the other artists that have covered this tune.
- My Prayer (1939)
This ballad enjoyed two periods of intense popularity, first in 1939 staying on the Hit Parade for fourteen weeks by Sammy Kaye and in 1956 by the Ink Spots who took the song to number one and sold over a million copies of song. Written by Jimmy Kennedy a British songwriter, it was adapted from a violin piece by Georges Boulanger called Avant de Mourir. Vera Lynn introduced the song in her native England and Sammy Kaye made it a hit here in the states. Glenn Miller also had a big hit with the song at about the same time.
- The Nearness Of You (1938)
This is another classic Hoagy Carmichael song that I hate. Ned Washington wrote the lyric to Carmichael's tune, which is about losing one's reason and one's resistance when one is close to the one he loves. It was written expressly for one film but cut and interpolated into the movie Romance In The Dark (1938) where it was song by Gladys Swarthout. But the song didn't become a hit till 1940 when Glenn Miller recorded it. Dinah Shore, Guy Lombardo, Eartha Kitt, Mitzi Gaynor and Tom Jones have also made notable recordings of it.
- No Greater Love (1936)
This song in which a wooer proclaims no existing love comes close to the love he holds for her. Marty Symes wrote the confident lyric and bandleader Isham Jones provided the music and introduced the song. It was a hit and soon Guy Lombardo recorded it and also had success with the number. Billie Holiday, And Dizzie Gillespie have also made successful covers of this tune.
- On The Sunny Side Of The Street (1930)
I must say I love this song it is just made to make you feel happy as you're walking down the street. It was especially popular as the nation was coming to grips at just how bad the Great Depression was.
Jimmy McHugh composed the foot tapping music that sounds like someone strutting down the street and Dorothy Fields lyric has one stepping out of the shade and it is absolutely contagious. The song was introduced in the Broadway show The International Revue (1930) and it immediately caught on. Harry Richman recorded it first and had a hit with it and Tommy Dorsey revived it in 1945. Ted Lewis, Louie Armstrong, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, and Willie Nelson have covered it but Jo Stafford's version remains solidly, my favourite. The song has been heard in over fifty Hollywood films as late as 1992's A League Of Their Own.
As a side note, the comic strip Far Side had a strip devoted to this song that was quite funny if you were familiar with the song. The woman is reporting the disappearance of her husband to a police officer saying the opening lines of the song.
- Paper Doll (1930)
This song is astonishing in the fact that it is virtually unknown today. An absolutely incredible six million records of this song were sold. Johnny S Black wrote the ballad about a man thwarted by a lover who decides he will buy a paper doll to cherish, as it's the only kind of woman that will ever love him.
Black wrote this song in 1910 but had another hit Dardenella which was a huge hit. He lived the high life off the income of that song till the money ran out, then pulled this song out of the drawer and started to peddle it. Music publisher, EB Marks, feeling sorry for Black gave him $50.00 for it and figured that'd be the end of it, but still published it in 1930.
Tommy Lynn came across the number and put it in his nightclub act where it proved very popular. It still didn't go anywhere till after Marks's death when his son found it and gave it to the Mills Brothers in 1941. The number soared to the top of the charts and stayed on the Hit Parade for an unheard of twenty-three weeks, in addition millions of sheet music were sold.
Soon Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong put their versions out to much success. Lena Horne, Perry Como,, and the Ink Spots also recorded notable version of it. It was heard in many Hollywood films including Hi, Good Lookin' (1944), American Graffiti (1973) and The Majestic (2001).
- Pennsylvania 6-5000 (1940)
This is Tin Pan Alleys best known telephone number, and probably the best known telephone number in all of music history. It was, and still is, the telephone number for the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan. Carl Sigman (lyric) and Jerry Gray (music) wrote the swinging number saluting the already famous landmark across from Penn Station. It was a regular feature on Glenn Miller's radio show and Miller's recording sold well over a million records. It has also been recorded by such artists as the Andrews Sisters, Jive Bunny and the Mixmasters and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
- Red Sails In The Sunset (1935)
This song was written in England but equally popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Hugh Williams composed the music, while Jimmy Kennedy wrote the lyric about a girl watching boats in the harbor. Their sails turned to red in the setting sun. All the time hoping one of them will bring her beloved back to her. The English ballad was interpolated into the revue Provincetown Follies (1935) sung by Phyllis Austin. Bing Crosby picked up the record and sold a million copies of it. Ray Noble and Guy Lombardo also had success with it. Nat King Cole had a sizeable hit with it in 1951. It has been recorded by artists such as Fats Domino, Louis Armstrong, Slim Whitman, Frances Langford, EngleBert Humperdink. Dean Martin can be heard singing it in The Silencers (1966). It was also heard in the film The Way We Were (1973).
