MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON TRIO, "MOONGLOW"
Welcome to Afterglow, a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook. I'm your host, Mark Chilla.
This week on the show, we’re taking a look at one of the early contributors to the American Songbook, and one of the most prolific songwriters in jazz: composer Jimmy McHugh. Simply put, McHugh had the gift of melody, and out of his brain came such jazz standards as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “On The Sunny Side Of The Street,” and “I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night.” Coming up, we’ll hear his songs performed by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, June Christy and more.
It’s Jimmy McHugh: I Feel A Song Coming On, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET”
Louis Armstrong and Sy Oliver’s Orchestra in 1956 with the Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields song “On The Sunny Side of the Street”
MUSIC CLIP - LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “I'M SHOOTING HIGH”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re exploring the songs of Jimmy McHugh. In 1951, after three decades in the music business Jimmy McHugh took a trip to England where he performed for the Queen. When Queen Elizabeth met him, she said “You seem to have written all of my favorite songs.”
And that really sums up Jimmy—once you take a look at all the songs he wrote that you realize what an impact he had on American pop music. All in all, Jimmy McHugh composed over 500 songs and dozens of jazz and pop standards, far more than we can get to in one hour.
McHugh entered the American pop music world in its infancy. He was born in 1894 in Boston, and when he was about 22 years old, he got a job at Irving Berlin’s publishing house as a “song plugger.” Basically this meant he would travel around to theaters trying to sell the songs on behalf of the publishing house—playing them for producers and hoping to get these songs in their shows. Soon, McHugh started writing his own songs to plug.
Starting around 1921, he hustled to get his music performed at theaters, in films, basically anywhere they could be played.
One of the first places Jimmy McHugh found success as a songwriter was at the Cotton Club, the all-white Harlem nightclub that spawned the careers of Harold Arlen, Adelaide Hall, Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington and Lena Horne.
Two of his earliest songs performed in Cotton Club reviews went on to become jazz standards. I’ll play those two songs now.
First, here’s Peggy Lee in 1958 with the Jimmy McHugh and Irving Mills song “When My Sugar Walks Down The Street,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - PEGGY LEE, “WHEN MY SUGAR WALKS DOWN THE STREET”
MUSIC - DEAN MARTIN, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME”
Two songs first performed at Harlem’s Cotton Club in the 1920s. Just now we heard the Jimmy McHugh and Clarence Gaskill song from 1924 “I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me.” That was performed by Dean Martin in 1960. Before that, Peggy Lee in 1958 with “When My Sugar Walks Down The Street,” a Jimmy McHugh, Gene Austin and Irving Mills song from 1924.
In 1927, Jimmy McHugh met his most important musical partner, the 22-year schoolteacher turned lyricist Dorothy Fields. For the next seven years, McHugh and Fields became one of the best duos in American Popular Song, churning out countless hits on Broadway, in Hollywood, and on the hit parade.
I’ll play two songs now from their first musical collaboration, the African-American musical review known as Blackbirds of 1928. The show, starring Adelaide Hall and Aida Ward, was a smash hit, and created stars out of McHugh and Fields.
Here’s June Christy with the show stopping number from Blackbirds of 1928, “I can’t Give You Anything But Love,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUNE CHRISTY - “I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE”
MUSIC - BILLIE HOLIDAY - “I MUST HAVE THAT MAN”
MUSIC - ARETHA FRANKLIN - “EXACTLY LIKE YOU”
Aretha Franklin in 1962 with the Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields song “Exactly Like You,” a Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields song from the 1930 show called Lew Leslie’s International Review. That show was actually dismissed as “crude and vulgar” when it came out, despite spawning this song and the song “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.” Before that, we heard Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson’s Orchestra in 1937 with “I Must Have That Man.” Lester Young was the tenor saxophonist in that recording, along with Buck Clayton on Trumpet and Benny Goodman on clarinet. And starting that set, we heard June Christy in 1945 with “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Those first two songs come from the musical review Blackbirds of 1928 by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields.
MUSIC CLIP - KING COLE TRIO, “DON’T BLAME ME”
In 1933, with New York being hit hard by the Great Depression, McHugh and Fields set their sights on Hollywood (other songwriters like Rodgers and Hart and Harold Arlen had done the same around this time).
Their first hit out in Hollywood was “Don’t Blame Me,” a song written for the 1933 film Dinner At Eight. Their follow-up to Dinner At Eight, the 1935 film Every Night At Eight, produced even more hit songs.
Here are two of those songs now. First this is Julie London performing the Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields song “I’m In the Mood for Love,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - JULIE LONDON - “I'M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND - “I FEEL A SONG COMING ON”
Judy Garland in 1956 with “I Feel A Song Coming On,” a common opener at her live performances. Before that, Julie London in 1955 with “I’m In The Mood For Love.” Both songs come from the 1935 film Every Night At Eight, by songwriter Jimmy McHugh and lyricist Dorothy Fields.
MUSIC CLIP - JAMES MOODY - “I'M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE”
Coming up after a short break, we’ll hear more from songwriter Jimmy McHugh. Keep listening.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON - “DIGA DIGA DOO”
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “CAN’T GET OUT OF THIS MOOD”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been celebrating the work of songwriter Jimmy McHugh this hour.
