1. Ain’t she sweet by Harry Bidgood and his broadcasters
Released on Broadcast 129 in 1927. “Ain’t she sweet” was written in 1927 by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics) and was immediately popular , being recorded by among others Paul Whiteman, Jack Payne, The Dixie Stompers, Roy Butler, The Blue Diamond Orchestra and Harry Bidgood in 1927 alone. The song’s popularity continued over the next few decades with many other versions recorded, including Lillian Roth (1933), Benny Goodman (1947), Sid Phillips (1950), Winifred Atwell (1955), Gene Vincent (1956), Frank Sinatra (1962) and Lena Zavaroni (1982). In 1961 a version of the song was recorded by a pre-fame line up of The Beatles (with Pete Best on drums rather than Ringo Starr). Unreleased at the time, it was issued as a single by Polydor in 1964 and reached number 29 in the UK charts in a 6 week chart run. Another version recorded during the “Get back/Let it be” sessions in 1969 remained unreleased until 1996 when it appeared on the “Anthology 3” album.
2. Are you lonesome tonight ? by Sam Lanin and his dance orchestra
Released in 1928 by Imperial (1920). Sam Lanin was born on September 4 1891 in Russia, one of ten children. The family emigrated to America in the early 1900s, and Sam started playing with the Victor Herbert Orchestra in 1912. In 1918 he moved to New York where he founded the Roseland Orchestra at the Roseland ballroom, making his first recordings in the early ’20s, recording prolifically under a variety of names over the next decade. However, his popularity waned and he retired from music in the late ’30s, never to return. He died on May 5 1977. His brother Lester was also a bandleader and had a much lengthier career in music.
“Are you lonesome tonight?” was written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926. It became popular the following year with versions by Vaughn De Leath, Henry Burr, Harmony Dance Orchestra, Stanley Kirkby, and Frank Munn. Later versions were recorded by Blue Barron Orchestra (1950), Al Jolson (1950), Frank Sinatra (1962), Pat Boone (1966), Doris Day (1967), Donny Osmond (1973), Merle Haggard (1977) and Bryan Ferry (1992) but it is Elvis Presley’s 1960 version which is the best known.
3. My resistance is low by Hoagy Carmichael
Released by Brunswick (04710) in 1951. The music was written by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Harold Adamson. Not initially a hit, the song became popular after being used in the 1952 film The Las Vegas Story (starring Jane Russell), but was a bigger hit in the UK than the US, and became a number 3 hit when covered by Robin Sarstedt (brother of “Where do you go to my lovely” hitmaker Peter) in 1976. Other cover versions include The Shadows (instrumental version, 1961), Georgie Fame and Annie Ross (1981), and Elvis Costello, Paul Riley & Pete Thomas (1994).
Hoagy Carmichael was born on November 22 1899, in Bloomington, Indiana. He started playing piano at 6 and started writing songs in the 1920s, writing the music to “Stardust” in 1927, which became a hit after lyrics were added in 1929. In the ’30s he had success as a songwriter with hits such as “Lazybones”, “Heart and soul” and “I get along without you very well (except sometimes)”. In the ’40s he continued writing songs but also appeared in films including “To have and have not” (appearing with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall), “The best years of our lives” and “Young man with a horn”. Later he also acted in several TV series. He died on December 27 1981.
4. Spread a little happiness by Original Havana band
Released in 1929 on Broadcast 350. “Spread a little happiness” was written in 1928 by Vivian Ellis and Clifford Grey for the stage musical “Mr Cinders”. Binnie Hale appeared in the stage production and released a version of the song on the Columbia label, and there were also versions by The New Mayfair Orchestra and Raie Da Costa. Sting’s version was recorded in 1982 for the soundtrack of the film Brimstone and Treacle, and reached number 16 in the UK charts.
The Original Havana Band were previously known as The Savoy Havana Band. As The Original Havana Band they also released “Sweet Sue-Just you”, “Crazy Rhythm”, “Out of the dawn” and “Song of the sea”.
5. Smoke gets in your eyes by Turner Layton
Released by Columbia (DB 1574) in 1934. “Smoke gets in your eyes” was written for the 1933 musical Roberta by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach and was first recorded by Gertrude Niesen. The song was immediately popular and soon covered by Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, Chick Bullock and his Levee Loungers, Elsie Carlisle, Jack Payne, Lew Stone, and Carroll Gibbons and his Boyfriends. There have been hit versions in the UK charts (which only started in 1952) by The Platters (Number 1, 1959, Blue Cheer (32, 1972), Bryan Ferry (17, 1974), and John Alford (13, 1996).
