Thursday, December 12, 1996

On This Day (1896): Dan Quinn “A Hot Time in the Old Town” hit #1

A Hot Time in the Old Town

Dan Quinn

Writer(s): Theodore August Metz (music), Joe Hayden (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: December 12, 1896

Peak: 17 PM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.03 video, -- streaming

Awards (Quinn):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Spencer):


Awards (Gaskin):


About the Song:

August Metz was a German-born musician with the McIntyre and Heath Minstrels. Legend says the group were arriving by train in Old Town, Louisiana and Metz saw children starting a fire near the tracks. One of the members of the troupe said “there’ll be a hot time in old town tonight” and Metz wrote it down. The next day he wrote a march using the phrase for the title and the Heath Minstrels ended up using in in their street parades. WM

It has been suggested that Metz heard a singer named Mama Lou sing “Hot Time” at the Castle, Babe Connor’s brothel in St. Louis, Missouri in 1893. WK However, it seems more likely that she helped popularize the song since the train story suggests the song was written as far back as 1886. SS

Then again, it was an instrumental piece for several years before Joe Hayden, a singer in the minstrel company, added lyrics at Metz’ request. SS so is it possible Mama Lou had words to it before Hayden? It was published in February 1896 as “In Old Town To-Night” and copyrighted in July as “A Hot Time in Old Town Tonight.” SS It has also been called “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” It “became popular with minstrel shows everywhere.” WM

The title “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” was referenced on December 31, 1891 in the Kansas newspaper the Salina Herald. The article described a fire in a Chicago Hotel where the last notes played on an organ were “Hot Time.” WK There’s yet another story that in Centralia, Wisconsin on March 8, 1890, a piece was published in The Centralia Enterprise and Tribune of Centralia with quotations around the phrase “there will be a hot time in the old town tonight,” which suggested that it was an already familiar phrase in pop culture. WK

Three versions of the song charted in 1896 and ’97. Dan Quinn and Len Spencer both reached #1 while George J. Gaskin peaked at #2. They were considered the top three vocal recording stars of the 1890s PM with Quinn being #1. His version of the song was the most successful, giving him his 11th of 16 chart-toppers. Over his 20-year career, he recorded around 2500 titles. PM

It became sort of the theme for the Spanish-American War, accompanying future president Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in their charge up San Juan Hill. SS An instrumental version of the song is featured in the 1927 stage and 1936 film versions of the musical Show Boat. When the Looney Tunes cartoon series launched in 1930, “Hot Time” was the original theme song. Mae West performed it in the 1936 film Klondike Annie and it was featured in 1941’s Citizen Kane 1962’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and 2021’s The Power of the Dog. The Joker sings the title in a scene from 1989’s Batman. It shows up again in Batman Returns when Catwoman refers to the title. WK


First posted 9/5/2023.

No comments:

Post a Comment