The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
"Blue Skies"

"Blue Skies"

#182 / Feb. 24 Podcast

Our story begins with the star of a new show who is unhappy with the song her upstart writers have given her to perform. In a panicky phone call, she persuades a more established composer to come up with something she thinks will be more worthy of her talents.

The show, in fact, turns out to be a dog — vaudeville’s “Betsy” has only 39 performances between December 1926 and January 1927 — but oh, that song!

Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” was an instant hit with the audience on the “Betsy” opening night. The song literally stopped the show. Twenty-four encores! During her final repetition, star Belle Baker actually forgot the lyrics, prompting a bit of Broadway lore when Berlin himself sang the words for her from his front-row seat.

And Those Disdained Upstarts?

As it happened, Berlin had written the new “Blue Skies” a few weeks earlier as a Christmas gift for his newborn daughter, Mary Ellin.

Berlin agreed to let the composition be a last-minute addition to the show, even though he usually resented the interpolation of songs by other composers into the score of his shows, say biographers Philip Furia and Michael Lasser.

“But,” the writers add, “he must have been delighted at the chance to work one of his songs into a score by the young songwriting team who were already being compared to Gilbert and Sullivan,” namely, a couple of newcomers named, ahem, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

Big Time on the Big Screen

If its reputation relied only on that failed 1927 Ziegfield musical, we probably wouldn’t know “Blue Skies” nowadays.

But the song’s real fame came later that same year with “The Jazz Singer,” the first full-length motion picture to have sound; it starred Al Jolson singing nine songs, one of which was the brand new “Blue Skies.”

And that was just the beginning of the song’s celluloid celebrity.

It later was featured in “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1938), a biopic inspired by Irving Berlin, and the 1946 film “Blue Skies” starring Bing Crosby, then in the 1954 “White Christmas” with Crosby singing it with Danny Kaye.

And of course, the song has jazz cred too. Ella Fitzgerald scatted a version for her eight-album “Song Book” series. Count Basie and Benny Goodman’s recordings hit #8 and #9 respectively on the pop charts.

The song has contributed to the country and western songbook too. It was a standard by 1939 when Moon Mullican recorded it. Willie Nelson’s 1978 release was a #1 country music hit.

The Star Trek Connection

The song even has gotten air time in outer space. It was featured prominently in the 2002 film “Star Trek: Nemesis,” as sung by Commander Data (Brent Spiner) during a wedding scene at the start of the story.

It is sung again at the very end of the film by Data’s "brother," the android B-4, during the final scene set in the 24th century, a time period not revisited by the Trek franchise for another 18 years, with the release of “Star Trek: Picard” in 2020. "Blue Skies" is featured in that series' premiere episode and again in the 10th episode.

New Generations

“Blue Skies” has clicked with generations of performers and audiences, from Freddy Cannon, Della Reese, Jim Reeves and Bobby Darin in the 1960s to Lyle Lovett, Dr. John and Eva Cassidy in the 1990s to Debby Boone and Rod Stewart in the 2000s.

We’ll Bring “Blue Skies” to Sal’s Tonight

The song will be on tap when the Family Flood returns to Sal's Italian Eatery & Speakeasy in Ashland, Ky., tonight.

We’re excited to be there, and, best of all, The Chick Singer is back! Yes, Floodster Emerita Michelle Hoge (whom the late Joe Dobbs christened "da chick singer" years ago) is coming in from Cincinnati just to sit in with her old band mates for the evening. It's going to be epic! We'll be playing from 6 to 9 p.m.

By the way, if you've not yet had The Sal's Experience, this would be a great chance to enjoy this remarkable venue in downtown Ashland. To read all about it, check out our earlier article:

The 1937 Flood Watch
The Story of Sal's Speakeasy in Ashland
Sal’s Italian Eatery & Speakeasy, at 1624 Carter Ave. in Ashland, Ky, is the creation of entrepreneurs Billy and Christy Bare…
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The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
Each week The 1937 Flood, West Virginia's most eclectic string band, offers a free tune from a recent rehearsal, show or jam session. Music styles range from blues and jazz to folk, hokum, ballad and old-time. All the podcasts, dating back to 2008, are archived on our website; you and use the archive for free at: