I Ain't Got Nobody
|"I Ain't Got Nobody"|
Sheet music cover
|Music by||Spencer Williams|
|Lyrics by||Roger Graham|
"I Ain't Got Nobody" is a popular song copyrighted in 1915. Roger Graham (1885–1938) wrote the lyrics, Spencer Williams composed it,  and Roger Graham Music Publishing published it. It became a perennial standard, recorded many times over following generations, in styles ranging from pop to jazz to country music.
Chicago and Saint Louis ragtime pianist and blues composer Charles Warfield (1878–1955) claimed to have originally written the song and a copyright dated April 1914 attributes Warfield as the composer, David Young as the lyricist, and Marie Lucas as the arranger. The title of the song is given as "I Ain't Got Nobody and Nobody Cares for Me". Williams's copyright entry from 1916 under a shorter title attributes the composition to Davy Peyton and himself and the lyrics to publisher Roger Graham.
Clarence E. Brandon, Sr. and Billy Smythe, both St. Louis musicians, both claim that they wrote the first version, words and music, of "I Ain't Got Nobody, filed 2 copyrights 1911, and published it that same year.
Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody medley
"I Ain't Got Nobody" is best known in a form first recorded by Louis Prima in 1956, where it was paired in a medley with another old standard, "Just a Gigolo". Prima started pairing the songs in 1945 and the idea was revisited in the popular arrangement in a new, jive-and-jumping style, created by Sam Butera for Prima's 1950s Las Vegas stage show. The success of that act gained Prima a recording deal with Capitol Records, which aimed to capture on record the atmosphere of his shows. The first album, titled The Wildest! and released in January 1957, opened with "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody", which then became Prima's signature number and helped relaunch his career. David Lee Roth covered the Sam Butera arrangement in 1985, enjoying a sizeable hit for himself. Butera was not credited for the arrangement and was not paid royalties by Roth.
Although the two songs have nothing else in common, the popularity of Prima's combination, further popularised by Roth has led to the mistaken perception by some that the songs are two parts of a single original composition.
Many artists had hit records with the song, starting with Marion Harris in 1916. Famous hit versions in the 1920s included those of Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, and Louis Armstrong. In the 1930s it was a hit for Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Cab Calloway, Wingy Manone, and Chick Webb. Other notable recordings of include those of Emmett Miller, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, Coleman Hawkins, and Rosemary Clooney.
The song was performed by the Mills Brothers in a 1932 Screen Songs cartoon of the same name.
The chorus of the song is quoted in the Roaring Lion's calypso "The Four Mills Brothers." This song in turn was covered by Van Dyke Parks for his Discover America album and performed by Parks with the members of Yellow Magic Orchestra for Haruomi Hosono's birthday tribute concert in 2007.
Marty Feldman sings the first few bars in a scene from Young Frankenstein, where only his character's head appears in a line of skulls, thus making it appear as if he had no body.
Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3, Musical Compositions
- "I Ain't Got Nobody"
Words by David Young, music by Charles Warfield
Copyrighted as an unpublished work 8 April 1914 by David Young
- New Series, Vol. 10, Part 1, 1st half of 1915, Nos. 1–7, pg. 87
"Ain't Got Nobody Much"
Words and music by D. Peyton & S. Williams
Copyrighted as an unpublished work 28 January 1915 by David Peyton & Spencer Williams, Chicago (1432)
- New Series, Vol. 10, Part 1, 1st half of 1916, Nos. 1–7, pg. 179
"I Ain't Got Nobody"
Words by Roger Graham, music by Spencer Williams & Dave Peyton
Copyrighted 7 February 1916, copyrighted again 21 February 1916 by Craig & Co., Chicago (E377653) †
- New Series, Vol. 37, Part 1, 1st half of 1942, Nos. 1–6, pg. 675
"I Ain't Got Nobody and Nobody Care for Me"
Music by Charles Warfield, arrangement by Marie Lucas
Copyright renewed 30 March 1942 by David Young, Chicago (R 106287)
- Volume 4, Part 5A, No. 1, 1st half of 1950
"I Ain't Got Nobody"
Words by Roger Graham, music by Spencer Williams, arrangement, arrangement by Bill Howard
Copyrighted 15 June 1950 by Mayfair Music Corp., New York (EP47548)
- † Copyright deposit copies are professional editions
- I Ain't Got Nobody (and Nobody Cares for Me), editor-in-chief: Sandra Burlingame, Portland, Oregon: jazzStandards.com, LLC (publisher) . Retrieved 2009-06-14.; OCLC 71004558
- For Me and My Gal and Other Favorite Song Hits, 1915-1917, by David A. Jasen, Dover Publications (1994); OCLC 30075424
- Baby Won't You Please Come Home, editor-in-chief: Sandra Burlingame, Portland, Oregon: jazzStandards.com, LLC (publisher) . Retrieved 2009-06-14.; OCLC 71004558
- Blackface. Au confluent des voix mortes (Blackface: Where Dead Voices Gather), by Nick Tosches, Jonathan Cape (publisher) (2002), pg. 149; ISBN 2-84485-110-X; OCLC 50525736 and 401741289
- The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, by James Terry White, New York: James T. White Company, Vol. 17 (1920), pg. 42
- Spreadin' Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songwriters, 1880–1930, David A Jasen, Gene Jones, Schirmer Books (1998), pg. 170; OCLC 38216305
- The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk, by James J. Fuld (1916-2008), Toronto: General Publishing Company, Ltd. (2000) pg. 284
- Live-Action Sequence from "I Ain't Got Nobody" with the Mills Brothers (Poor Quality)
- Historic Vitaphone Recording - Jazzmania Quintet, with Georgie Stoll on Stroh violin, playing I Ain't Got Nobody