Tuesday, February 15, 1972

50 years ago: Ray Miller “The Sheik of Araby” hit #1

The Sheik of Araby

Ray Miller

Writer(s): Ted Snyder, Harry B. Smith, Francis Wheeler (see lyrics here)

Released: November 18, 1921

First Charted: February 15, 1922

Peak: 3 US, 11 GA, 14 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The New York City music publishers and songwriters known as Tin Pan Alley were “ever vigilant to cash in on popular trends” JS and the 1921 movie The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino, “was perfect fodder.” JS Valentino was a screen icon who made women swoon. The movie was based on a 1919 Edith Maude Hall romance novel about an English girl kidnapped and seduced by an Arab sheik.

“On the heels of its release music publishers Waterson, Berlin and Snyder published ‘The Sheik of Araby.’” JS Composer Ted Snyder said he wrote the song as a romantic number called “The Rose of Araby” but was persuaded to change the title because of the success of the Valentino film. SM The song was introduced late in 1921 with a Victor record by the Club Royal Orchestra (#3). JS The group was led by saxophonist Clyde Doerr, who rose to fame via his work with Art Hickman’s Orchestra. JS

Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler added lyrics to the song. It is sung from the perspective of the sheik with him “introducing himself and proclaiming ‘your love belongs to me.’” TY2 The first vocal version was sung by Eddie Cantor in his Broadway revue show Make It Snappy in April 1922. WK The Huntington Press wrote that the song was “being sung and played by music lovers throughout the country. The melody has the whole town by the ears.” WK

The version done by Ray Miller’s Orchestra ranks as the most successful, reaching #1 according to chart historians Howard Foote Gardner and Sharon Mawer. Little is known about him, but it is believed he came from Reading, Pennsylvania in 1896 and formed his band, the Black & White Melody Boys, after World War I. SM

Trombonist Jack Teagarden also charted with the song (#14, 1939). He was “undoubtedly a big reason for the song’s jazz standard status.” JS He first recorded the song in 1930 with cornetist Red Nichols and then in 1939 with his own big band version. JS Others to chart with the song included Spike Jones (#19, 1943) and the Super-Sonics (#22, 1953). It was also featured in the 1940 film Tin Pan Alley as performed by Betty Grable and others. DJ It also appeared in 1943’s Heaven Can Wait and 1977’s Valentino. WK The Beatles, the Everly Brothers, and Louis Prima, have covered the song. WK F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes a verse from the song in his classic novel The Great Gatsby.


First posted 1/28/2023.

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