Friday, February 10, 2006

100 years ago: “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie” hits #1 – for the first time

Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie

Byron G. Harlan

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

First Charted: February 3, 1906

Peak: 19 US, 13 GA, 16 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

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


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

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. RA He wrote thousands of songs in his lifetime, of which more than two thousand were published. RA 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. “The song told the story of a couple, Joe and Nellie on a Sunday morning, looking forlornly through the window at the rain with her sweetheart by her side. It was a shame it was raining as there was a picnic at the old Point View and she also longed for a trolley ride to show her brand new gown.” SM

One legend says Von Tilzer and Sterling were inspired to write this when they were sitting in a hotel lobby and overheard a groom consoling his bride, “Just wait ‘til the sun shines, Nellie.” RA 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 Still another take suggests Von Tilzer heard someone standing outside a theater during a rain shower say, “wait ill the sun shines.” TY2

“The theme of the song about being optimistic when its raining, that sooner or later the sun will shine through was a theme picked up around 30 years later during the Great Depression by the New York Stock Exchange and it is traditionally sung by floor traders every Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.” SM

“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 DJ and then it became popular via versions by Byron G. 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


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First posted 2/10/2016; last updated 12/15/2022.

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