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My Melancholy Baby

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Wikipedia article

'"My Melancholy Baby"' is a popular song published in 1912 and first sung publicly by William Frawley. The music was written by Ernie Burnett (18841959), the lyrics by George A. Norton.[http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/loc.natlib.ihas.100004419/default.html My Melancholy Baby]. Library of Congress. Retrieved on 2010-12-06.


Ernie Burnett, who composed the music, was wounded fighting in the First World War, from which he lost his memory and his identity dog tags. While recuperating in hospital, a pianist entertained the patients with popular tunes including "Melancholy Baby". Burnett rose from his sickbed and exclaimed, "That's my song!" He had regained his memory.

William Frawley version

William Frawley, who played Fred Mertz on 'I Love Lucy', stated that he was the first person to perform the song publicly, in 1912 in the Mozart Cafe at 1647 Curtis Street in Denver, Colorado. Frawley revealed this during a May 3, 1965, appearance on the TV game show 'I've Got a Secret'.

In 1958, Frawley performed the song again on the 'Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour' on the episode "Lucy Goes to Sun Valley". Frawley, as Fred Mertz, was asked by Ricky to perform "an old-fashioned ballad" for his band's appearance on a TV show. Mertz sang the song in the rehearsal scene for the musical number.

Other performances

The song was recorded by Walter Van Brunt (1915), Gene Austin (1928), Jane Froman for Decca (1934), Al Bowlly (1935), and Teddy Wilson. The song can be heard often throughout the 1939 Warner Brothers gangster movie 'The Roaring Twenties', where a vocal rendition of the song is performed by costar Priscilla Lane.

Bing Crosby recorded the song for Decca Records on December 12, 1938 and it reached number 14 in the charts of the day. Crosby sang the song in the 1941 Oscar-nominated movie 'Birth of the Blues.'

Harry James recorded a version in 1941 on Columbia.

In the 1942 film 'Johnny Eager', the song was played during the opening and closing credits, as background music throughout the film, and as dance music by the band at Tony Luce's place. It was not credited.

The song appears both incidentally and in thematic background variations in the musical score of Fritz Lang's 1945 film 'Scarlet Street' starring Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson.

Judy Garland sang it during the "Born in a Trunk" sequence in the 1954 movie 'A Star Is Born' after a drunken man persistently shouted, "Sing 'Melancholy Baby'!" In the same year John Serry Sr. arranged and recorded the song for his swing jazz accordion ensemble for radio broadcasts on NBC.

Connie Francis recorded the song in 1958 for inclusion in her first MGM studio album 'Who's Sorry Now'

Many Jazz musicians recorded "My Melancholy Baby", or used its harmonic sequence to improvise: Dave Brubeck with Jimmy Rushing (1958), Bill Evans (1966), Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh (1957), Thelonious Monk (1971), Bert Kaempfert (1973).

Tommy Edwards' version of the song, from his album 'For Young Lovers', reached No. 15 in the U.S. Music Vendor charts in 1959.

Copyright dispute

In 1911 Maybelle Watson, the wife of Ernie Burnett, wrote the original lyrics to the song, which was copyrighted under the name "Melancholy." When Burnett sold the song, the publisher insisted songwriter George A. Norton revise the lyrics. Subsequent issues of the sheet music displayed only a dedication to "Miss Maybelle Watson of Berkeley," rather than a lyricist credit. In 1940 Maybelle Watson Bergmann, having by then divorced Burnett and remarried, successfully sued for royalties. For a number of years after that, her name appeared as co-lyricist with Norton.

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