Friday, July 23, 2004

100 years ago: Billy Murray hits #1 with “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis”

Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis

Billy Murray

Writer(s): Arthur B. Sterling, Kerry Mills (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 23, 1904

Peak: 19 US, #12 GA, 14 SM, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In 1904, the world shone a light on St. Louis. In celebration of the centential of the Louisiana Purchase, the U.S. “Gateway to the West” became the stage for two major parties – the World’s Fair and the third modern Olympic Games. “50 foreign countries and 43 states provided educational and scientific displays, although the majority of the exhibits were based on entertainment.” SM Composer Kerry Mills (“At a Georgia Camp Meeting,” “Red Wing”) and lyricist Andrew Sterling (“Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie,” “When My Baby Smiles at Me”) capitalized on the city’s popularity by penning what what would become the exposition’s theme song. RA

According to Mills and Sterling, the idea for the song came when they ordered a drink called a Louis and had it served to them by a bartender named Louis. When Mills ordered another round, shouting out “Another Louie, Louie,” a song idea was born. TY2 They crafted a story of Flossie, a housewife who bolts for the World’s Fair in St. Louis, leaving a note behind for her husband, Louis. RCG He discovers, “The dresses that hung in the hall/ Were gone, she had taken them all/ She took all his rings/ And the rest of his things.” In her note, Flossie says, “We will dance the Hoochie-Koochie/ I will be your Tootsie-Wootsie/ If you will meet me in St. Louis, Louis/ Meet me at the Fair.”

In an era when songs when commercial recordings were sometimes held off until sheet music sales proved a song’s worth, “Louis” enjoyed success on both fronts simultaneously. Certainly the timeliness of the event helped, but it also didn’t hurt that it was Billy Murray who crooned the tune. He was “the greatest star of the recording industry’s pioneer recording era.” SS His biographers said, “his greatest talent was casting himself as Everyman in his recordings…Murray [always] managed to come across as a member of the crowd…forging an empathetic bond with the average American citizen.” SS

He took the song to #1 in 1904. That same year, S.H. Dudley and J.W. Myers went top 5 with their versions. Songs about famous events were commonplace then, but most had a short life. However, this song found its way into stage revues and “became a vaudeville standard in hundreds of acts.” RCG It was also featured in movies such as The Strawberry Blonde (1941) and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). Judy Garland immortalized the song when she performed it for the 1944 movie of the same name and took the song back to the charts, reaching #22. That same year, Guy Lombardo took it to #13.


  • SM Sharon Mawer Charts (1900-1968)
  • RA Theodore Raph (1964). The Songs We Sang: A Treasury of American Popular Music. A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc.: New York. Page 295.
  • RCG The Old Songs (1900-1929)
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 434.
  • TY2 Don Tyler (2007). Hit Songs, 1900-1955. McFarland & Company, Inc.: Jefferson, North Carolina. Page 23.

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Last updated 12/16/2022.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” hit #1 on country chart

Live Like You Were Dying

Tim McGraw

Writer(s): Tim Nichols, Craig Wiseman (see lyrics here)

Released: June 7, 2004

First Charted: June 5, 2004

Peak: 29 US, 34 RR, 4 AC, 21 A40, 17 CW (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.31 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 44.4 video, 130.24 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Tim McGraw was already a well-established country singer when “Live Like You Were Dying” became the biggest hit of his career. His chart debut came in 1992 and two years later he achieved then-rare crossover appeal when hs songs “Indian Outlaw” and “Don’t Take the Girl” became top-20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. The latter became his first of 19 country chart-toppers leading up to “Dying.”

Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman wrote the song based around family and friends who’d gained new perspectives on life after learning they had cancer. The lyrics focus on “experiencing life to its fullest, while also becoming a better person.” WK The song focuses on a man diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and decides to do the things he’d always wanted to do, such as skydiving and mountain climbing. By the end of the song, the singer is following the same example.

The song had a personal connection for Tim McGraw. His father, baseball pitcher Tug McGraw, died of a brain tumor on January 5, 2004 – just two weeks before Tim went to Allaire studios in upstate New York to record “Live Like You Were Dying.” SF All Music Guide’s Thom Jurek said this is “the very best kind of modern country song; the emotion in McGraw’s delivery is honest, not saccharine…The lyric itself is sold and beautifully constructed, a perfect marriage of melody, hook, and direct, simple lyrics.” AMG

From an awards standpoint, the song can make a claim as the most celebrated in country music history, claiming prizes from the Academy of Country Music (Best Single and Song), Billboard (Country Song of the Year), Broadcast Music Inc. (Country Song of the Year), Country Music Association (Best Single and Song), and the Grammys (Country Song of the Year).


First posted 11/2/2021.

