Friday, May 10, 2002

100 years ago: “On a Sunday Afternoon” hit #1

On a Sunday Afternoon

J.W. Myers

Writer(s): Harry Von Tilzer (music), Andrew B. Sterling (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 15, 1902

Peak: 16 US, 13 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 (sheet music)

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

On a Sunday Afternoon

J. Aldrich Libbey

First Charted: April 15, 1902

Peak: 3 US, 13 GA, 16 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 (sheet music)

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

Awards (J.W. Myers):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (J. Aldrich Libbey):

About the Song:

This waltz was one of the earliest hits from songwriter Harry Von Tilzer, “one of the best known Tin Pan Alley songwriters at the turn of the 20th century. SH He was born Harry Gumm in Detroit, Michigan in 1872. He ran away from home at 14 and joined the circus where he played piano, composed, and acted. In 1892, he moved to New York and got a job as a saloon pianist. SH

He published his first song, “My Old New Hampshire Home,” in 1898. SH The lyrics were written by Andrew B. Sterling, who would be Tilzer’s songwriting partner for nearly 30 years. FA Sterling was born in 1874 in New York City. He started writing songs for vaudeville after graduating from high school and started working with Von Tilzer in 1898. Among Von Tilzer’s most famous compositions are “A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” “Down Where the Wurzburger Flows,” “The Mansion of Aching Hearts,” and “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.” Sterling also penned “Hello Ma Baby,” “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie,” and “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis.”

Von Tilzer got the idea for “On a Sunday Afternoon” while at the beach and pondering how many people had to return to work on a Monday after a fun day at the beach the day before. He presented the idea to Andrew Sterling, who then penned the lyrics. The song celebrated all the activities one could do with free time on Sundays in light of having to work hard on Monday.

The song was introduced in vaudeville by Ira Kessner. DJ J.W. Myers was the first to chart with the song in April 1902, reaching #1. It was his sixth of seven chart-toppers from 1893 to 1902 for the baritone ballad singer born John W. Meyers in Wales PM in 1864. Over the next few months, versions also charted by Edward M. Favor (#2), J. Aldrich Libbey (#3), and Harry MacDonough (#5). In 1944, the song was performed by Constance Moore in the movie Atlantic City. The next year it was used in Naughty Nineties, an Abbot and Costello movie.


First posted 12/9/2022; last updated 12/15/2022.

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