After seven years of working as a duo, Jimmy McHugh and lyricist Dorothy Fields decided to end their partnership around 1935. Fields started working with Jerome Kern, Howard Schwartz, and later Cy Coleman. McHugh started working with a number of Ted Koehler, Johnny Mercer and Frank Loesser.
With this trio, he wrote many songs that became minor standards, like “I’m Shooting High” and “I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed” with Ted Koehler, the Oscar-nominated song “I’d Know You Anywhere” with Johnny Mercer, and “Can’t Get Out of This Mood” with Frank Loesser. That’s what you’re hearing in the background right now, performed by Oscar Peterson…
...Let me play a different song now from Jimmy McHugh and Frank Loesser. They wrote this song in 1943 for the film Happy Go Lucky starring Mary Martin.
This is Chet Baker in 1955 with the tune “Let’s Get Lost,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - CHET BAKER - “LET'S GET LOST”
Chet Baker with “Let’s Get Lost,” a song by Jimmy McHugh and Frank Loesser.
Frank Loesser and Jimmy McHugh were only occasional songwriting partners in the 1930s and 40s. The only thing McHugh had that resembled a long-term partnership during this time was his work with lyricist Harold Adamson.
McHugh and Adamson started working together on films in the late 1930s, and continued to collaborate during World War II and beyond. Some early hits for the duo including the 1937 films You’re A Sweetheart (where they wrote the title song), and Top of the Town, which featured the song “Where Are You?”
This song was featured as the title track to a 1957 album for Frank Sinatra, his first album recorded in stereo.
Here’s Sinatra with the Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson song “Where Are You?” on Afterglow
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA - “WHERE ARE YOU”
MUSIC - JUNE CHRISTY - “A LOVELY WAY TO SPEND AN EVENING”
June Christy in 1956 from the album The Misty Miss Christy with Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson’s 1943 song “A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening.” That was arranged by Pete Rugalo. Before that, we heard Frank Sinatra and Gordon Jenkins with “Where Are You,” the title track from their 1957 album together. McHugh and Adamson wrote that song in 1937.
The war years were successful for Jimmy McHugh. He scored his biggest hit in 1943, the wartime song “Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer,” all about a heroic act of aviation.
MUSIC CLIP - THE FOUR VAGABONDS - “COMIN' IN ON A WING AND A PRAYER”
That same year, he and Harold Adamson also wrote more civilian songs, including the song “I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night” for the film Higher and Higher. One of the stars of the film was none other than Frank Sinatra in one of his earliest film roles. Sinatra introduced the song in the film, and it was later nominated for an Oscar.
The song always remained close to Sinatra, and in 1957, he recorded it again with Nelson Riddle for their album Close To You. It’s one of Sinatra’s best performances. Let’s hear that now. This is Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle with “I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA - “I COULDN'T SLEEP A WINK LAST NIGHT”
MUSIC - BEVERLY KENNEY - “IT'S A MOST UNUSUAL DAY”
Two songs written in the 1940s by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson. Just now we heard singer Beverly Kenney in 1958 with “It’s A Most Unusual Day.” That comes from the 1948 MGM musical “A Date With Judy.” Before that, Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle in 1957 with “I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night.” That comes from the 1943 musical Higher And Higher, originally performed by Frank Sinatra.
In the 1950s, Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson continued to collaborate, but not as successfully. They tried to create a musical called Strip For Action in 1956, but it fell apart before it went to Broadway, mostly because they got in trouble with the censors. The show might have fallen into obscurity, were it not for Nat King Cole. He recorded several of the songs from the show with arranger Nelson Riddle, turning them into standards.
Let’s hear those now. This is Nat King Cole in 1955 with McHugh and Adamson’s “I Just Found Out About Love,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - NAT KING COLE - “I JUST FOUND OUT ABOUT LOVE”
MUSIC - NAT KING COLE - “TOO YOUNG TO GO STEADY”
Two tracks featured on the 1957 album This is Nat King Cole. That was “Too Young To Go Steady” and “I Just Found Out About Love.” Both songs were from the failed Broadway musical called Strip For Action by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson.
Jimmy McHugh mostly retired from the music business in the 1960s. He would pass away at age 74 in 1969. After decades in the music business, Jimmy McHugh’s final film song ends on a hopeful note. It comes from the 1960 film Let No Man Write My Epitaph featuring singer Ella Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald recorded the soundtrack, too, a lovely, spare album with only voice and piano, reissued on CD with the title The Intimate Ella.
Here’s Ella Fitzgerald with that song now. This is Jimmy McHugh and Ned Washington’s song “Reach For Tomorrow,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD - “REACH FOR TOMORROW”
“Reach For Tomorrow” performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Paul Smith, from the soundtrack to the 1960 film Let No Man Write My Epitaph, later reissued under the title The Intimate Ella. That was written by composer Jimmy McHugh and lyricist Ned Washington, and was McHugh’s final film song.
And thanks for tuning in to this closer look at the songs of Jimmy McHugh, on Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON - “YOU'RE A SWEETHEART”
Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Afterglow.
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University, and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow