Friday, April 10, 2009

100 years ago: “Shine on, Harvest Moon” hit #1

Shine on, Harvest Moon

Harry MacDonough with Miss Walton

Writer(s): Jack Norworth, Nora Bayes (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 10, 1909

Peak: 19 US, 13 GA, 15 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

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

Shine on, Harvest Moon

Ada Jones & Billy Murray

First Charted: May 15, 1909

Peak: 15 US, 13 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

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

Awards (MacDonough):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Jones/Murray):

About the Song:

Nora Bayes was a Broadway and vaudevillian performer in the early 1900s. In 1908, she married Jack Norworth, a singer, songwriter, and dancer, who also wrote “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The pair toured and composed together. The duo’s collaboration, “Shine on, Harvest Moon,” “became her musical trademark” TY2 and one of “the most recognized of the many ‘moon’ ballads.” RCG The song is about “a guy begging the harvest moon to shine brightly so he and his girl can ‘stay outdoors and spoon.’” TY2 It was “decidedly old-fashioned and a product of twentieth century innocence.” RCG She sang the song as a solo act SM in Ziegfeld Follies of 1908. The couple didn’t last, divorcing in 1913 (the second of five marriages for Bayes!), SF but the song survived. Both performed it the rest of their lives. RCG

It became a favorite for player pianos and barbershop quartets RCG and “remains a perennial among amateur singers everywhere.” DJ-172 It had an impressive chart life with seven takes on the song peaking in the top 20 over the next quarter century. The first, and most successful, was a duet between Harry MacDonough and Miss Walton (believed to be Elise Stevenson) in 1909. They took the song to #1 for 9 weeks. Their version used the verse, chorus, and a second verse while another popular duo version by Ada Jones and Billy Murray did just the first verse and chorus. SM That one also went to #1 while other versions that year, one by the duo of Frank Stanley and Henry Burr, another by Bob Roberts, went to #2 and #6 respectively. The following year, Arthur Pryor also went top 5 with the song.

“Harvest Moon” was revived by Ruth Etting in Ziegfeld Follies of 1931. DJ Ethel Waters took the song back to the top ten that same year. Two years later, Kate Smith took the song back to the top 20. Over the years, the song has also been sung by Judy Garland, Vera Lynn, Glenn Miller, and Liza Minnelli. RCG At age 8, Britney Spears sang it for her Mickey Mouse Club audition. WK

It has also appeared in at least a dozen films, most notably an eponymously titled 1944 biopic starring Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan as Bayes and Norworth. RCG A 1938 Roy Rogers western was named after the song and Laurel & Hardy performed it in their 1939 film The Flying Deuces. It was also used in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Look for the Silver Lining (1949), Nancy Goes to Rio (1950), I’ll See You in My Dreams (1952), The Eddy Duchin Story (1957), TY2 and Pennies from Heaven (1978). WK


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First posted 4/10/2012; last updated 12/15/2022.

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