Friday, March 28, 2003

100 years ago: “In the Good Old Summertime” hit #1 – for the second of three times

In the Good Old Summertime

Haydn Quartet

Writer(s): Ren Shields, George Evans (see lyrics here)


First Charted: February 28, 1903


Peak: 16 US, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.0 (sheet music sales)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.24 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Comedian Ren Shields and black-faced minstrel George “Honey Boy” Evans wrote what has been called “the signature song for summer.” PS The song grew out of a Sunday trip to the beach with singer-actress Blanche Ring. When Evans remarked that he liked “the good old summertime” Shields said it would make a great song title. Shields worked up lyrics and Evans improvised a basic melody. Ring assisted him in writing it down and arranging it for piano since he couldn’t write a note of music. RA

Shields and Evans shopped the song to several music publishers, but none wanted a song doomed to a three-month lifespan. Then Ring offered to perform it in her Broadway show The Defender. RA The show opened in the Herald Square Theater on July 3, 1902 PS and closed in less than two months. However, thanks to its “happy, singable melody with easy to remember lyrics” PS “Summertime” proved to have a much longer life than publishers speculated, becoming “a perennial seasonal favorite.” JA

J.W. Myer included the song in his vaudeville act RCG and took it to #1. His was one of five versions to hit the top three of the U.S. pop charts in 1902 and 1903. Redmond charted first (#3), followed Myers, Harry MacDonough (#2), the Haydn Quartet (#1), and Sousa’s Band (#1). The Haydn Quartet’s version showed the most endurance, ranking as Billboard’s song of the year in 1903. WHC

The song was connected to a 1927 film In the Good Old Summertime and revived for the 1948 Judy Garland movie of the same name. PS In 1952, Les Paul and Mary Ford charted with a #15 version of the song. It has also been tapped numerous times for “Broadway shows and Hollywood films whenever a ‘summer song,’ has been needed.” RCG


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Haydn Quartet
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Harry MacDonough
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for J.W. Myers
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Les Paul
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for John Phillip Sousa
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 101.
  • PS ParlorSongs.com
  • RA Theodore Raph (1964). The Songs We Sang: A Treasury of American Popular Music. A.S. Barnes and Co., Inc.: New York. Page 276.
  • RCG RimChiGuy.com The Old Songs (1900-1929)
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc.

First posted 3/28/2014; last updated 4/17/2021.

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