Friday, April 23, 2010

100 years ago: “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” hit #1

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Billy Murray & the Haydn Quartet

Writer(s): Edward Madden, Gus Edwards (see lyrics here)

First Charted: December 1909

Peak: 19 US, 13 GA, 16 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:

Edward Madden crafted the words for “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” around Gus Edwards’ “somewhat dreamy music that lends itself to soft shoe.” RCG The song had much the same sentiment as “Shine On, Harvest Moon” from a year earlier. In “Silvery Moon,” the singer wishes for a silvery moon by which to spoon with his girl, hoping he can croon a love song to her and she’ll agree to marry him in June. Its “moon-June-croon rhymes” are “cliché by today’s standards,” RCG but were representative of the Tin Pan Alley era which dominated music in the early 1900s.

The song first surfaced in vaudeville in the School Boys and Girls revue. Child star Georgie Price, a member of Gus Edwards, troup of children, sang it. TY2 Lillian Lorraine also interporolated it into the Ziegfeld Follies of 1909. TY2 In 1909 and 1910, three versions of the song charted. The Peerless Quartet and Ada Jones each got to #2, but Billy Murray’s recording with the Haydn Quartet hit #1 and was one of the top five hits of the decade. TY2 On their version, Murray sang the verses, slow and deliberately, and the quartet came in on the chorus. SM

As big as their song was – it spent 9 weeks at the summit – it wasn’t the biggest hit for either Murray or the Haydn Quartet. In 1909, the Haydn Quartet peaked at #1 for eleven weeks with “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnett.” Murray’s biggest hit was just around the corner – just a couple months later, his take on “Casey Jones” with the American Quartet would also spend eleven weeks on top. PM

“Silvery Moon” proved to have stamina, hitting #12 for Ray Noble in 1942 PM and becoming a glee club and barbershop quartet standard. RCG It was also in the movies Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), The Birth of the Blues (1941), Babes on Broadway (1942), Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943), Sunbonnet Sue (1945), The Jolson Story (1946), Always Leave Them Laughing (1949), and Two Weeks with Love (1950). TY2 In 1953, Doris Day and Gordon MacRae sang the song in the movie musical .


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First posted 4/23/2012; last updated 12/15/2022.

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