My Blue Heaven (song)

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"My Blue Heaven"
Music by Walter Donaldson
Lyrics by George A. Whiting
Published 1927
Written 1924
Original artist Gene Austin and the Victor Orchestra (1927)
Recorded by Jimmie Lunceford (1935), Fats Domino (1956)
Performed by Tommy Lyman (1920s, as his theme song)

"My Blue Heaven" is a popular song written by Walter Donaldson with lyrics by George A. Whiting. It has become part of various fake book collections.[1][2]

In 1928, "My Blue Heaven" became a huge hit on Victor 20964-A for crooner Gene Austin, accompanied by the Victor Orchestra as directed by Nat Shilkret; it charted for 26 weeks, stayed at #1 for 13, and sold over five million copies becoming one of the best selling singles of all time.[3] Victor 20964-A was recorded on September 14, 1927[4] and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978; the recording was reissued as Victor 24573 and has been reissued on several commercially available CDs.[5]

In 1928, Blue Amberol Records released an instrumental piano version by Muriel Pollock (issue number 5471).[6][7]

Background[edit]

The music for "My Blue Heaven" was written in 1924: "Donaldson wrote it one afternoon at the Friars Club in New York while waiting for his turn at the billiard table."[8] The song was written while Donaldson was under contract to Irving Berlin, working for Berlin's publishing company, Irving Berlin Inc.[9] George A. Whiting wrote lyrics adapted for Donaldson's music, and for a while, performed it in his vaudeville act; three years later, Tommy Lyman started singing it on the radio as his theme song.[8]

Austin, unhappy with the Victor Company and "convinced that the best material which he brought to the company’s attention was going to other artists", "gave Nat Shilkret an ultimatum that he wouldn’t do another session unless his interpretation [of "My Blue Heaven"] was commercially released. According to Austin, an agreement was reached for "My Blue Heaven" to be coupled with "Are You Thinking of Me Tonight?", the most highly regarded song among those he was planning to record at that time."[10] On the day "My Blue Heaven" was to be recorded, after takes of the other songs had been completed, to Austin's surprise the musicians packed up and left the studio; Shilkret told Austin they had a conflict, but in a scene documented by H. Allen Smith in his A Short History of Fingers, Austin "grabbed an old guy with a cello and talked him into standing by. Then [he] grabbed a song plugger who could play pretty fair piano. And the third fellow [he] got was an agent who could whistle – bird calls and that sort of thing."[10] Austin recorded "My Blue Heaven" with that hastily assembled trio.[10]

Copyright[edit]

Donaldson established his own publishing company in 1928, and his rights in the song were apparently assigned to his company at that time, with the song listed as having been published by George Whiting Music and Donaldson Music.[11]

The song was subject to copyright in 1925 and 1927. These copyrights were renewed in 1953 and 1955, after the death of both composers, at which time the rights in the song were owned by Leo Feist, Inc.. The rights were thereafter assigned to the EMI Catalogue Partnership, controlled and administered by EMI Feist Catalog Inc.[12]

Other recorded versions[edit]

"My Blue Heaven"
Single by Fats Domino
B-side "I'm in Love Again"
Released March 1956 (1956-03)
Genre Rhythm and blues
Label Imperial
5386
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Dave Bartholomew
Fats Domino chronology
"Bo Weevil"
(1956)
"My Blue Heaven"/"I'm in Love Again"
(1956)
"When My Dreamboat Comes Home"
(1956)

The song has become a standard. Hit versions were also recorded by Jimmie Lunceford in 1935 and Fats Domino in 1956. The Fats Domino version was a two sided hit, with, "I'm in Love Again" and reached number nineteen on the Billboard magazine charts and number five on the R&B Best Sellers chart.[13]

Mary Lou Williams recording a version for her 1964 Folkways Records album Mary Lou Williams Presents (F 2843);[14] Smithsonian Folkways re-issued the recording as part of its 2004 album Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes (SFW40816).[14][15]

Other cover versions include:

CD reissues of original recording[edit]

The 1928 Victor recording (20964-A) by Gene Austin, accompanied by Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra, has had several late 20th century and early 21st century reissues:

  • Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, compilation, ASV Living Era: AJA 5292, 1998
  • Gene Austin: Singer and Songwriter, Gene Austin, Collectors' Choice: CCM1040, 2002
  • Nipper's Greatest Hits--The 20s, compilation, BMG-RCA 2258-2-R, 1990
  • They Sold a Million, compilation, Pulse: PBX CD 430, 1999
  • The Voice of the Southland, Gene Austin, ASV AJA 5217, 1996
  • Yes, Sir, That's My Baby, compilation, New World: 80279-2

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fake Book Index". Music Library. University at Buffalo Libraries. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  2. ^ "Fake Book Index". Stan Getz Library. Berklee College of Music. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  3. ^ CD liner notes: Chart-Toppers of the Twenties, 1998 ASV Ltd.
  4. ^ "Matrix BVE-39179. My blue heaven / Gene Austin". Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  5. ^ Shilkret, Nathaniel, ed. Shell, Niel and Barbara Shilkret, Nathaniel Shilkret: Sixty Years in the Music Business, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, 2005, pp 75, 237, 257, 265 and 272. ISBN 0-8108-5128-8
  6. ^ "My blue heaven". Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. UC Santa Barbara Library. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  7. ^ Muriel Pollock (1928). My blue heaven (MP3) (phonograph cylinder). Santa Barbara, California: Blue Amberol Records via UC Santa Barbara Library. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  8. ^ a b David Ewen (1977). All the Years of American Popular Music. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 
  9. ^ Biography of Walter Donaldson; www.songwritershalloffame.org
  10. ^ a b c Frank Hoffmann. publisher= Sam Houston State University "Gene Austin". Survey of American Popular Music" The Crooners/Tin Pan Alley Pop Tradition. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  11. ^ Walter Donaldson, "Catalog Highlights", with publishing particulars; www.songwritershalloffame.org. The legal name of Donaldson's publishing company was Donaldson, Douglas and Grumble, Inc.; see Walter Donaldson.
  12. ^ Teddy Shaw Wilson, My Blue Heaven (Digital Sheet Music); www.freehandmusic.com.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 167. 
  14. ^ a b "Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes" (PDF). Liner notes for Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. p. 28. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  15. ^ "Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2011-06-12.