Straighten Up and Fly Right

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"Straighten Up and Fly Right"
Single by The King Cole Trio
ReleasedApril 14, 1944 (1944-04-14)
RecordedNovember 30, 1943 (1943-11-30)[1]
StudioC.P. MacGregor, Hollywood[2]
LabelCapitol 154
Songwriter(s)Nat King Cole, Irving Mills
Producer(s)Johnny Mercer
The King Cole Trio singles chronology
"All for You"
"Straighten Up and Fly Right"
"Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You"

"Straighten Up and Fly Right" is a 1943 song written by Nat King Cole and Irving Mills and one of the first vocal hits for the King Cole Trio.[3] It was the trio's most popular single, reaching number one on the Harlem Hit Parade for ten nonconsecutive weeks. The single also peaked at number nine on the pop charts.[4] "Straighten Up and Fly Right" also reached number one for six nonconsecutive weeks on the Most Played Jukebox Hillbilly Records.[5]


The song was based on a black folk tale that Cole's father had used as a theme for one of his sermons. In the tale, a buzzard takes different animals for a joy ride. When he gets hungry, he throws them off on a dive and eats them for dinner. A monkey who had observed this trick goes for a ride; he wraps his tail around the buzzard's neck and gives the buzzard a big surprise by nearly choking him to death.[2]

The King Cole Trio recorded the song, along with "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You," "If You Can’t Smile and Say Yes," and "Jumpin' at Capitol" for Capitol Records during a 3-hour recording session at C.P. MacGregor Studios in Hollywood on November 30, 1943, with Johnny Mercer producing and John Palladino engineering the session.[2]

Cover versions[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The song was a part of the score of the 1943 film Here Comes Elmer.[7]
  • The song was used in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. John Glenn (played by Ed Harris) correctly guesses the song on the show Name That Tune. Jeff Goldblum, who recorded a version of the song in 2018, plays one of the NASA recruiters (along with Harry Shearer) who immediately guess the correct song while watching Glenn on television.
  • The song was used in the 1995 HBO historical war drama The Tuskegee Airmen and the title was quoted by the pilots when going into battle.
  • The Andrews Sisters' version is featured in the 2010 video game Mafia II as one of the in-game radio songs and was used in the trailer for the Power Armor Edition of Fallout 76 in addition to being in the in-game radio.
  • The song was used in the season 4 episode of Tales from the Crypt, "Split Personality".
  • The song was used in NBC's drama series This Is Us, "The best washing machine in the whole world". Rebecca Pearson (played by Mandy Moore) sang the song during rehearsal.
  • The song was most recently (2019) used in episode 1 of George Clooney's re-tooling of Catch 22 as a miniseries for Hulu, the U.S.-based subscription video on demand service.
  • The Nat King Cole's version of the song was quoted by Maya Angelou in her bestseller "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings"
  • The Perseverance rover executed a "Straighten Up and Fly Right" maneuver during its descent towards the Mars surface.
  • Aardman's 2000 film "Chicken Run" originally used the song Straighten Up and Fly Right in the flight school scene on the workprint 2.0, but the song was eventually cut from the final product.[8]


  1. ^ "Capitol 100 - 499, 78rpm numerical listing discography". Retrieved 2022-04-23.
  2. ^ a b c Cogan, Jim; Clark, William (2003). Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios. San Francisco, California, USA: Chronicle Books. p. 17. ISBN 0-8118-3394-1.
  3. ^ Gilliland, John (January 15, 1972). "Pop Chronicles 1940s Program #11". UNT Digital Library.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 126.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 85.
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 228.
  7. ^ "Movie Reviews". The New York Times. January 15, 2021 – via
  8. ^ Aardman Animations (2000-03-22), Chicken Run Workprint 2.0, retrieved 2023-09-15