Friday, June 4, 1971

50 years ago: Paul Whiteman hit #1 with “My Mammy”

My Mammy

Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra

Writer(s): Walter Donaldson (music), Sam Lewis (words), Joe Young (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 7, 1921

Peak: 15 US, 12 GA, 13 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards (Paul Whiteman):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Al Jolson):

About the Song:

Walter Donaldson wrote the music for “My Mammy” with lyrics by Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis, Tin Pan Alley writers who wrote for the vaudeville circuit. LW Donaldson also wrote the music for “My Blue Heaven” and “Makin’ Whoopee” while Young and Lewis also penned lyrics for “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and “Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody.” The trio previously wrote “How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down On The Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree).”

A mammy was a slave who served as a surrogate mother. The song was written as a tribute from a grown man to his aging mammy, “proclaiming his unconditional love for her, hoping that despite her age she can still recognize him as her ‘little baby.’” WK

William Frawley first performed the song in 1918 on vaudeville. Al Jolson, “Broadways’ most charistmatic performer,” LW then interpreted the song for the Broadway show Sinbad in 1921. Jolson went on to perform the song in The Jazz Singer (1927), The Singing Fool (1928), and >i>Rose of Washington Square (1939). He recorded and released the song twice, reaching #2 in 1928 and #18 in 1947.

The Columbia Stellar Quartette released the first recording of the song in February 1921. SH The Peerless Quartet were the first to chart with the song, reaching #4. That same year Aileen Stanley and the Yerkes Jazarimba Orchestra also charted with the song, both reaching #8. Isham Jones took it to #11 that year. The most successful version, though, was an instrumental done that year by Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, who took it to #1. It had become so well known by then that even without lyrics, people would sing along. SM

The song experienced another resurgence in 1967 when the Happenings took it to #13. The song has also been recorded by Eddie Cantor, Cher, Dion, the Everly Brothers, Eddie Fisher, Liza Minnelli, and Kenny Rogers. WK


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First posted 11/24/2022; last updated 1/28/2023.

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