Friday, October 20, 1978

50 years ago: Al Jolson goes to #1 with “Sonny Boy”

Sonny Boy

Al Jolson

Writer(s): Ray Henderson, Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown, Al Jolson (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 13, 1928

Peak: 112 US, 188 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.10 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Jolson was rehearsing for The Singing Fool, his follow-up to the first sound picture, 1927’s The Jazz Singer, when he needed to replace a song. He phoned the writing team of Henderson, DeSylva, and Brown with his request and they had a song ready the next morning. It has been suggested that the song they wrote, “Sonny Boy,” was intended as a joke, TY1 but their “joke”ended up the biggest hit of 1928 CPM and the biggest hit of Jolson’s career. That was no small feat, considering it was his twenty-first of twenty three #1 songs. PM

In 1928, Ruth Etting (#6) and Jan Garber (#14) also found chart success with the song. In 1929, Gene Austin took it to #12 and in 1941 the Andrews Sisters revived the song with their #22 version. PM Ruth Brown, Petula Clark, John MacCormack, Mandy Patinkin, and Paul Robeson also recorded the song. WK

“Sonny Boy” was an intergral part of P.G. Wodehouse’s short story “Jeeves and the Song of Songs,” which was dramatized on the British TV series Jeeves and Wooster (“Tuppy and the Terrier,” season 1, episode 2).

Singer Eddie Fisher, who was born the year of the song’s release, was called “Sonny Boy” by his family. He shared in his autobiography that even after he’d gained fame in marrying Elizabeth Taylor, making $40,000 a week in Las Vegas, and hanging out with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Rocky Marciano, the nickname stuck. WK


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First posted 10/20/2016; last updated 2/27/2023.

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