Carleton penned the 16-bar tune when he was club pianist in Illinois and first popularized it with singer Cliff Edwards. The sheet music for "Ja-Da" was published in 1918 by Leo Feist, Inc., New York. The tune was briefly famous, and then spent 35 years as a well-known standard.
In his definitive American Popular Songs, Alec Wilder writes about the song's simplicity:
... It fascinates me that such a trifling tune could have settled into the public consciousness as Ja-Da has. Of course it's bone simple, and the lyric says almost nothing, except perhaps the explanation of its success lies in the lyric itself. "That's a funny little bit of melody—it's soothing and appealing to me." It's cute, it's innocent, and it's "soothing." And, wonderfully enough, the only other statement the lyric makes is "Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Jing, Jing, Jing."
Selected renditions of Ja-Da
- Player piano roll, Vocalstyle Company, #11302. Vodvil Series, as played by Cliff Hess
- 1918 — Original New Orleans Jazz Band
- 1919 — Arthur Fields with Billy Murray
- 1938 — Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet
- 1939 — Alice Faye sings it in the musical film Rose of Washington Square (1939)
- 1945 — Bunk Johnson and Don Ewell
- 1947 — Frank Sinatra & Peggy Lee
- 1947 — Muggsy Spanier
- 1954 — Big Chief Jazzband (on the 78 rpm record His Master's Voice A.L. 3401)
- 1955 — Marian McPartland - At the Hickory House
- 1957 — Pee Wee Hunt
- 1958 — Ted Heath Orchestra
- 1961 — Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
- 1982, 1986, and 1987 — Musical entertainers Sharon, Lois & Bram & The Mammoth Band, recorded live and in studio
- Al Hirt
- Oscar Peterson
- Erroll Garner
- Louis Armstrong
- Al Jarreau
- Hot Tuna as "Keep On Truckin'"
- Johnny and The Hurricanes
- Bobby Hackett
- God-des and She
- The Fireballs, the band were singing that song, in 1966.
- Scott Walker chorus sung in song "Psoriatic" from 2006's The Drift
- Sonny Rollins 're-invented it' using the Ja-Da chords for his composition "Doxy" in 1954.
Rendition used in comedy
- In the 1970s, the tune was appropriated by the Canadian comedy duo Maclean and Maclean, who recorded it as their signature piece, with bawdy lyrics added.
- Wilder, Alec (1972). American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 26. ISBN 0-19-501445-6.
- "Ja-Da" sung by Alice Faye in Rose of Washington Square (1939), audio file only, on YouTube
- First released on Burgers. Title, lyrics and some chord changes in this rendition (and the band name 'Hot Tuna') are related to a song first recorded by Blind Boy Fuller, Truckin' My Blues Away, the origin for the phrase "Keep on Truckin'". This recording reappeared on Flight Log, a 1977 compilation by Jefferson Airplane and related bands, this time with the double title "Ja Da (Keep on Truckin')". The song is credited to Carleton or, on recent releases, as "traditional" (for example, on Live in Japan). "Burgers".; "Flight Log".; "Live in Japan". allmusic. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- Fox, Charles; McCarthy, Albert (1960). Jazz on record: a critical guide to the first 50 years, 1917-1967. Hanover Books. p. 62.