Friday, April 22, 2005

100 years ago: Henry Burr “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” hit #1

In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree

Henry Burr (as Irving Gillette)

Writer(s): Egbert Van Alstyne (music), Harry H. Williams (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 22, 1904

Peak: 17 US, 14 GA, 18 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.12 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Composer Egbert Van Alstyne and lyricist Harry H. Williams worked as song pluggers for Remick, the famous music-publishing house, when they wrote “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree,” TY2 their biggest hit. DJ The previous year, the pair wrote “Navajo,” which Billy Murray took to the top of the charts.

They were inspired when they visited Central Park in New York – which, incidentally, has no apple trees. TY2 The song can “be characterized as a highly sentimental tune…about a lost love.” WK The full, four-verse version of the song reveals that the couple are no longer together because she died. However, he sings about hoping to see her again, meaning in the afterlife. SM

The first charted version of the song came in 1905 by Henry Burr. He only sang two of the verses and then ended with two choruses, so his version doesn’t make it clear that she died. SM Burr was born Harry Haley McClaskey in Canada in 1882 and recorded “Apple Tree” under the name of Irving Gillette. That version topped the charts for seven weeks. This was his second trip to the top of the charts. From 1903 to 1922, he reached the pinnacle twenty four times as a solo act and in duets with Albert Campbell. Burr was “the #1 ballad singer of recorded music’s 1890-1930 pioneer era.” PM He sang on on “some twelve thousand recordings, far more than any other vocalist in history.” PM

There were other charted version in 1905 by Albert Campbell (#2), the Haydn Quartet (#2) ,and Arthur Pryor’s Band (#9) all charted with versions of the song. It experienced a revival in 1933 when Duke Ellington recorded the song and took it to #13. Louis Armstrong recorded the song with the Mills Brothers in 1937, Alma Cogan tackled it in 1962, and Bing Crosby recorded it as part of a medley that same year. WK Billy Murray and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott recorded parodies of the song. WK


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First posted 12/8/2022; last updated 12/15/2022.

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