- Sam You Made The Pants Too Long (1933)
This comic novelty tune was a follow up to the song Lawd, You Made The Night Too Long This was long associated with Joe E Lewis, Isham Jones music was used from the original song and new words were penned by Fred Whitehouse and Milton Berle. Barbra Streisand has also recorded this song.
- Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1934)
This tale of caution, by Haven Gillespie and J Fred Coots serves as a warning to children because he's spying on them. Kind of a supernatural pervert huh? Many publishers who felt a kiddy Christmas song wouldn't sell to adults turned down the song.
After two years of hawking the tune, they managed to get Eddie Cantor to sing it on his radio show. And then even Cantor didn't like it; it was his wife Ida who convinced him to do the number. After the radio show it created a demand. George Olsen made the first recording of the tune, followed quickly by George Hall. Before long over four million copies of sheet music and two million records were sold. But the biggest seller came in 1947 when Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters recoded their version. Perry Como also had a big hit with the number.
As late as 1985 it was making the charts with a version from Bruce Springsteen. The song is often titled You'd Better Watch Out
- Sing, Sing, Sing (1936)
This is one of the most popular swing numbers. It celebrates the urge to sing but is more famous as a dance piece and is easy for jazz musicians to scat to. Louis Prima wrote the number and sung it in his nightclub act and Tommy Dorsey recorded it. It was Benny Goodman though who had the hit with it. In 1938 he played Carnegie Hall and stopped the show with it. Goodman's recording with solos by Harry James, Vido Musso and Gene Krupa is considered a classic. The tune is used extensively in Hollywood films whenever the plot revolves around the swing era.
- Smile (1936)
This understated ballad, is low key, urging one to "smile even though your heart is aching," because the sun always has a way of shining through. Charles Chaplin composed the music for the classic film Modern Times and the lyric was later added by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. Although it was recorded throughout the 30s and 40s, it didn't become a big hit until 1959 when Tony Bennett had a big hit with it. Nat King Cole's version is considered a classic.
- Sophisticated Lady (1933)
This song, long associated with Duke Ellington, is a cool jazz number about a girl who seems "nonchalant" as she smokes and drinks but underneath the facade, she longs for her long lost love. Ellington composed the number as an instrumental in 1932. In 1933 Mitchell Parish and Irving Mills added their lyric and hit records by Ellington and the Casa Loma Orchestra followed soon.
Some argue that the piece is better as an instrumental, citing that the melody and words have trouble keeping up with each other at different points and in truth it is very difficult to sing correctly. Rosemary Clooney worked with Ellington and revived the number in 1956. Quincy Jones and Willie Smith have also made solid recordings of the song. Ellington reprised the number in the movie Paris Blues.
- South Of The Border (Down Mexico Way) (1939)
This Latin flavoured ballad was written by two British songwriters and became a Tin Pan Alley hit, on more than one occasion. Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Carr wrote the number that recalls a love affair in Mexico. Gene Autry brought the number to America and he sold three million discs. Frank Sinatra had a hit with it in 1953. Among the artists that have recorded the song include, Benny Goodman, Tony Martin, Count Basie, the Doobie Brothers and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Autry reprised the song in the movie South Of The Border (1939) and Down Mexico Way (194). Bing Crosby sang it in Pepe (1961). TV fans can hear it at the closing of The Simpsons where Bart and the kids took over Kamp Krusty, and in the end Krusty takes them to Tijuana.
- Stompin' At The Savoy (1934)
This is an early swing number about romance at the Savoy Hotel Ballroom. The music co-written by Benny Goodman, Edgar Samson and Chick Webb. Although it is almost always performed as an instrumental it does have a lyric that is somewhat intriguing. This lyric was written by Andy Razaf. Goodman's version was the best seller, but Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong had popular versions as well full of scat singing. The song was sung in When Harry Met Sally (1956) performed by Harry Connick Jr.
- Stormy Weather (1933)
This song long associated with Lena Horne is a penetrating torch song, but has a history long before Lena adopted it as her trademark number.
Ted Koehler wrote the words, a lament about the unfriendly weather that torments a woman when a lover has left. The language though slangy is effective. I like the part when she worries that "old rockin' chair will get me." Harold Alden wrote the music.
