Thursday, January 31, 2019

Ben Selvin hit #1 with “Dardanella” for first of 13 weeks (1/31/1920)

First posted 1/24/2013; updated 1/24/2020.


Ben Selvin

Writer(s): Johnny S. Black (m)/ Felix Bernard (m)/ Fred Fisher (l) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: January 24, 1920

Peak: 113 US, 11 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 8.5 (includes 2.0 in sheet music)

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



Ben Selvin (1898-1980) launched himself as a professional musician at age 15 playing fiddle in New York City nightclubs. SB Over his career, his 2000+ recordings rank him above any other bandleader. PM-379 The Guinness Book of World Records estimates his output as high as 20,000 song titles, giving him the distinction of having recorded more musical sides on 78-rpm discs than any other person. WK Part of his prolific output was due to him recording for dozens of different labels at a time when the industry was at high growth. WK

His bands featured such famous sidemen as Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman AMG and vocalists like Ruth Etting, Ethel Waters, and Kate Smith. AMG In addition to working as a musician and bandleader, Selvin was an innovator and record producer. WK

He had his first chart hit, the #1 “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” in 1919 when he was still just a teenager. His biggest hit, an instrumental version of “Dardanella,” came the following year. Its continuous bass line helps it stand out. JA-44 As the first song to sell over 5 million copies PM--631 it became the biggest hit of 1920, WHC-35 one of the ten best sellers of the first half of the 20th century, PM-631 and the biggest-selling song in the first quarter-century of recorded music. SB

Prince’s Orchestra, Harry Raderman’s Jazz Orchestra, and the duet of Henry Burr and Albert Campbell all charted with the song in 1920 as well. PM-490 It was revived in 1949’s Oh, You Beautiful Doll, a biopic about the song’s lyricist, Fred Fisher. JA-44

Resources and Related Links:

  • Ben Selvin’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • AMG All Music Guide
  • JA David A. Jasen. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 44.
  • SB
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 379, 490, and 631.
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 35.
  • WK

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