I Ain't Got Nobody

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"I Ain't Got Nobody"
I Ain't Got Nobody cover.jpg
Sheet music cover
Published 1915
Genre Jazz
Songwriter(s) Composer: Spencer Williams
Lyricist: Roger A. Graham

"I Ain't Got Nobody" (sometimes referred to as "I'm So Sad and Lonely") is a popular song copyrighted in 1915. Roger A. Graham (1885–1938) wrote the lyrics, Spencer Williams composed it,[1] and Roger Graham Music Publishing published it.[2] 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[3] 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.[4]

In 1916, Frank K. Root & Co., a Chicago publisher[5] (né Frank Kimball Root; 1856–1932), acquired the Craig & Co. copyright, and, later that year, also acquired the Warfield-Young copyright.[6]

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 two copyrights 1911, and published it that same year.[2]

"Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" medley[edit]

I Ain't Got Nobody.pdf

"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.

The Village People recorded a disco version of the "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" medley for their 1978 album Macho Man.

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.[citation needed]

Although the two songs have nothing else in common, the popularity of Prima's combination, further popularized by Roth, has led to the mistaken perception by some that the songs are two parts of a single original composition.

In 2017, the Spanish band De Morao Swing Tablao released a version of this song by double pairing it with the popular Spanish song, "María de la O".

Notable use[edit]

Many artists had hit records with the song, starting with Marion Harris in 1917. Famous hit versions in the 1920s included those of Bessie Smith 1926 #8, Fats Waller, and Louis Armstrong 1929/1959/1964. In the 1930s, it was a hit for Bing Crosby 1941, the Mills Brothers 1931, Cab Calloway 1935, Wingy Manone and Chick Webb. Other notable recordings include those of Emmett Miller, Merle Haggard 1970, Bob Wills 1935, Coleman Hawkins and Rosemary Clooney 1961.

The jazz group, the Mound City Blue Blowers, performed the song in a short film in 1929. Three years later, the Mills Brothers sang the number in a Screen Songs cartoon of the same name. It was also featured briefly in a Harman and Ising Technicolor cartoon, "Poor Little Me", in 1935. In the 1956 Warner Brothers cartoon Napoleon Bunny-Part, the song is listed in a jukebox under the title "I Ain't Got No Head For My Body", performed by "The Guillotineers".

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 literally "had no body."

Roy Smeck, also known as the Wizard of the Strings, recorded an instrumental rendition of "I Ain't Got Nobody" on his 1959 album The Magic Ukulele of Roy Smeck, which also saw a reissue in 2003.

Other artists who have recorded the song include Kitty Hart, Ruth Etting 1926, Sophie Tucker 1927, Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra 1927, Ted Lewis 1928, Sammy Davis, Jr. 1949, Ann-Margret 1961, Bobby Darin 1963, Teresa Brewer 1983, Leon Redbone 1983/1994, and Asleep at the Wheel 1999.


Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3, Musical Compositions

† Copyright deposit copies are professional editions[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ a b For Me and My Gal and Other Favorite Song Hits, 1915-1917, by David A. Jasen, Dover Publications (1994); OCLC 30075424
  3. ^ Baby Won't You Please Come Home, editor-in-chief: Sandra Burlingame, Portland, Oregon: jazzStandards.com, LLC (publisher) . Retrieved 2009-06-14.; OCLC 71004558
  4. ^ 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, 401741289
  5. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, by James Terry White, New York: James T. White Company, Vol. 17 (1920), pg. 42
  6. ^ Spreadin' Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songwriters, 1880–1930, David A Jasen, Gene Jones, Schirmer Books (1998), pg. 170; OCLC 38216305
  7. ^ The Book of World-famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk, by James J. Fuld (1916-2008), Toronto: General Publishing Company, Ltd. (2000) pg. 284

External links[edit]