MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, [a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook], I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
In any list of jazz standards, you’re going to find dozens of contributions from such prolific and popular composers as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, or Richard Rodgers. But not every composer had such extensive catalogs. On the other hand, there are many well-known standards that became the only significant songwriting contribution from a given songwriter. This week on the show, we’re exploring the work of songwriters like Ann Ronnel, Brooks Bowman, or Erroll Garner whose songbooks contain only one hit song.
It’s The Great American Songbook’s One-Hit Wonders, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - NAT KING COLE, “JUST YOU, JUST ME”
Nat King Cole, from his 1957 album After Midnight, with the 1929 jazz standard “Just You, Just Me,” the only big hit song for composer Jesse Greer and lyricist Raymond Klages. Greer wrote a couple of other tunes, but none with the same staying power as “Just You, Just Me.” Nat Cole was featured on the recording on both vocals and piano, along with saxophonist Willie Smith.
The most famous version of “Just You, Just Me” comes from a different saxophonist, Lester Young, in this recording from 1943, which became a jukebox hit…
MUSIC CLIP - LESTER YOUNG, “JUST YOU, JUST ME”
… and the harmonic progression for “Just You, Just Me” also became the basis of the song “Evidence,” a contrafact written in 1954 by pianist Thelonius Monk.
MUSIC CLIP - THELONIOUS MONK, “EVIDENCE”
MUSIC CLIP - AL COHN, “JUST YOU, JUST ME”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re looking at the Great American Songbook’s one-hit wonder, songwriters who made only one significant contribution to the common repertoire of jazz standards.
Now, your definition of the word “hit” or “significant” may vary. Most of the songwriters that I’ll be featuring this hour were prolific, often writing many songs that were recorded by several artists. But for one reason or the other, only one of those songs is really considered a “standard” by any definition.
One songwriter who can almost certainly be called a one-hit wonder is Brooks Bowman, who never registered a second hit, because sadly, he died far too young.
Brooks Bowman was a student at Princeton in 1934, where he wrote songs for the annual stage productions put on by the University’s Triangle Club. One of those songs was the tune “East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon),” a romantic ballad that soon made its way into the dance band repertoire in the mid 1930s. The song's dreamy lyrics, which draw inspiration from a Norwegian fairy tale of the same name, became popular with singers after it was performed by Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra in 1940. Unfortunately, Bowman never got to hear that recording. He died in a car crash in 1937 at age 24.
Here’s his one enduring legacy now. This is Ella Fitzgerald in 1959 with “East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon),” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “EAST OF THE SUN”
Ella Fitzgerald in 1959 performing the 1934 jazz standard “East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon),” a song by the one-hit wonder songwriter Brooks Bowman.
It was Frank Sinatra who helped turn that song into a hit in 1940. Sinatra, in fact, had a way of making almost anything he touched turn into a standard. Later in his career, he worked with songwriters like Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, introducing their songs and transforming them into enduring standards. But early in his career, he helped to elevate the work of some lesser-known songwriters, helping to establish their one and only hit song.
Let’s hear two now. Both of these songs were hits for Sinatra in his early 1940s days, when he was still singing with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. But I’m going to play some later recordings he made. First up, here is Frank Sinatra in 1959 with the biggest hit song from Canadian songwriter Ruth Lowe—this is “I’ll Never Smile Again,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “I’LL NEVER SMILE AGAIN”
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL”
Two songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, written by some “one-hit wonder” songwriters. Just now, we heard Sinatra in 1966 with “All Or Nothing At All,” one of his first hit songs he performed with Harry James and His Orchestra back in 1939. That was written by Arthur Altman and Jack Lawrence. Altman never had another hit among jazz singers, although he did write some country-pop tunes for Little Brenda Lee in the 1960s. Before that, we heard Sinatra in 1959 with “I’ll Never Smile Again,” another song he first made a hit early in his career in 1940. That was written by the one-hit wonder songwriter Ruth Lowe, who also had a somewhat minor second hit, writing the lyrics for one of Sinatra’s signature songs “Put Your Dreams Away.”
While Arthur Altman, who wrote “All Or Nothing At All,” may be considered a one-hit wonder composer in the jazz world, Jack Lawrence, the song’s lyricist, did have some follow-up success. His other big hit song was a tune he co-wrote with another one-hit wonder composer, Walter Gross. The Gross and Lawrence song “Tenderly” from 1946 became a standard, later performed by Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and many others.
Here’s a version from singer Nat King Cole. This is Nat and arranger Nelson Riddle in 1955 with the Walter Gross and Jack Lawrence song “Tenderly,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - NAT KING COLE, “TENDERLY”
MUSIC - DICK HAYMES, “WHAT’S NEW”
Two songs from one-hit wonder composers, with lyrics by more prolific lyricists. Just now, we heard singer Dick Haymes in 1957 with the 1939 song “What’s New,” written by composer and bandleader Bob Haggart with lyrics added by Johnny Burke. Haggart’s only other notable song was the minor hit “Big Noise from Winnetka.” Before that, we heard Nat King Cole from his 1955 album Nat King Cole Sings for Two in Love with the jazz standard “Tenderly.” That song was the biggest hit for composer Walter Gross, with lyrics by the slightly more prolific Jack Lawrence.
