Thursday, September 1, 2016

100 years ago: Billy Murray hit #1 with “Pretty Baby”

Pretty Baby

Billy Murray

Writer(s): Gus Kahn (words), Tony Jackson (music), Egbert Van Alstyne (music) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: September 1, 1916

Peak: 11 US, 112 GA, 112 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.19 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This “delightful, jaunty little song” TY2 was first performed in 1912 by Tony Jackson SM who wrote the song for his boyfriend. TY2 According to Donald, the son of lyricist Gus Kahn, his father saw Jackson perform it at a black nightclub in Chicago. Kahn and the song’s composer, Egbert Van Alstyne, convinced Jackson to sell the song to them. Other accounts have suggested the tune was stolen or that Kahn and Van Alstyne were hired to rework it. TY2

The song was then introduced by Dolly Hackett in the Broadway show Passing Show of 1916. DJ It was also featured that year in the Broadway revue A World of Pleasure and the London show Houp La. SM It would later be featured in the musicals Applause (1929), She Done Him Wrong (1933), Rose of Washington Square (1939), and Coney Island (1943). It was also used in biopics for Ted Lewis (Is Everybody Happy?, 1943) Nora Bayes (Shine on Harvest Moon, 1944), Gus Kahn (I’ll See You in My Dreams, 1952), and Eva Tanguay (The I-Don’t-Care-Girl, 1953). The song also surfaced in Broadway Rhythm (1944). TY2

Billy Murray had the hit recording with the song that same year, taking it to #1. PM This was his seventeenth of 18 chart-toppers as a solo act. PM With 169 chart entries from 1903 to 1927, he was the “most sensational record seller of the entire pre-1920 pioneer era.” PM He had another 44 hits with Ada Jones from 1907 to 1922; six of those reached #1. PM

As for Kahn, the Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee would go on to write “Ain’t We Got Fun?” (Van & Schenck, #1, 1921), “Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo’bye)” (Al Jolson, #1, 1923), “It Had to Be You” (Isham Jones, #1, 1924), “Yes Sir! That’s My Baby” (Gene Austin, #1, 1925), “Makin’ Whoopee” (Eddie Cantor, #2, 1929), and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (Wayne King, #1, 1931).


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First posted 3/18/2023.

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