The song was intended for Cab Calloway but Leo Reisman and his Orchestra took first crack at it and it became a hit. When Ethel Waters sang it in the revue Cotton Club Parade she insisted she only have to sing it once per night because she found the torch song so disturbing. Waters had it in her nightclub act for years and it was considered her signature song.
In 1941 Horne added it to her nightclub act and it met with instant success and an overwhelming response. It has been in her repertoire for decades. Horne sang it with Bill Robinson in the movie Stormy Weather (1943) and Horne was still doing it in her one-woman show on Broadway in 1981.
- Sunrise Serenade (1939)
This gentle ballad became a hit first as an instrumental then as a vocal. Pianist Frankie Carle wrote the music, and it was popularized by the Casa Loma Orchestra who had a hit record with it. Even more successful was a version by Glenn Miller, which sold over a million records. Jack Lawrence added his lyric about the morning coming up and Connee Boswell recorded it and had a hit with the song, this time with lyrics. Other artists that have covered this number include Lawrence Welk, Roger Williams, Hank Snow, Floyd Cramer, and Chet Atkins.
- Taking The "A" Train (1941)
This swinging number has always been a favourite of singers and musicians, because it allows them to improvise. Written by Billy Strayhorn, the song is about the Eighth Avenue subway train in Manhattan. (Subways in NYC are named by letters like "A" or sometimes number like "9.") The lyric instructs one to take the "A" train as the fastest way to reach Sugar Hill in Harlem. Originally written for Duke Ellington it was a best seller and made their theme song. The most distinctive versions of the song were made by Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Mel Torme and the Rolling Stones. Duke Ellington played the number in the movie Reveille With Beverly (1943).
- Ten Cents A Dance (1930)
This torch song by Rodgers and Hart is a bit odd as the girl is not rejected but instead wooed by too many men, but alas, none is her true love. The music has a honky tonk feel to it, and Hart's word are evasive and borderline sordid. Ruth Etting introduced the ballad in the musical Simple Simon (1930) and her recording was a best seller. Other memorable records were cut by Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald and Dorothy Loudon. TV fans can also hear Cloris Leachman sing in on the Mary Tyler Show in the episode where Rhoda wins a beauty contest.
- There I've Said It Again (1941)
This is a fox trot, in which a suitor can't help letting the phrase "I love you," slip into conversation and asking to be forgiven. Redd Evans and Dale Mann wrote the song, but it didn't get much attention at first. It wasn't till 1945 when Vaughn Monroe recorded it and sold three and a half million discs. Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, the Lennon Sisters, Roger Whitaker, Vic Damone, Frankie Avalon, Johnny Mathis and Kathy Lee Gifford recorded it as well, but it was in 1964 when Bobby Vinton put his version out that it went to number one again.
- This Little Piggy Went To Market (1933)
This novelty song based on the nursery rhyme of the same name was authored by Sam Coslow (lyric) and Harold Lewis (music). Ruth Etting popularized the number and it was often heard as a "bridge" number between more serious songs in the acts of some of the big band leaders. The Andrews Sisters had a minor hit with it in 1939. It can be heard in the movies Eight Girls In A Boat (1934) and She Made Her Bed (1934)
- Three Little Fishes (Itty Bitty Poo')
This novelty song is ridiculous but extremely catchy. I remember learning this song in first grade. Saxie Dowell wrote the song and it has remained quite popular through the years. They lyric about a mother fish and her children who swim over a dam, is filled with such nonsense as "boop boop dittum dattum wattum, choo."
The number was first a hit for Hal Kemp who did it with the Smoothies. However it was even more popular when Kay Kyser did his version with the vocal by Ish Kabibble. This version shot to the top of the charts and sold a million copies. The number was revived in 1967 by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. This was actually a mix between this number and another song called Too Many Fish In The Sea. The song has been sung and recorded by dozens of artists such as Paul Whiteman, Guy Lombardo, Mitch Ryder and Shelly Duvall.
- Try A Little Tenderness (1933)
The song by Harry Woods, Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly is a cautionary tale, especially when dealing with moody young ladies for they are all waiting for love. The song was first a hit in Great Britain, then came to America when Ruth Etting put it into her act. It became a standard for nightclub acts over the decades and was revived in the 60s by Otis Redding and Three Dog Night. The number can be heard as it's played under the opening credits of the film Dr Strangelove (1964). It was also heard in the movie The Mirror Has Two Face (1996).