When thinking of one-hit wonder songwriters from the Great American Songbook, the first name that came to my mind was Ann Ronnel. She was born in 1905 in Nebraska, and later attended Radcliffe College in Massachusetts. While in college, she got a chance to interview George Gershwin, who encouraged her to move to New York and get into the music business. She started writing songs, and eventually landed a hit with the song “Willow Weep For Me,” which she dedicated to Gershwin. The song was championed by Irving Berlin, who helped get it on the radio, and later turned into a standard by artists like June Christy, Frank Sinatra, and Art Tatum.
Ronnel was a rare songwriting talent who wrote both music and lyrics. However, as one of the few female songwriters working in Tin Pan Alley in the 1930s, she experienced quite a bit of resistance. Had she been working in a more accepting environment or time period, perhaps she would be known for more than just her one hit.
Nevertheless, let’s hear it now. This is Julie London in 1963 with Ann Ronnel’s hit song “Willow Weep For Me,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JULIE LONDON, “WILLOW WEEP FOR ME”
Julie London from her 1963 album Love On The Rocks, with the 1932 song “Willow Weep For Me,” the only well-known standard by songwriter Ann Ronnel.
MUSIC CLIP - ARNETT COBB, “WILLOW WEEP FOR ME”
We’ll hear from some more one-hit wonder songwriters in just a bit. Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - ART TATUM, “WILLOW WEEP FOR ME”
MUSIC CLIP - LESTER YOUNG AND TEDDY WILSON, “ALL OF ME”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring one-hit wonders in the Great American Songbook, composers and lyricists who can only lay claim to one significant standard. And now we’ll turn to Detroit songwriters Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks, who in 1931 wrote the enduring standard “All Of Me.”
The song first became a hit when vaudeville star Belle Baker performed it on the radio in 1931, and it later became a favorite of Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman. The tune gained further success when Frank Sinatra sang it on film in 1952, and it was named of the few “Towering Songs” by the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Here’s one of the definitive versions of that towering tune now, performed in 1941. This is Billie Holiday and Lester Young with “All of Me,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - BILLIE HOLIDAY, “ALL OF ME”
Billie Holiday in 1941 with the jazz standard “All Of Me,” the only big hit for songwriters Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons.
If you find a ranking of popular jazz standards, chances are you’re going to see the tune “How High The Moon” towards the top. It was a hit for Benny Goodman and singer Helen Forrest in 1940, the year it was written. It became a virtuoso instrumental number for jazz-country guitarist Les Paul and singer Mary Ford in 1951. Ella Fitzgerald used it as a scat showcase throughout her entire career. The chord progression even became the basis for Charlie Parker’s calling card tune “Ornithology.”
Despite the song’s longevity, it was the only significant song from the team of Morgan Lewis and lyricist Nancy Hamilton, which they wrote for the Broadway revue called Two For The Road in 1940. Often, the song is performed in an upbeat manner, but we’ll hear now a ballad version of that standard now, a style that is more similar to Hamilton and Lewis’s intention.
This is Mel Tormé from his 1960 album Swingin’ on The Moon with Morgan Lewis and Nancy Hamilton’s “How High The Moon,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - MEL TORME, “HOW HIGH THE MOON”
MUSIC - TONY BENNETT, “MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT”
Tony Bennett in 1995 with “Moonlight in Vermont,” a song first made famous by Margaret Whiting in 1944. That was written by composer Karl Suessdorf (who was born in Alaska, by the way) and lyricist John Blackburn (who was born in Ohio), and was their only hit song. Before that, another moon song, “How High The Moon” performed by Mel Tormé, and written by the one-hit wonder songwriting team of Morgan Lewis and Nancy Hamilton.
Oscar Levant was one of the most popular entertainers in the mid 20th century. A concert pianist and conductor with a famously dry wit, he became a well-known actor and television personality in the 1940s and 50s. However, as a songwriter, Levant was only a one-hit wonder. In 1934, he composed the tune “Blame It On My Youth” with the more prolific lyricist Edward Heyman, and that song has since gone on to be performed hundreds of times over by singers like Frank Sinatra, Carmen McRae, Chet Baker and others.
Here’s a more recent version of that standard now. This is Kurt Elling in 2001 from his album Flirting With Twilight with Oscar Levant’s “Blame It On My Youth,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - KURT ELLING, “BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH”
MUSIC - ALEXIS COLE, “JUST FRIENDS”
Alexis Cole with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli in 2015 with the tune “Just Friends,” the one hit for composer John Kenner, written in 1931. Before that, we heard Kurt Elling in 2001 with “Blame It On My Youth,” the one hit for composer Oscar Levant, written in 1934.
The last one hit wonder we’re going to look at this hour is one who, like Oscar Levant, is certainly a well-known musical figure, but one whose songwriting efforts only created that single hit. And here, I’m talking about pianist Erroll Garner. In the late 1950s, Garner was perhaps one of the most famous jazz pianists in America, when his live LP Concert By The Sea sold over a million copies. In 1954, he wrote an instrumental tune called “Misty” that has since become a classic. Johnny Burke added lyrics in 1957, and it was turned into a standard by folks like Sarah Vaughan and Johnny Mathis, and even became an integral part of the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty For Me in 1971.
Here’s an excellent version from Ella Fitzgerald and pianist Paul Smith in 1960. This is Erroll Garner’s “Misty,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “MISTY”
Ella Fitzgerald and pianist Paul Smith in 1960 with the jazz standard “Misty,” the only hit song from pianist Erroll Garner.
Thanks for tuning in to this one-hit wonder edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - COUNT BASIE, “MISTY”