Friday, July 26, 2002

100 years ago: Arthur Collins hit #1 with “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home”

Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home

Arthur Collins

Writer(s): Hughie Cannon, Johnnie Queen (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 12, 1902

Peak: 18 US, 11 GA, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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

Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home

Dan Quinn

First Charted: September 1902

Peak: 2 US, 11 GA, 11 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

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

Awards (Collins):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Quinn):

About the Song:

Several people have claimed to be the original Bill Bailey, JA but according to Tin Pan Alley folklore, RCG the Detroit-born “song-and-dance man” Hughie Cannon wrote the song while working as a bar pianist at a saloon in Michigan. A regular customer named Willard “Bill” Bailey lamented about the poor state of his marriage to Sarah. SM She threw the African American vaudeville singer named Bill Bailey whose wife had thrown him out of the house because she’d had it with his late-night partying. PS Bailey also said the song “Ain’t That a Shame,” written by Walter Wilson and John Queen, wrote their song about him and how he’d walked out on his wife. When it was raining and he was cold and raining, he tried to apologize since he had nowhere else to go, but she’d already found a new man. SM

Cannon was inspired to write a rags-to-riches song about what would happen if Bailey suddenly became rich. TY2 He wrote about a wife hanging laundry and singing about her hopes that her husband would soon come home. She confesses that she drove him away with “nothing but a fine tooth comb,” but Bailey returns with a fancy car. RCG It became an“early ragtime classic,” RCG “favorite of Dixie jazz bands,” DJ and a “sing-along standard” RCG thanks to the ease with which it could be adapted to jazz or played on honky-tonk piano or banjo. RCG

John Queen, a minstrel and songwriter who was friends with Cannon, introduced the song at New York City’s Newburgh Theater. TY2 Arthur Collins, Dan Quinn, and Silas Leachman each took the song to the top 5 in 1902, but Collins’ version was the biggest. PM He was no stranger to the top, having landed there seven times before. This, however, was his biggest hit yet.

Over the years, the song was recorded by a number of other big-name artists. Jimmy Durante and his sidekick Eddie Jackson often used it in their act. JA Bobby Darin took it to number 19 in 1960. Others who recorded the song included Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Della Reese. PS The song also spawned numerous parodies, including Tom Lehrer’s “(Won’t You Come Home) Disraeli?” JA As with many “coon songs”, as such racially deragotory songs from the early 20th century have come to be known, later recordings were often “sanitized.” PS The song’s popularity led to spin-off tunes “I Wonder Why Bill Bailey Won’t Come Home” and “Since Bill Bailey Came Back Home.” PS


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Last updated 12/16/2022.

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