Friday, July 9, 2004

100 years ago: “Toyland” hit #1


Corrine Morgan with the Haydn Quartet

Writer(s): Victor Herbert (music), Glen MacDonough (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: June 11, 1904

Peak: 12 US, 6 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The 1903 show Babes in Toyland came about because producers Fred Hamlin and Julian Mitchell wanted another children’s fantasy like The Wizard of Oz. Lyricist Glen MacDonough had worked with Mitchell on some revisions for Oz and now worked with composer Victor Herbert to craft another musical. They wove together various Mother Goose nursery rhymes into “a musical extravaganza” WK along with a story about two children and their journey to get to the “fantastic land of the toys.” TY2

The show premiered on June 17, 1903, at the Grand Opera House in Chicago. It opened in New York at the Majestic Theatre (where The Wizard of Oz had played) on October 13, 1903, and ran for 192 performances. WK It became “Herbert’s most lasting operetta” PS and “one of America’s most lasting musical productions.” PS

“Of all the music from the show, none…has been as permanent as ‘Toyland.’” PS The “tender and haunting ballad…calls to one’s heart and mind both joyous memories and melancholy nostalgia for days gone by.” PS It was introduced in the original production by Bessie Wynn. In 1904, Corinne Morgan and the Haydn Quartet took the song to #1. It has become a poular song during the Christmas season.

The song gained attention in 1934 when revived by Laurel & Hardy in a film version of Babes in Toyland. Disney did a remake of the musical in 1961 and it was revived again in 1986 with a television version starring Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves. The latter included only two songs from the original score, but one of them was “Toyland.” An amimated version was released in 1997 that also heavily revised the original show, but again retained “Toyland” as one of the songs.

The song has been recorded by many artists over the years including Perry Como, the Manhattan Transfer, Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Don McLean, Jane Morgan, Vaughn Monroe, Leon Redbone, Jo Stafford, and Andy Williams.


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First posted 12/13/2022; last updated 12/14/2022.

Monday, July 5, 2004

50 years ago: Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right”

That’s All Right, Mama

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

Writer(s): Arthur Crudup (see lyrics here)

Recorded: September 6, 1946

Released: March 1949

First Charted: --

Peak: 6 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1.1 video, -- streaming

That’s All Right, Mama

Elvis Presley

Recorded: July 5, 1954

Released: July 19, 1954

First Charted: July 17, 2004

Peak: 3 UK, 31 AU, 4 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US

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

Awards (Crudup):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Presley):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“The foundation stone of rock ‘n’ roll was laid” TB on July 5, 1954. It marked the first commercial recording session for Elvis Presley at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. The future King of Rock and Roll had recorded a couple of double-sided acetates for his mother in ’53 and ’54 at Sam Phillips’ Memphis Recording Services, costing him $3.98 each. The teenager born to a poor sharecropper in Tupelo, Mississippi, was “bullied at school. He wore strange clothes and kept to himself, only ever really getting close to his mother.” AH Phillips wasn’t enthralled but said “We might call you sometime.” TB

When that call came, the intent was an audition. He was backed by guitarist Scotty Moore and stand-up bassist Bill Black, who he met the night before. SS Elvis started off with a cover of “Harbor Lights” followed by roughly a dozen takes of “I Love You Because.” Phillips “heard something special in the kid’s voice, but the music just wasn’t happening.” SS

They were about to quit for the evening SS when Elvis started singing “That’s All Right, Mama,” a 1946 song by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. He was a country-blues guitarist born in the Mississippi delta who became a pioneer of electric guitar blues. The re-release of “Mama” in March 1949 was the first 45 rpm single released by RCA Victor. WK He started recording around 1941, but by the time Elvis recorded “That’s All Right,” Crudup had given up on music out of frustration in being cheated out of royalties. LW

“Black’s slapping bass and Moore’s country licks was a shotgun marriage for country & western and rhythm & blues, now known as rockabilly.” TB It wasn’t that it was “rebellious or its tempo particularly fast…The most impressive characteristic of ‘That’s All Right’ is the way Presley projects such complete drive with so little audible effort.” DM His vocal is “loose and free and full of confidence, holding it together.” SS He “sings with an assurance that is quite astonishing for someone so young, someone who had basically never performed before.” AH

Phillips “realized that something new and exciting was happening. He’d finally found what he’d been looking for: a white boy who could sing the blues.” TM A man of big ideas, Phillips was convinced he could end racism in the United States by getting people to listen to the music black people were making, even if it was sung by a white person. AH Elvis himself acknowledged that he wasn’t doing anything new. “The colored folk been singing it and playing it just the way I’m doin’ now, man, for more years than I know. Nobody paid it no mind till I goosed it up.” TB

By the next Thursday, Phillips got an acetate to Dewey Phillips (no relation to Sam), the hottest DJ in Memphis. When Dewey played it on the air, he got dozens of calls. It became a regional hit, reportedly selling 300,000 copies in the South, but didn’t take off nationally. SS Elvis was still a couple of years away from becoming the King.


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First posted 3/23/2023; last updated 3/26/2023.