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Al Jolson
The December Recordings

Al Jolson started his recording career in the month of December, with recordings on the Victor label, and continued making recordings during this month throughout his career. Here is a collection which totals 33 tracks recorded on four labels during the last month of the year, by the number one entertainer of all time.

The Victor Recordings

Rum Tum Tiddle 22 Dec 1911: That Haunting Melody - George M. Cohan wrote this song that Al Jolson performed in the show Vera Violetta, and that became Jolson's first enduring commercial recording. This first recording was a chart-topper, as well, holding the #1 spot on the Billboard charts for two of the eleven weeks it was listed.

22 Dec 1911: Rum, Tum, Tiddle - Another number from Vera Violetta, this was the kind of novelty number that propelled the young Al Jolson to his fame.

22 Dec 1911: Asleep In The Deep - This parody of a popular number of the times allows us to see the mischevious side of the young Al Jolson.


The Columbia Recordings

Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts For Soldiers 03 Dec 1914: Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts For Soldiers - Jolson took this novelty number from overseas, put it into the show Dancing Around, and made it his own. This song reached the #6 position on the Billboard charts, and was listed for two weeks.

When The Grown Up Babies Act Like Ladies 03 Dec 1914: When The Grown Up Ladies Act Like Babies - Also introduced by Jolson in the show Dancing Around on October 14, 1914, this song's lyrics are quite daring for the times!

11 Dec 1916: Pray For Sunshine (But Always Be Prepared For Rain) - You can just see Jolson "emoting" during this song, as he developed his unique style. It reached the #4 Billboard slot, and was listed for four weeks.

11 Dec 1916: From Here to Shanghai - Here's an Irving Berlin number you many never have heard, recorded by Jolson around the time Robinson Crusoe, Jr. was touring the country. The public liked it, helping it stay on the Billboard charts for four weeks, peaking at the fourth position.

13 Dec 1917: Wedding Bells (Will You Ever Ring For Me?) - Here's a Jolson number from the "pre-Mammy" era which Theatre Magazine in May, 1918, said that "Jolson sings ... in a way that is at once tragic and humorous." Have a listen and decide for yourself. It reached the number eight Billboard slot for the week it was listed.

13 Dec 1917: I'm All Bound 'Round With The Mason Dixon Line - Living here in Maryland, just south of the Mason Dixon Line (the Pennsylvania-Maryland border), I always enjoyed this bouncy Jolson number. I hope you do, also. The public loved this number, with it making the top Billboard slot for three weeks, being listed for nine.

'N' Everything 27 Dec 1917: 'N' Everything - Jolson recorded this little ditty from Sinbad just before the show opened, in February, 1918. It continues to show the Jolson technique developing. It held the second position on the Billboard charts for two weeks, being listed for five weeks total.

27 Dec 1917: There's A Lump Of Sugar Down In Dixie - Not from a show, Jolson recorded this number the same day as "'N' Everything." Guess he decided to make it two sides for the price of one!

06 Dec 1918: On The Road To Calais - Al Jolson recorded this song interpolated into Sinbad during the second Winter Garden run of the show, from November, 1918, through February, 1919. This song was listed on the Billboard charts for three weeks, in the fifth position.

O-HI-O 12 Dec 1920: O-HI-O - Here's a novelty number that sounds very much like "Row, Row, Row," a song Jolson was said to have sung but never recorded. You can just see him running up and down the runway, singing this song and adding verses; some blase, some risque! But in honor of President Harding's inauguration, Jolson penned a new lyric with a chorus of:
He comes from O-hi-o;
And we're all proud of him because we know
That he's a fighter and he'll fight on the square;
He's honest and fair,
And just the man we need in the President's chair
And he's from O-hi-o.
Wait till you see this country in a year or so.
With things that don't concern him he'll never fuss;
At last we've got a man who'll look after "U.S."
We want the world to know
We're all behind the Man from O-hi-o
And the public was behind this song as well, keeping it on the Billboard charts for seven weeks, with it in the number one slot for four of those weeks.

05 Dec 1922: Who Cares? - Interpolated into Bombo in 1922, this pleading number allowed Jolie to make his plea directly to the audience. The public cared about the song, keeping it at the number four Billboard slot for four listed weeks.

I'm Goin' South 18 Dec 1923: I'm Goin' South - This is the next to last Columbia recording, before Jolson moved to Brunswick for a substantial increase in payment per recording. He recorded it again a few months later for Brunswick, with a different arrangement and style.

20 Dec 1923: Twelve O'Clock At Night - This was the last side Jolie recorded for Columbia, it is the tale of a lonely man, far from his sweetheart and family. Listen to the feeling Al put into the chorus, really putting the song over as only he could.


The Brunswick Recordings

21 Dec 1925: I'm Sitting On Top Of The World - This was the first Jolson recording session done "electrically" rather than with the old acoustic horn. Starting with this song, we begin to hear the nuances of the early Jolson voice. Another Jolson hit, it held the #1 Billboard spot for two of the eleven weeks it was listed.

21 Dec 1925: You Forgot To Remember - The second song recorded on this date was this lovely Irving Berlin ballad. Jolson sang it later in life, here is a window on how he first performed the number.

21 Dec 1925: You Flew Away From The Nest - As with all the songs recorded on this date, Jolson took two takes on this Kalmar-Ruby ditty. You could just see him dance around the stage with this one!

21 Dec 1925: Miami - Finishing a 3¼ hour session, here is Jolson's tribute to another of his favorite cities! I guess all the folks in the town bought the record, because it was on the Billboard charts for three weeks, topping out at the #6 position!

