My Melancholy Baby

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1920s sheet music cover featuring Gene Austin

"My Melancholy Baby" is a popular song published in 1912 and first sung publicly by William Frawley. The music was written by Ernie Burnett (1884–1959), the lyrics by George A. Norton (1880–1923).[1]

Notable performances[edit]

William Frawley, who played Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy, claimed to be the first person to perform the song publicly, in 1912 in the Mozart Cafe at 1647 Curtis Street in Denver, Colorado. Frawley told that story during a May 3, 1965, appearance on the TV game show I've Got a Secret.

Ernie Burnett, who composed the music, was wounded fighting in the First World War, and he lost his memory and his identity dog tags. While recuperating in hospital, a pianist entertained the patients with popular tunes including "Melancholy Baby". Burnett rose from his sickbed and exclaimed, "That's my song!" He had regained his memory.[2]

The song was recorded by Walter Van Brunt (1915), Gene Austin (1928), Al Bowlly (1935), and Teddy Wilson.[3] The song can be heard often throughout the 1939 Warner Brothers gangster movie The Roaring Twenties, where a vocal rendition of the song is performed by costar Priscilla Lane.

Bing Crosby recorded the song for Decca Records on December 12, 1938[4] and it reached No. 14 in the charts of the day.[3]

Crosby sang the song in the 1941 Oscar-nominated movie Birth of the Blues. Harry James recorded a version in 1941 on Columbia.[5]

In the 1942 film Johnny Eager, the song was played during the opening and closing credits, as background music throughout the film, and as dance music by the band at Tony Luce's place. It was not credited.

The song appears both incidentally and in thematic background variations in the musical score of Fritz Lang's 1945 film Scarlet Street starring Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson.

Judy Garland sang it during the "Born in a Trunk" sequence in the 1954 movie A Star Is Born after a drunken man persistently shouted, "Sing 'Melancholy Baby'!" In the same year John Serry Sr. arranged and recorded the song for his swing jazz accordion ensemble for radio broadcasts on NBC.

In 1958, William Frawley performed the song again on the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour on the episode "Lucy Goes to Sun Valley". Frawley, as Fred Mertz, was asked by Ricky to perform "an old-fashioned ballad" for his band's appearance on a TV show. Mertz sang the song in the rehearsal scene for the musical number.[6]

Tommy Edwards MGM single of the tune[7] reached No. 15 in the U.S. Music Vendor charts in 1959.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ My Melancholy Baby. Library of Congress. Retrieved on 2010-12-06.
  2. ^ Furia, Philip; Lasser, Michael (2006). America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley. New York: Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 0-415-97246-9. 
  3. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories, 1890–1954. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 555. ISBN 0-89820-083-0. 
  4. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. Retrieved April 2, 2017. 
  5. ^ "allmusic.com". allmusic.com. Retrieved April 2, 2017. 
  6. ^ Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr., Bob Schiller, Bob Weiskopf (1958-04-14). "Lucy Goes to Sun Valley". Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Season 7. Episode 5. 30:02 minutes in. CBS. 
  7. ^ "45cat.com". 45cat.com. Retrieved April 2, 2017.