Monday, April 1, 1974

50 years ago: Al Jolson hit #1 with “California, Here I Come”

California, Here I Come

Al Jolson with Isham Jones’ Orchestra

Writer(s): Joseph Meyer, Buddy DeSylva, Al Jolson (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 1, 1924

Peak: 16 US, 14 GA, 16 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.55 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Born Asa Yoelson in Russia in 1886, Al Jolson became “one of the greatest popular entertainers in American history.” PM He became a successful minstrel singer, vaudevillian performer, and Broadway star thanks to “his dramatic vocal style, extraordinary stage presence, and personal rapport with audiences.” PM

His show Bombo opened in 1921 but three years later he was still tweaking by adding “California Here I Come.” TY2 By that time the show had left New York City on tour. Jolson was listed as a songwriter, but likely had nothing to do with the actual writing. He negotiated with the pubisher to have his name and picture added to the sheet music for $5000. This allowed him to get royalties from the song. TY2 Lyricist Buddy DeSylva (who also played ukulele on the song) and composer Joseph Meyer went along since having Jolson’s name attached to the song “practically guaranteed its success.” TY2

It was Jolson’s sixteenth of 23 chart-topping songs. PM He recorded the song with the Isham Jones’ Orchestra. It is frequently called California’s unofficial state song. WK Georgie Price (#7, 1924), the California Ramblers (#10, 1924, and Claude Hopkins (#17, 1933) also charted with the song. PM Freddy Cannon, Ray Charles, Cliff Edwards, Fletcher Henderson, and Tom Waits have all recorded the song. WK

Jolson revived the song in 1939 in the film Rose of Washington Square, in The Jolson Story in 146, and Jolson Sings Again in 1949. DJ It was also used in the films Lucky Boy (1929), the W.C. Fields movie It’s a Gift (1934), John Wayne’s film Back to Bataan (1945), With a Song in My Heart (1952), and The Saddest Music in the World (2003).


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First posted 4/25/2023.

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