- Tuxedo Junction (1939)
Another song I like, this found success first as an instrumental then as a vocal in both forms in the Big Band era. The trio of Erskine Hawkins, William Johnson and Julian Dash composed the swinging music in 1939. Hawkins and his Band played the instrumental number at the Savoy Ballroom in New York. While the recording was a hit, Glenn Miller's version was even a bigger hit. In 1940 Buddy Feyne added his words to it about a railroad junction in Alabama and gave it to the Andrews Sisters to sing. This was a smash hit too. The song has been covered by artists such as, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra and the Manhattan Transfer. It can also be heard in the movies Tuxedo Junction (1941) and The Glenn Miller Story (1954).
- Walking My Baby Back Home (1930)
I really loved this song. I used to sing it. In fact I had a friend who had a cat, and I used to kid her a lot about it. She said the cat hated her and liked everyone else. I wrote a parody of this song called "Beating My Kitty Cat Up." He was a black and white cat and I used to tease her saying he was an all white cat but she beat him black and blue and only the blue parts healed. She figured he wouldn't be so cute and likeable if she messed up his face.
Ok enough, back to the song, which is quite good in of itself. The song written by Roy Tuck and Fred Ahlert about a couple "walking arm and arm over meadow and farm." It is most associated with Harry Richman who sang it for years in his nightclub act. The up-tempo made it a great fit for Nat King Cole who had a hit with it. In 1952 Johnny Ray covered it and that version sold over a million copies. As always my favourite version is by Jo Stafford. It can be heard in the film Walking My Baby Back Home as sung by Donald O'Connor.
- What A Little Moonlight Can Do (1955)
This infectious and semi-swinging number is about the role the moon plays in making a sweetheart fall for you. It was written by American Harry Woods for the British film Roadhouse Nights (1930) but Billie Holiday's version is considered the classic. Benny Goodman had a hit with it in 1950. Peggy Lee, Etta Jones and Tony Bennett had success with it. My favourite version of the song is by Crystal Gayle. Diana Ross can be heard singing it in the bio film of Billie Holiday Lady Sings The Blues (1972)
- When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain (1931)
This song is so strongly identified with Kate Smith it is almost painful to hear anyone else sing it. It was her theme on radio, film, TV, concerts and records, yet is really a simple operatic ballad, in which one looks forward to meeting a loved one once the sun goes down and the moon comes up.
Written by Howard Johnson (lyric) and Harry MacGregor Woods (music) sometimes Smith is credited as well, but there isn't much proof she did anything more than add her name to the song. Being so strongly identified with Smith very few covers of this song have been recorded, but Carl Perkins, Lester Bowie and the Ben Selvin Orchestra gave it a shot. Smith sang it in the films The Big Broadcast (1932) and Hello Everybody (1933).
- The White Cliffs Of Dover (1941)
This American song about peace in Great Britain was extremely popular in both countries during World War II. Walter Kent composed the music while Nat Burton wrote the words, that look forward again to the day when bluebirds would fly over the white cliffs of Dover, rather than the Nazi bombers. The American songwriters were inspired by the newspaper accounts of the London Blitz and the other bombings all over the United Kingdom. Vera Lynn had a huge hit with it in England, and in the States, Kate Smith, Glenn Miller, Kay Kyser and Sammy Kaye had hits with it over here. Almost all the popular radio and recording stars of the 40s made a cover of it. Glenn Miller's recording can be heard in the movie Radio Days (1987).
- Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Woof? (1933)
This song has a very unusual history. What started out, as a simple innocent children's song became an internationally known song that took on deep meaning in the Great Depression. The song was written by Frank Churchill and Ann Ronell about the three pigs that celebrate their victory over the wolf. It was written for the Disney short The Three Little Pigs and it caught on immediately, and everyone seemed to be humming and whistling the tune.
But the number became more tangled when the Communist and Socialist parties that grew in number during the agony of the Great Depression used it as a metaphor, the depression being the "big bad woof" and the song the defiance against the difficulties of the day.
The translation of the song into many languages soon followed and the number was huge hit in the Soviet Union. The song led to a book that claimed it was actually an old Russian fairytale.
It can be heard in the films Babes In Toyland (1934), Bottoms Up (1934) and Ships Cafe (1935)
- Winter Wonderland (1934)
This is one of my most loved Christmastime songs; even though there is no mention of any holiday in the lyric it is a Christmas classic. The lyric paints a portrait of a loving couple strolling thru the snow, building a snowman, and even a marriage proposal. Richard B Smith wrote the lyric and Felix Bernard composed the music that seems to bounce up and down.
