Thursday, April 29, 1999

100 years ago: Arthur Collins hit #1 with “Hello Ma Baby”

Hello Ma Baby

Arthur Collins

Writer(s): Joseph E. Howard, Ida Emerson (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 15, 1899

Peak: 14 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.3 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Joseph E. Howard and Ida Emerson were a husband-and-wife songwriting team who performed in vaudeville before becoming stars in Chicago and New York. SS Their “most celebrated song” SS was “Hello Ma Baby,” one of the first mainstream songs to use ragtime-styled syncopation. SS The melody is similar to a piano piece by Claude Debussy called “Le Petit Nègre.” WK

“Hello Ma Baby” was also notable as the first well-known song to refer to the telephone. The word “hello” was primarily associated with telephone use and the subject matter of the song regards a man who only knows his girlfriend via the telephone. WK Howard got the idea when he heard an African-American porter say the phrase when talking to his sweetheart on the phone. SF Less than 10% of American households owned phones at the time. WK

The song was recorded in 1899 by Len Spencer and Arthur Collins. Collins, “one of the most prolific and popular of pioneer recording artists,” SF was known as “King of the Ragtime Singers” SF and had the more successful version. The Music Trades declared it “one of the best coons songs that [has] been published in a long time.” SS Coon songs are “typically held in low regard from a modern perspective,” SS largely because of the racist nature of the lyrics and caricatures of African-Americans on the sheet music. WK Peter C. Muir, however, argues that it was “the first genre to develop in the commercial mainstream that makes extensive use of secular black music.” SS Music historian Steve Sullivan says “Hello Ma Baby” “finds the genre at its peak.” SS

It was also said it “can be heard in every flat in Harlem where there’s a piano, and on the street corners you can hear ‘Hello Ma Baby’ being sung by the boys who congregate there.” SS Alex Harms said it had “sold more rapidly than any other song that they had published.” SS The song experienced a revival when the character of Michigan J. Frog sang it in the 1955 Warner Bros. cartoon One Froggy Evening.

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Arthur Collins
  • SF Songfacts
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Pages 810-11.
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 4/16/2021; last updated 4/23/2021.

Wednesday, April 7, 1999

50 Years Ago Today: South Pacific opened on Broadway (April 7, 1949)

First posted 4/7/2012; updated 3/30/2019.

South Pacific (cast/soundtrack)

Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II (composers)

Opened on Broadway: 4/7/1949

Cast Album Charted: 5/21/1949

Soundtrack Released: 5/19/1958

U.S. Peak: #169-C, 131-S

UK Peak: #1115-S

U.S. Sales (in millions): 3.0 c, 8.0 s

UK Sales (in millions): -- c, 1.8 s

Total Sales (in millions): 3.0 c, 9.8 s

Genre: show tunes

C cast, S soundtrack

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Overture
  2. Dites-Moi
  3. A Cockeyed Optimist
  4. Twin Soliloquies
  5. Some Enchanted Evening (#1 US, Perry Como, 1949)
  6. Bloody Mary
  7. My Girl Back Home **
  8. There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame
  9. Bali Ha’i (#5 US, Perry Como, 1949)
  10. I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair
  11. A Wonderful Guy (#12 US, Margaret Whiting, 1949)
  12. Younger Than Springtime (#30 US, Gordon MacRae, 1949)
  13. Happy Talk
  14. Honey Bun
  15. You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught
  16. This Nearly Was Mine
  17. Finale: Dites-Mo (Reprise)

Above track listing based on 2000 Decca reissue. Songs with an asterisk (*) are on original 1946 cast album.

c Songs unique to cast album.


Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s South Pacific is considered “one of the greatest Broadway musicals” W-C and “one of the most beloved musicals ever to hit the stage.” AZ It was a massive hit, running 1,925 performances on Broadway AMG-C and another 802 in London. MK Its nearly five-year Broadway run was “longer than any musical before it except Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.” AMG-C “The appeal is simple: a collection of stunning compositions…and characters with a simple though cohesive through-line.” AZ

At the time, a critic for the New York Daily Mirror wrote that it was “likely to establish a new trend in musicals” W-C and that “every number is so outstanding that it is difficult to decide which will be the most popular.” W-C The New York World-Telegram review said it was “the ultimate modern blending of music and popular theatre to date, with the finest kind of balance between story and song, and hilarity and heartbreak.” W-C

