Friday, May 11, 2001

100 years ago: “Tell Me, Pretty Maiden” hit #1

Tell Me Pretty Maiden

Harry MacDonough & Grace Spencer

Writer(s): Leslie Stuart (music), Owen Hall (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 27, 1901

Peak: 17 US, 3 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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

Tell Me Pretty Maiden

Byron G. Harlan with Frank Stanley, Joe Belmont, & the Florodora Girls

First Charted: June 22, 1901

Peak: 13 US, 3 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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

Awards (MacDonough/Spencer):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Harlan et al):

About the Song:

“Tell Me, Pretty Maiden” was introduced in 1899 in London via the musical comedy Florodora. It has been called “the most successful show tune of its time.” PD The original stage version of the song was performed a double sextet by six men and six parasol-twirling women. The women, all five-foot-four and 130 pounds, “received an indordinate amount of adulation and publicity” TY2 and were rumored to have all married millionaires. TY2

“Maiden” was “the first major song hit from a show not performed by principal singers.” CH “With its upbeat and carefree rhythm, that sense of meandering aimlessly, and beautiful and unexpected traditions, it completely transcends the conventions of popular song.” CH

Leslie Stuart, the composer, started out as a church organist before he started writing for musical shows in 1895. Florodora was his first hit. PD It opened in London on November 11, 1899 and ran for 455 performances at London’s Lyric Theatre CH and another 552 for the New York production. PD The story is about “an attempt to cheat a beautiful young heiress out of her rights to a perfume fortune.” CH

Harry MacDonough and Grace Spencer recorded the first version of the song to chart. It reached #1 in May 1901. After seven weeks on top, it was dethroned by another version of the song by Byron G. Harlan, Frank Stanley, Joe Belmont, and the Florodora Girls. Grace Spencer was a soprano singer born in 1872. She was one of the first women to record for Victor PM becoming known as “the First Lady of the Phonograph.” CH “Tell Me, Pretty Maiden” was one of only two chart hits for her. THe other was also a duet with MacDonough.

MacDonough was a tenor singer born in Ontario, Canada, in 1871. He was second only to Henry Burr as one of “the great ballad singers of recordings’ pioneer pre-1920 era.” PM He was the most popular recording artist of the decade, PM making over 350 records by 1908. CH “Tell Me, Pretty Maiden” was his first of fifteen songs to top the Billboard charts. PM


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First posted 12/2/2022; last updated 12/14/2022.

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