Guy Lombardo popularized the song and throughout the next decade virtually every radio artist covered it. In 1950 Guy Lombardo and the Andrews Sisters joined forces and had a smash hit with it selling over a million copies. It can be heard in the movie When Harry Met Sally (1989) as sung by Harry Connick Jr.
- Yes Indeed! (1941)
I have to say this is another classic that dares you to sit still while it is playing. "Get to making with the jive," starts the lyric then follows, "it comes out if it's in you, yes indeed," until one shouts "Hallelujah!"
Sy Oliver calls this a "jive-spiritual" but it is a mixture of boogie-woogie, big band and in some ways it's even a spirited march. Tommy Dorsey introduced the number when his vocalist was Jo Stafford and it was a big hit. But Bing Crosby out did them with his version, which isn't nearly as good as Stafford's but it sold more. Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Connie Francis, Ray Charles and the Isley Brothers have made decent covers of it.
- You Are My Sunshine (1940)
This simple country tune crossed all sorts of music boundaries to become a classic and a standard in pop, country, R&B, jazz and even a classical version. Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell wrote the song about how the sun hasn't shone since one's sweetie has left. Tex Ritter introduced the song in the film Take Me Back To Oklahoma (1940), but Bing Crosby had the biggest selling pop disc. Gene Autry covered it and it was a smash on the country chart sellers. Ray Charles had a hit on the R&B, charts with it in 1962. It has been featured in some two dozen Hollywood movies.
- You Go To My Head (1938)
This simple song by Haven Gillespie (lyric) and J Fred Coots (music) uses alcohol imagery to convey the effect a lover has on the loved one. The song lyrics, which include the phrases "makes my temperature rise," and "spinnin' around in my brain," are quite effective. However, because the song mentions mint juleps, champagne, and "burgundy brew," it was hard to find a publisher. Once the song was recorded it was hard to get airplay because at the time radio stations were "strongly discouraged" from playing drinking songs.
Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra made the song popular and Larry Clinton and Billie Holiday also had hits with it. Kay Kyser, Doris Day, Lena Horne, Linda Rondstadt, Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones have also made respectable covers of the song.
- You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want To Do It) (1931)
This was the first recording song hit for Al Jolson. Although it was associated with Jolson, Fanny Brice and Ruth Etting also made it into their own. But today it is best known from Judy Garland's film Broadway Melody Of 1938 (1937) In this film a teenage Garland sings this song to a photograph of Clark Gable, begging "Dear Mr Gable I am writing you this letter as you see, my heart beats like a hammer and I stutter and I stammer..."
Written by James Monaco (music) and Joseph McCarthy (lyric) as an independent number it was interpolated in the Broadway show The Honeymoon Express (1913). Al Jolson got down and sang it on one knee and the rest they say is history.
Countless versions have been recorded by Louis Armstrong, Connie Francis, Willie Nelson and Harry Nilsson among others.
It was also comically performed on the Carol Burnett Show. TV fans of Burnett will remember a lady who somewhat resembled Bea Arthur's Maude, was in the audience and when Carol talked to her during the opening questions. The lady invited herself up on stage to sing a song. When asked what song she wants to sing, without missing a beat the lady says "You Made Me Love You in they key of G." Then she completely upstages Carol, even correcting her when Burnett mis-sings the words.
- You Oughta Be In Pictures (1934)
This familiar song by Edward Heyman (lyric) and Dana Suesse (music) that compliments a sweetheart by conferring movies star status on her. It was first heard on stage before it was interpolated in the movie Ziegfeld Follies Of 1934 (1934) where it was performed by Jane Froman. Doris Day performed it in the movie Starlift (1951). Guy Lombardo had the most popular version and other notable versions were made by Andy Williams, Connie Francis, Rudy Vallee and Mel Torme.
- Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart (1934)
This oddly effective song by James Hanley can be sung as an up tempo number or a slow ballad, oddly enough Judy Garland sang it both ways in one song. Introduced in the Broadway show Thumbs Up! it didn't catch on till Judy Garland sang it in the movie Listen Darling (1938). She also put out a hit record. It was recorded by most radio artists during the 40s and was put out in 1972 in a disco version by the Trammps. The more prominent discs were cut by Dinah Shore, Dick Haymes, Brenda Lee, and Frank Sinatra.