Joshua Logan, a stage and film director and also a World War II veteran, read James Michener’s 1947 novel Tales of the South Pacific and decided to adapt it for the stage; he wound up as the musical’s director and producer. Rodgers & Hammerstein were tapped to write.” W-C Initially, “the musical was to center on the story ‘Fo’ Dolla’, about a love affair between a Polynesian girl and a stuffy American officer.” MK As Rogers recounted, however, he and Hammerstein decided that it “would look too much like a rehash of Madame ButterflyMK and opted to make it secondary to “another story from the book, ‘Our Heroine,’ about a nurse from Arkansas who falls in love” MK with “an expatriate French plantation owner with a dark past.” W-C To add “comic leavening” MK alongside these “wartime romances complicated by racial issues,” AMG-C R&H added a third story, “A Boar’s Tooth,” MK about “Luther Billis, a womanizing sailor.” W-C

“The dashing former Metropolitan Opera bass Ezio Pinza” AZ was tapped to play the role of Emile deBecque, the French plantation owner.” W-C Of his eventual South Pacific performance, The New York Times’ Brooks Atkinson said, “Mr. Pinza’s bass voice is the most beautiful that has been heard on a Broadway stage for an eon or two.”

Filling the role of “the heartily feminine American nurse” AZ is “the lovely, girlish Mary Martin” AZ who was “a musical comedy star…[and] a Broadway favorite” MK noted for performances in Peter Pan and Annie Get Your Gun. AZ The New York Post’s Richard Watts, Jr. said this of her performance in South Pacific: “Nothing I have ever seen her do prepared me for the loveliness, humor, gift for joyous characterization, and sheer lovableness of her portrayal of Nellie Forbush…Hers is a completely irresistible performance.” W-C

“The issue of racial prejudice is sensitively and candidly explored in several plot threads.” W-C “Nellie struggles to accept Emile’s mixed-race children. Another American serviceman, Lieutenant Cable, struggles with the prejudice that he would face if he were to marry an Asian woman.” W-C The song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught “attacks the issue with a vehemence never before (and seldom since) seen on the stage.” MK It was initially “criticized as too controversial for the musical stage and called indecent and pro-communist.” W-C

“Critical response to the Broadway opening, April 7, 1949, at the Majestic Theater, was probably as uniformly ecstatic as for any show in history.” MK “Acclaim heaped up: nine Tony awards, including Musical, Book, Score, and Direction, along with acting kudos for Martin, Pinza, Myron McCormick (who played Billis) and Juanita Hall (Bloody Mary). Nine Donaldson awards. The New York Drama Critics Circle award for Best Musical. And the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.” MK

The accompanying cast album tapped Pinza and Martin and other cast members. It proved immensely successful, spending 69 weeks atop the Billboard charts – the most weeks spent at #1 in the chart’s history. When the soundtrack to the 1958 film was released, it accomplished a similar feat by becoming the most successful #1 album in the history of the U.K. charts – with 115 weeks on top. Collectively, the cast album and soundtrack have sold nearly 13 million worldwide.

Review Source(s):

Awards C+S:

Awards C:

Awards S:

Sunday, April 4, 1999

BBC: 100 Favourite Songs of the Century


100 Favourite Songs of the Century

Paul Gambaccini invited the public and music personalities to submit their choices for the best songs of the century and then broadcast the results over BBC Radio 2 over Easter weekend, 1999. The list only lists song titles. The DMDB has included the act for the highest-ranked version of the song according to the DMDB.

Click here to see other lists from publications and/or organizations.

1. The Beatles “Yesterday” (1965)
2. Artie Shaw “Stardust” (1941)
3. Simon & Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1970)
4. Bing Crosby with the Ken Darby Singers “White Christmas” (1942)
5. The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” (1965)
6. John Lennon “Imagine” (1971)
7. Frank Sinatra “My Way” (1969)
8. Billie Holiday “Summertime” (1936)
9. Judy Garland “Over the Rainbow” (1939)
10. Dooley Wilson “As Time Goes By” (1942)

11. Paul Whiteman with Bob Lawrence “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (1933)
12. Frank Sinatra “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (1945)
13. Elton John “Candle in the Wind 1997 (Goodbye England’s Rose)” (1997)
14. Gene Autry “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1949)
15. The Beatles “Hey Jude” (1968)
16. Glenn Miller “In the Mood” (1939)
17. Arthur Collins with Byron Harlan “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1911)
18. Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)
19. Bill Haley & the Comets “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock” (1954)
20. Paul Robeson “Ol’ Man River” (1928)

