Thursday, October 20, 2016

10/20/1928: Al Jolson goes to #1 with “Sonny Boy”

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Al Jolson “Sonny Boy”

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

First charted: 10/13/1928

Peak: 112 US, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US (1.0 in sheet music sales)

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

Review: 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, TY-45 but their “joke”ended up the biggest hit of 1928 WHC-43 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-233

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-583 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

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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