My Blue Heaven

# 88 / Video Extra

Do you ever wonder if songs you hear today will still be around a century from now? Well, if Walter Donaldson wondered that about the song he penned back in the 1920s, he needn’t have worried.

His “My Blue Heaven” was introduced in 1927 by Eddie Cantor in the Ziegfeld Follies when the ink was still wet on Walter’s pages.

And the following year, it was a hit for crooner Gene Austin. That record sold five million copies worldwide, charted for 26 weeks and stayed at Number One for 13 of those weeks. Stats like that were pretty much unheard of in 1928. In fact, “My Blue Heaven” was one of the 10 best sellers of the first half of the 20th Century.

Now, Donaldson had had hits before the Jazz Age — his "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?" was an enduring novelty number for the homecoming doughboys of World War I — but the world in which Walter truly ruled was the Roarin’ Twenties.

He wrote “My Blue Heaven” one afternoon at New York’s Friars Club while he was waiting for his turn at the pool table. (Later George A. Whiting wrote lyrics to the melody just so he could perform it in his vaudeville act with Sadie Burt.) And for all those ‘20s jazz babies, Donaldson also would write"Makin' Whoopee,” "You're Driving Me Crazy," "Yes, Sir! That's My Baby," "My Baby Just Cares for Me" and many more.

Meanwhile, singer Gene Austin’s fortunes rose in the wake of the song’s initial success. Austin bought a yacht that he named “My Blue Heaven.” Subsequently, sales of his record skyrocketed, when, on his first trek out, the boat was caught in a hurricane and false rumors circulated that Gene had down with the ship, as it were.

Of course, the tune would be golden for many other performers too. It was a big number in 1935 for Jimmie Lunceford and a huge hit in 1956 for New Orleans’ Fats Domino. In fact, in the near century since it was written, “My Blue Heaven” has been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra to Coleman Hawkins to Leon Redbone. And it has been the title tune for at least two movies over the years, a Betty Grable vehicle in 1950 and a Steve Martin film in 1990.

Our Take on the Tune

There's nothing like settling back with a tune that's got such history under its belt.

Here in Pamela's video at last week’s rehearsal, The Flood kicks back with the tune, Charlie doing the vocals over Randy's rock-solid bass line, then handing it off for cool solos by Veezy, Danny and Sam. It’s another fun moment from The Flood at home.

The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch
Charles Bowen