21. Benny Goodman with Peggy Mann “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” (1945)
22. Bob Dylan “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963)
23. Vera Lynn “We’ll Meet Again” (1954)
24. Marvin Gaye “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968)
25. The Lettermen “When I Fall in Love” (1961)
26. Elvis Presley “Heartbreak Hotel” (1956)
27. The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (1964)
28. Procol Harum “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (1967)
29. Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On” (1997)
30. Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong “St. Louis Blues” (1925)

31. Gene Austin “My Blue Heaven” (1927)
32. Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1947)
33. Fred Astaire with Leo Reisman’s Orchestra “Night and Day” (1932)
34. Walter Huston “September Song” (1939)
35. Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” (1971)
36. Glenn Miller “Moonlight Serenade” (1939)
37. Louis Armstrong “What a Wonderful World” (1967)
38. Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You” (1992)
39. The Beatles “Let It Be” (1970)
40. Kay Kyser “There’ll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover” (1941)

41. Artie Shaw “Begin the Beguine” (1938)
42. Don McLean “American Pie” (1971)
43. Henry Mancini with Audrey Hepburn “Moon River” (1961)
44. Willie Nelson “Always on My Mind” (1982)
45. Harry Nilsson “Without You” (1971)
46. Elvis Presley “Hound Dog” (1956)
47. Natalie Cole with Nat “King” Cole “Unforgettable” (1991)
48. Roberta Flack “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (1969)
49. Harry Simeone Chorale “The Little Drummer Boy” (1958)
50. Gerry Rafferty “Baker Street” (1978)

51. Patti Page “Tennessee Waltz” (1950)
52. Eagles “Hotel California” (1976)
53. Perry Como “Lili Marlene” (1944)
54. Bobby Darin “Mack the Knife” (1959)
55. The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes for You” (1959)
56. Ray Noble “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (1936)
57. Gertrude Lawrence “Someone to Watch Over Me” (1927)
58. Celine Dion “The Power of Love” (1993)
59. The Beach Boys “God Only Knows” (1966)
60. Frankie Laine “I Believe” (1953)

61. Stevie Wonder “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (1984)
62. Patsy Cline “Crazy” (1961)
63. Larry Clinton with Bea Wain “Deep Purple” (1939)
64. Bette Midler “Wind Beneath My Wings” (1989)
65. The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967)
66. John McCormack “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” (1915)
67. Glen Gray with Kenny Sargent “Blue Moon” (1935)
68. Tommy Dorsey with Jack Leonard “All the Things You Are” (1939)
69. Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)
70. Cliff Edwards “Singin’ in the Rain” (1929)

71. The Moody Blues “Nights in White Satin” (1967)
72. The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)
73. Judy Collins “Send in the Clowns” (1975)
74. Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” (1971)
75. Ethel Waters “Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All the Time)” (1933)
76. Dionne Warwick “Walk on By” (1964)
77. Guy Lombardo “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” (1937)
78. James F. Harrison “Keep the Home Fires Burnin’” (1915)
79. The Police “Every Breath You Take” (1983)
80. Guy Lombardo “Winter Wonderland” (1934)

81. Roberta Flack “Killing Me Softly with His Song” (1973)
82. Perry Como “Some Enchanted Evening” (1949)
83. Otis Redding “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” (1968)
84. Lambert Murphy “Roses of Picardy” (1918)
85. Aretha Franklin “I Say a Little Prayer” (1968)
86. Peerless Quartet “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” (1911)
87. Bryan Adams “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (1991)
88. Rudy Vallee “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (1932)
89. Barbra Streisand “The Way We Were” (1973)
90. Glenn Miller with Ray Eberle “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” (1940)

91. Marni Nixon “Somewhere” (1961)
92. Marion Harris “Tea for Two” (1925)
93. Madonna “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” (1997)
94. The Beatles “Something” (1969)
95. Fred Astaire “The Way You Look Tonight” (1936)
96. Richard Harris “MacArthur Park” (1968)
97. Ray Charles “Georgia on My Mind” (1960)
98. Haydn Quartet “Sweet Adeline (You’re the Flower of My Heart)” (1904)
99. Dave Brubeck Quartet “Take Five” (1999)
100. Ben E. King “Stand by Me” (1961)

Resources/Related Links:

Last updated 4/10/2021.