Writer(s): Paul Lincke (music), Lilla Cayley Robinson and Johnny Mercer (lyrics) (see lyrics here)
First Charted: May 16, 1908
Peak: 15 US, 12 GA, 16 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 4.0 (sheet music)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, -- video, -- streaming
The Mills Brothers with Hal McIntyre’s Orchestra
First Charted: September 27, 1952
Peak: 13 US, 12 HP, 11 CB (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 4.0 (sheet music), 1.0 (US physical sales)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 1.15 video, -- streaming
Awards (Victor Orchestra):
Click on award for more details.
Awards (Mills Brothers):
About the Song:
Composer Paul Lincke wrote “The Glow Worm” (original title: “Das Glühwürmchen”) in 1902 for the operatta Lysistratra. The original lyrics were written in German by Heinz Bolten-Backers. TY2 and was originally sung as a trio by Cäcilie Carola, Emma Malkowsky & Kathi Herold. SM It was introduced in the United States in 1907 TY2 by May Naudain in the Broadway musical The Girl Behind the Counter. Lilla Cayley Robinson translated the lyrics into English.
In 1908, there were successful chart versions of the song from the Victor Orchestra and Lucy Isabelle Marsh. Each spent five weeks at #1. It was the biggest hit to date for the publisher. DJ In 1925, Nathaniel Shilkret recorded an instrumental version of the song. WK The Victor Orchestra was the in-house band for the Victor Talking Machine Company, usually recording classical or backing opera singers. SM Their version “started as a piece of music played by staccato strings and the recognisable sound of a bell ringing in time. Only after one minute ten seconds, did the recognisable tune of the chorus enter and that lasted for only thirty seconds, after which, a vocal chorus to sing through the chorus once.” SM
“Glow worm” was a term used in Europe for “the wingless female larva of the species Lampyris noctilluca, which glows and resembles a worm.” PS In 1952, the song was given new lyrics by Johnny Mercer, “one of the best lyricists in the history of popular song.” PS Since the glow-worm is not readily found stateside, PS he made it a reference to the insect we know as a firefly. PS He also used phrases like “a cute little pocket mazda” which now would suggest a car brand, but was then a brand of General Electric light bulbs. PS
This earned the song an astonishing third trip to the pinnacle with a version by the Mills Brothers that gave the song a more upbeat tempo and used lyrics both by Mercer and Robinson. TY2 Their recording “harkened back to a decade earlier, when Glenn Miller ruled the universe. It was a blasting, big band sound” PS with orchestration by Hal McIntyre, a founding member of Miller’s orchestra from 1937 to 1942. PS It also featured “Harry Mills’ ultra-smooth lead…[which is] as close to perfection as a recording can get.” PS Mercer himself also charted with the song, reaching #30.
First posted 12/8/2022; last updated 12/15/2022.