Turner Layton was born on July 2 1894 and is best known as being half of the duo Layton and Johnstone. He was also one half of a successful songwriting partnership with Henry Creamer, their best known composition being “After you’re gone”, a hit for Sophie Tucker. He died on February 6 1978.
6. These foolish things by Jean Sablon
“These foolish things” was written in 1936 by Eric Maschwitz (lyrics) and Jack Strachey (music). Billie Holiday was one of the first people to record the song, and 1936 also saw versions by Lew Stone, Leslie Hutchinson, Roy Fox, Victor Young and Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans. Later versions were recorded by Nat King Cole (1957), Frank Sinatra (1945 and 1961), James Brown (1963), Sammy Davis Jnr (1965), Bryan Ferry (1974) and Michael Buble (2008), among many others.
Jean Sablon was born on March 25 1906 to a musical family-his father was a composer and his siblings were also musicians. He started as a pianist but switched to become a vocalist, making his debut aged 17 in cabaret in Paris. During the ’20s and ’30s he toured extensively, achieving fame in Brazil and the USA. He also appeared in several films including “The story of Vernon and Irene Castle” (1939), “Miranda” (1948), and “Je connais une blonde” (1963). He died on February 24 1994.
7. Way down yonder in New Orleans by Al Jolson & The Andrews Sisters
Released by Brunswick (04537) in 1951. “Way down yonder in New Orleans” was written in 1922 by Turner Layton and Henry Creamer and featured in the Broadway musical “Spice of 1922”. It was recorded by The Peerless Quartet in 1922, Paul Whiteman in 1923 and Layton and Johnstone in 1927, among others. The song remained popular through to the ’50s with a successful version recorded by Frankie Laine and Jo Stafford in 1953 and Freddy Cannon reached number 3 with his version in both the UK and US charts in 1959.
Al Jolson was born Asa Yoelson on May 26 1886 in Lithuania. His family moved to the USA in 1894 and he began his musical career in 1897 when he and his brother Hirsch (aka Harry) started singing for money on street corners. In 1911 he starred in his first musical revue and over the following years became one of America’s most popular and highest paid performers. It was during this period that Jolson started performing in blackface. He had huge hits in the ’20s with songs such as “Swanee”, “My Mammy” and “Rock-a-bye your baby with a Dixie melody”. In 1927 he starred in “The Jazz singer”, considered to be the first full length talkie. He went on to appear in other films such as “The singing fool” (1928), “Hallelujah, I’m a bum” (1933), “The singing kid” (1936), and “Rose of Washington square” (1939). In 1942 Jolson’s career was revived by the film “The Jolson Story” and he started recording again for Brunswick. A sequel, “Jolson sings again” was released in 1949 but Jolson’s renewed success was cut short by his death on October 23 1950, after appearing for the troops in Korea.
8. The sunshine of your smile by Lilian Davies
Released by His Master’s Voice (B 3599) in 1930. “The Sunshine of your smile” was written in 1913 by Leonard Cooke (lyrics) and Lilian Ray (music). Several versions were soon recorded, including those by Fred Douglas, Ernest Pike, Jessie Broughton, John McCormack, Gertie Dickeson and Norah Johnson. The song remained popular with later versions by Jussi Bjorling (1930), Frank Sinatra (1941), James Melton (1950) and Mike Berry (1980, number 9 in the UK charts).
Lilian Davies was an actress and singer who found fame on the London stage in 1923. She died in 1932 from complications arising from pleurisy aged 37.
9. Cry me a river by Marion Ryan.
Released by PYE Nixa (N 15018) in 1956. “Cry me a river” was written by Arthur Hamilton in 1953, and was originally intended for Ella Fitzgerald to sing in the film “Pete Kelly’s Blues” but was dropped (She released her version in 1961). Julie London released the first version of the song in 1955, which was used in the 1956 film “The girl can’t help it”. The song was also recorded by Shirley Bassey (1959), Barbara Streisand (1963), Joe Cocker (1970), Crystal Gayle (1978), Mari Wilson (1983), Diana Krall (2001) and Michael Buble (2009).
Marion Ryan was born on February 4 1931 in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, UK. She came to fame in the ’50s as a singer, her biggest hit being “Love me forever” in 1958. From 1956-1963 she was the resident singer on the TV show “Spot the tune”. She was the mother of twins Paul and Barry Ryan who had several hits in the mid ’60s before Barry went solo and had a huge hit in 1968 with “Eloise”. Marion Ryan died on January 15 1999.