Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2/10/1906: “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie” hits #1 – for the first time

image from

Byron G. Harlan “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie”

Writer(s): Andrew B. Sterling/ Harry Von Tilzer (see lyrics here)

First charted: 2/3/1906

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

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music sales)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: Harry Von Tilzer, born Harry Gumm in Detroit in 1872, was one of the few successful songwriters of his era, serving as inspiration to other composers such as Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. TR-321 He wrote thousands of songs in his lifetime, of which more than two thousand were published. TR-321 Von Tilzer fell in love with show business at an early age and at age 14 ran away to join the circus. By the next year he was touring with a repertory company playing piano and composing songs. His big break came when his song “My Old New Hampshire Home,” with lyrics by Andrew B. Sterling and William C. Dunn, was published in 1898 and sold more than two million copies. PS

He and Sterling worked together again on this Tin Pan Alley landmark song. One legend says the pair were inspired to write this when they were sitting in a hotel lobby and overheard a groom tell his bride, “Just wait ‘til the sun shines, Nellie.” TR-321 A variation of that tale had just Sterling hear a man utter the phrase to his wife when they had to postpone a trip to Coney Island. RCG Another account says Von Tilzer read a newspaper article about down-on-its-luck family in which the reporter declared, “the sun would once again shine for them after the storm.” PS

“Nellie” was originally written for an unsuccessful Broadway show called The Kissing Girl. Tilzer’s original tune was “a slow and deliberate march” RCG but in later years became a jazz favorite in a faster version. RCG Winona Winter introduced the song in vaudeville and then it became popular via versions by Byron Harlan and Harry Talley. They each took the song to #1 while Prince’s Orchestra recording from the same year also went top 5.

Mary Martin and Bing Crosby dueted on the song for the 1941 film The Birth of the Blues. In 1942, Gale Storm sang it in Rhythm on Parade and the song served as the title for a 1952 film. It has become “a staple of ensembles and barbershop quartets or for sing alongs in schools and homes”. PS

Download song here

Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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