Sunday, September 17, 1989

50 years ago: Frank Sinatra recorded “All or Nothing at All”


All or Nothing at All

The Harry James Orchestra with Frank Sinatra

Writer(s): Arthur Altman (m), Jack Lawrence (w) (see lyrics here)

Recorded: September 17, 1939

First Charted: June 19, 1943

Peak: 12 US, 3 GA, 11 HP, 8 RB (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.28 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Frank Sinatra started singing professionally as a teen in the 1930s. In 1939, he contracted with bandleader Harry James and released his first commercial record, “From the Bottom of My Heart,” in July. It sold less than 8000 copies. They also recorded “All or Nothing at All.” Arthur Altman wrote the music for the song and turned to Jack Lawrence, who later wrote the Ink Spots’ “If I Didn’t Care,” for lyrics. Harry James, Freddy Martin, and Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestras all recorded the song, but none had a hit with it. SF

Nonetheless, “All or Nothing at All” proved an important stepping point in Sinatra’s career. He said it gave him his start. CR It’s “the song I used to audition for Tommy Dorsey, who signed me on the strength of it.” CR In November 1939, he left James to join Dorsey’s band as the replacement for singer Jack Leonard. Dorsey was “the most successful bandleader of the early ‘40s.” SF From 1940 to 1942, Sinatra was featured on 39 top-twenty singles SF including the #1 hits “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “Dolores,” “In the Blue of the Evening,” and “There Are Such Things.”

Sinatra became “a heartthrob sensation, headliner, and show business icon. He was the most talked-about performer in the music industry” SF when he signed as a solo artist with Columbia Records in 1943. Unfortunately, a strike by the American Federation of Musicians left record companies desperate for product to release. Columbia “had the hottest new singer in show business and could not record him.” SF

Music publishing mogul Lou Levy came up with a solution. The strike from the musician’s union only restricted current recording. Columbia could still release older recordings. They decided to reissue “All or Nothing at All.” The song, “effectively a Sinatra solo,” CR was rebilled as “Frank Sinatra accompanied by Harry James Orchestra” instead of “The Harry James Orchestra with vocal by Frank Sinatra.” SF The song gave Sinatra his fifth trip to the top of the charts.

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Frank Sinatra
  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Harry James
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 743.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 8.
  • SF Songfacts
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Pages 200, 373.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 133-9, 391.
  • WK1 Wikipedia page on Frank Sinatra
  • WK2 Wikipedia page for “All or Nothing at All”

First posted 3/29/2021.

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