20 Dec 1932: The Cantor (A Chazend'l Ofn Shabbos) - Al Jolson sang this Yiddish number in the show The Wonder Bar. It was not included in the movie derived from the show, and, although recorded for The Jolson Story was cut from that production. Here is the original recording for your enjoyment.

You Are Too Beautiful 20 Dec 1932: Hallelujah, I'm A Bum - The title song from the movie of the same name, which some feel was Jolson's best, and others feel his worst, was written by Rodgers and Hart. Of course, the title had to be changed to "Hallelujah, I'm A Tramp" in England, and the song re-recorded, since they give a different view of "bum" than we do here in the States! The original version made the Billboard charts, though, with one week at #19.

20 Dec 1932: You Are Too Beautiful - Another Rogers and Hart tune from Hallelujah, I'm A Bum, many consider this one of the prettiest love songs Jolson ever performed.

April Showers 20 Dec 1932: April Showers - Along with the songs from his picture, accompanied by Victor Young and his orchestra, Al Jolson recorded two other numbers that day, accompanied by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, a top band of the day. Here is a bouncy rendition of "April Showers," the song that for many was Al Jolson's theme song, and said to be his favorite song, that's like no other version he'd ever done!

Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody 20 Dec 1932: Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody - The second song recorded with Guy Lombardo in this last Brunswick session was the other song most closely identified with Al Jolson. Here, in the early 1930s, Al Jolson captured the feeling of his earlier recording of this song, while performing it with a more mature voice, a solid orchestra, and more modern recording techniques. The result may be his best recorded version of this classic number.


The Decca Recordings

05 Dec 1947: I Wish I Had A Girl - The story of Gus Kahn's life, suggested by the bio-pic I'll See You In My Dreams, the 1951 movie starring Danny Thomas and Doris Day, told how this song was written as a boy-girl collaboration. For me, I just love to hear Jolie sing it!

When I Leave The World Behind 05 Dec 1947: When I Leave The World Behind - Al Jolson felt that this story in a song, written by Irving Berlin, was a wonderful sentiment. Taken from an actual incident, he often related that story before singing this song.

05 Dec 1947: Someone Else May Be There While I'm Gone - Here's the mature Jolson singing this Irving Berlin song he first recorded in 1916. Compared with the earlier Columbia version, this is a smoother, more concerned singing style. We all have our favorites!

When The Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along 05 Dec 1947: When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob Bobbin' Along - Another rerecording of a Jolson classic. On the same day as the previous two songs, Jolie waxed this upbeat version of a song he recorded in 1926!

19 Dec 1947: Kol Nidre - The public first heard Al Jolson sing this sacred chant of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, in The Jazz Singer. He reprised it for the Hollywood Cavalcade, and radio productions of The Jazz Singer. Here he sang it as a mature chazan.

19 Dec 1947: The Cantor On The Sabbath - This month, you have a chance to hear Al Jolson interpret the same song, fifteen years later. A bit different than the first recording, here is Al Jolson singing this Yiddish song from The Wonder Bar.

Down Among The Sheltering Palms 08 Dec 1948: Down Among The Sheltering Palms - On this December day in 1948, Al Jolson and The Mills Brothers got together to record two songs. Just listen to their version of this old Jolson classic.

08 Dec 1948: Is It True What They Say About Dixie? - I don't know, that's what I'm asking you. At least that's what Jolie said to the Mills Brothers, in this wonderful version of another classic Jolson tune.



Alternate Takes

Al Jolson always said that he never sang a song the same way twice. Enjoy these alternate takes of a total of eight of this month's recordings.

03 Dec 1914: Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts For Soldiers - Okay, are you ready for this? When this song was recorded, there were SEVEN takes. At least two of them are out there, the released master above and this alternate version. In fact, there may be three more floating around, without anything on the original label to indicate an alternate version. The chorus was unidentified, a studio chorus from Columbia, with the orchestra directed by Charles Prince. During the recording, Jolie even called Mr. Prince by name, just listen!

03 Dec 1914: When The Grown Up Ladies Act Like Babies - There were two takes on this number from Dancing Around recorded this day; and it was the second take which was released as the master take. This first version has a different tempo, and is quite enjoyable on its own merit.

13 Dec 1917: Wedding Bells (Will You Ever Ring For Me?) - There were four takes for this song on this date. The first two were rejected, the third was the issued master, and this is listed as the fourth, unreleased, take. The song was re-recorded on 12 Jan 1918, but I have no information of a copy of that take surfacing.

13 Dec 1917: I'm All Bound 'Round With The Mason Dixon Line - This was the first of two takes of this song recorded on this date. The second take was the released master; you can enjoy the subtle differences in this initial recording of the number.

27 Dec 1917: 'N' Everything - There were three takes of this popular Jolson-Kahn-DeSylva number, and we've got them all. The first take was the released master; this is the second take on the song.

27 Dec 1917: 'N' Everything - And as promised, here is the third take of a very popular Al Jolson tune. Listen to them and appreciate the differences in the way Jolie interpreted a tune from take to take.

27 Dec 1917: There's A Lump Of Sugar Down In Dixie - Al Jolson tried this song three times. The last time was totally rejected, and the first was the master. That leaves this second take for us to enjoy as a hidden gem.

12 Dec 1920: O-HI-O - On a Sunday recording session in 1920, just before opening Sinbad in Baltimore the next night, Al Jolson recorded this song in two takes. While the first take was the released master, here is his second try at the song, with some typical Jolson differences in phrasing.




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This listing and material Copyright © 1995-2017 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 31 Dec 175