My Melancholy Baby

"My Melancholy Baby" is a popular song published in 1912 and first sung publicly by William Frawley. The music was written by Ernie Burnett (1884–1959), the lyrics by George A. Norton.[2]

"My Melancholy Baby"
My Melancholy Baby cover.jpg
1928 sheet music cover featuring Gene Austin
Song by Gene Austin
B-side"There's A Cradle In Carolina"
Published1912 by Theron C. Bennett
ReleasedDecember 2, 1927[1]
RecordedSeptember 14, 1927
StudioVictor Studios, New York City
GenreJazz, Pop Vocal
LabelVictor 21015
Composer(s)Ernie Burnett
Lyricist(s)George A. Norton
Gene Austin singles chronology
"My Blue Heaven"
"My Melancholy Baby"


Ernie Burnett, who composed the music, was wounded fighting in the First World War, from which he lost his memory and his identity dog tags. While recuperating in hospital, a pianist entertained the patients with popular tunes including "Melancholy Baby". Burnett rose from his sickbed and exclaimed, "That's my song!" He had regained his memory.[3]

William Frawley versionEdit

William Frawley, who played Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy, stated that he was the first person to perform the song publicly, in 1912 in the Mozart Cafe at 1647 Curtis Street in Denver, Colorado. Frawley revealed this during a May 3, 1965, appearance on the TV game show I've Got a Secret.[4]

In 1958, Frawley performed the song again on the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour on the episode "Lucy Goes to Sun Valley". Frawley, as Fred Mertz, was asked by Ricky to perform "an old-fashioned ballad" for his band's appearance on a TV show. Mertz sang the song in the rehearsal scene for the musical number.[5]

Other performancesEdit

The song was recorded by Walter Van Brunt (1915), Gene Austin (1928), Jane Froman for Decca (1934), Al Bowlly (1935), and Teddy Wilson.[6] The song can be heard often throughout the 1939 Warner Brothers gangster movie The Roaring Twenties, where a vocal rendition of the song is performed by costar Priscilla Lane.[7]

Bing Crosby recorded the song for Decca Records on December 12, 1938[8] and it reached number 14 in the charts of the day.[6] Crosby sang the song in the 1941 Oscar-nominated movie Birth of the Blues.[9]

Harry James recorded a version in 1941 on Columbia.[10]

In the 1942 film Johnny Eager, the song was played during the opening and closing credits, as background music throughout the film, and as dance music by the band at Tony Luce's place. It was not credited.

The song appears both incidentally and in thematic background variations in the musical score of Fritz Lang's 1945 film Scarlet Street starring Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson.

Judy Garland sang it during the "Born in a Trunk" sequence in the 1954 movie A Star Is Born after a drunken man persistently shouted, "Sing 'Melancholy Baby'!" In the same year John Serry Sr. arranged and recorded the song for his swing jazz accordion ensemble for radio broadcasts on NBC.

Connie Francis recorded the song in 1958 for inclusion in her first MGM studio album Who's Sorry Now

Many Jazz musicians recorded "My Melancholy Baby", or used its harmonic sequence to improvise: Dave Brubeck with Jimmy Rushing (1958), Bill Evans (1966), Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh (1957), Thelonious Monk (1971), Bert Kaempfert (1973). Tommy Edwards' version of the song, from his album For Young Lovers,[11] reached No. 15 in the U.S. Music Vendor charts in 1959.

Copyright disputeEdit

In 1911 Maybelle Watson, the wife of Ernie Burnett, wrote the original lyrics to the song, which was copyrighted under the name "Melancholy." When Burnett sold the song, the publisher insisted songwriter George A. Norton revise the lyrics.[12] Subsequent issues of the sheet music displayed only a dedication to "Miss Maybelle Watson of Berkeley," rather than a lyricist credit. In 1940 Maybelle Watson Bergmann, having by then divorced Burnett and remarried, successfully sued for royalties. For a number of years after that, her name appeared as co-lyricist with Norton.[13]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ 78 Record: Gene Austin - There's A Cradle In Carolina (1927), retrieved 2021-08-06
  2. ^ My Melancholy Baby. Library of Congress. Retrieved on 2010-12-06.
  3. ^ Furia, Philip; Lasser, Michael (2006). America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley. New York: Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 0-415-97246-9.
  4. ^ Kerr, Grady, ed. (January 2011). "William Frawley's Got A Secret" (PDF). Preservation - The Official Publication of the Barbershop Harmony Society's Historical Archives. Barbershop Harmony Society. p. 2. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  5. ^ Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr., Bob Schiller, Bob Weiskopf (1958-04-14). "Lucy Goes to Sun Valley". Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Season 7. Episode 5. 30:02 minutes in. CBS.
  6. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories, 1890–1954. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 555. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  7. ^ "The Roaring Twenties (1939) -". Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  8. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley (December 11, 1941). "'Birth of the Blues' Film, Mostly Old Songs, Seen at Paramount -- 'Cadet Girl' Presented at the Palace". The New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  10. ^ "". Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  11. ^ Adams, Greg. "Tommy Edwards - For Young Lovers". Allmusic. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  12. ^ "". Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  13. ^ "Composed Song in 1911 and Now Gets Profits". Retrieved July 8, 2020.