Friday, August 10, 2001

100 years ago: “Hello Central, Give Me Heaven” hit #1

Hello Central, Give Me Heaven

Byron G. Harlan

Writer(s): Charles K. Harris (music and lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: August 3, 1901

Peak: 15 US, 13 GA, 13 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

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


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This “classic tearjerker” DJ is songwriter Charles K. Harris “at his weepiest.” DJ It was a contrast to early telephone songs like “Hello Ma Baby.” DJ The song relays the tale of a young girl who wants to use the phone to contact her dead mother. Harris was inspired by a newspaper story about a seven-year-old who tried to make such a call. WK The term “Hello Central” refers to the need at that time to go through an operator to connect to another party. The song was a hit with children’s acts. DJ

Harris was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. The “Tin Pan Alley pioneer” SH and “king of the tear jerkers” SH was born in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1867. He started out as a banjo player who wrote for vaudeville acts and silent films. He found his first major success with “After the Ball,” a song which George J. Gaskin took to #1 in 1893.

Byron G. Harlan took the song to #1 in 1901. It was his first trip to the top as a solo act although he’d previously reached the pinnacle with Frank Stanley, Joe Belmont, and the Flordora Girls with “Tell Me, Pretty Maiden.” He hit the top spot 24 times total – half of those were with frequent duet partner Arthur Collins. His solo hits were usually sentimental ballads while his work with Collins focused on “ragtime and minstrel humor.” PM His combined work as a solo artist and with Collins made him one of the top 10 artists of the pre-rock era (1890-1954). PM

Harlan’s version omitted a verse in which the operator connects to heaven and the girl gets a message from her mother. SM In 1913, the song’s title and story was used for an eleven-minute short film written by Dwight M. Wiley. A little girl is told by her pastor that heaven is real so she calls the operator and asks to speak to heaven. She mistakenly “overhears a dire plot – and foils it by her own efforts.” IM


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First posted 12/2/2022; last updated 12/15/2022.

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