(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey
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"(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey", originally titled "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please.... Come Home?" is a popular song published in 1902. It is commonly referred to as simply "Bill Bailey".
Its words and music were written by Hughie Cannon, an American songwriter and pianist, and published by Howley, Haviland and Dresser. It is still a standard with Dixieland and traditional jazz bands. The simple 32-bar chord sequence of its chorus also underpins many other tunes played mainly by jazz bands, such as "Over the Waves", "Washington and Lee Swing", "Bourbon Street Parade", "My Little Girl", and the final themes of "Tiger Rag" and "The Beer Barrel Polka".
Cannon wrote the song in 1902 when he was working as a bar pianist at Conrad Deidrich’s Saloon in Jackson, Michigan. Willard "Bill" Bailey was a regular customer and friend, and one night told Cannon about his marriage to Sarah (née Siegrist). Cannon "was inspired to rattle off a ditty about Bailey’s irregular hours. Bailey thought the song was a scream [i.e. very good], and he brought home a dashed-off copy of the song to show Sarah. Sarah couldn’t see the humor.... [but] accepted without comment the picture it drew of her as a wife." Cannon sold all rights to the song to a New York publisher, and died from cirrhosis aged 35. Willard and Sarah Bailey later divorced; he died in 1954, and she died in 1976 aged about 102. (See New York Times archives 1976, unknown date)
It was a #1 hit for Arthur Collins in July 1902. Among the artists who have covered the song are Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Patsy Cline, Dan Hornsby, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin from Take a Look (1967), Brenda Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Durante, Phish, Danny Barker, Harry Connick Jr., Renee Olstead, Michael Bublé, Sam Cooke, Al Hirt and others. Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961). Singer and actress Della Reese recorded the song in 1961, and it entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number #98, and became a part of her performance repertoire. In Britain, the Edwardian music hall star Victoria Monks (1884–1927) popularised the song in 1905 and thereafter it became her most demanded and remembered song.
Most commonly it is performed in a truncated version based on the chorus. While the chorus is much more familiar than the verse, some artists continue to perform the verse as well, sometimes as an introduction. Without the lyrics of the seldom heard verse, one doesn't know who Bill Bailey is nor why he isn't home. (An unusual approach is Bobby Darin's version, as he added his own spoken word introduction, as an aside to the mythical Bailey.)
In the "The Happy Household" episode of The Flintstones, first aired February 23, 1962, Wilma Flintstone belts out a portion of the song while auditioning for "The Happy Housewife" TV cooking show.
In the "Miss Solar System" episode of The Jetsons, first aired February 3, 1963, Jane belts out "Won't You Fly Home Bill Spacely" in Hanna-Barbera's own parody of the song. Hanna-Barbera (with Cartoon Network Studios) makes more frequent use of the song throughout its Johnny Bravo cartoon series.
Children's performer Tom Chapin recorded a version of this song on his album Some Assembly Required.
In The Simpsons episode "Whacking Day", Grampa Simpson is seen posing as a female cabaret singer in Nazi Germany, singing a version of this song - with "Franz Brauder" replacing "Bill Bailey" - to Adolf Hitler.
The 1980 Smurfs album, Smurfing Sing Song, includes a version of this song entitled "Smurf Baby", in which the chorus is repeated with the name "Bill Bailey" replaced with "Smurf Baby".
Sandler & Young recorded a 20-minute medley where Bill Bailey is adapted to England, France, Switzerland, Nashville, Italian opera, Bach, Israel (with Jewish jokes), and climaxing with the United States.
In Avalon Family Entertainment's Jack and the Beanstalk, Grayson the Goose played by Gilbert Gottfried now half human and half goose after eating one of the magic beans begins to sing "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey" to Jack played by Colin Ford, until Jack covers his ears and groans when he can't stand the singing (along with some wolves/dogs that were howling in the distance).
A Saturday Night Live sketch from 2010 depicts a Manhattan cocktail party in 1928, at which the hostess (Kristen Wiig) attempts to sing several songs, including "Bill Bailey", with one of the guests (Jon Hamm) accompanying her on piano, but repeatedly misses her cue to begin.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- http://www.perfessorbill.com/lyrics/lybailey.htm (lyrics)
- http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/sheetmusic/n/n09/n0971/ (traditional arrangement from "Historic American Sheet Music")