Blue Skies (Irving Berlin) — 1926
The song was composed in 1926 as a last-minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy. Although the show ran for 39 performances only, “Blue Skies” was an instant success, with audiences on opening night demanding 24 encores of the piece from star Belle Baker. During the final repetition, Ms. Baker forgot her lyrics, prompting Berlin to sing them from his seat in the front row.
In 1927…it became one of the first songs to be featured in a talkie, when Al Jolson performed it in The Jazz Singer. The song was recorded in all of the major and dime store labels of the time. Another version of the song was recorded by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra in 1935. 1946 was also a notable year for the song, with a Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film taking its title along with two recorded versions by Count Basie and Benny Goodman reaching #8 and #9 on the pop charts, respectively. Crossing genres, Willie Nelson’s recording of “Blue Skies” was a #1 country music hit in 1978.
The image (above right) is from a photo taken during rehearsals of Ziegfeld Follies of 1927, which featured a number of Berlin compositions. Left to right, front, are Eddie Cantor, Florence Ziegfeld, and Irving Berlin.
Vaughn De Leath — recorded on 11 January 1927*, issued on Okeh 40750, c/w “There Ain’t No Maybe in My Baby’s Eyes” (Donaldson, Kahn, Egan) — Evidently also issued as Edison Blue Amberol 5312
Ben Selvin and his Orchestra (as the Knickerbockers; see redhotjazz.com) — recorded on 15 January 1927; issued on Columbia-860D, c/w “Tonight You Belong to Me” recorded by the Cavaliers (another Ben Selvin pseudonym)
George Olsen and His Music; vocals by Bob Borger, Fran Frey & Bob Rice – recorded on 19 January 1927; issued as the A-side of Victor 20455, b/w “Where’s That Rainbow”
The Artist Ensemble — recorded on 24 February 1927, and issued on Columbia 962-D, c/w “To-night You Belong to Me”
From the description offered by the video provider:
The Artist Ensemble was a small string orchestra that recorded for Columbia Record Company for just a little over year during 1926 and 1927. It sounds like the group was made up of a violin, viola, cello, string bass, and piano (or harp?). In addition, for this recording, there is a muted trumpet. I was unable to find much information on them except that they only made 10 recordings under that name for Columbia. The musicians are unidentified and the images used on this video are not of this recording group.
Maxine Sullivan and her Orchestra, under direction of Claude Thornhill — recorded on 6 August 1937; issued on Vocalion 3679, c/w “Annie Laurie”
Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra, vocal: Frank Sinatra – recorded on 15 July 1941; issued on Victor 27566, b/w “Back Stage at the Ballet” (instrumental?)
Heine Beau, Manny Gershman, Don Lodice, Bruce Snyder, Fred Stulce (sax), Jimmy Blake, Ziggy Elman, Chuck Peterson, Al Stearns (t), George Arus, Tommy Dorsey, Dave Jacobs, Lowell Martin (tb), Clark Yocum (g), Sid Weiss (b), Joe Bushkin (p), Buddy Rich (d), Frank Sinatra (v), unidentified chorus
Oscar Alemán y su Quinteto de Swing — recorded in Buenos Aires on 25 January 1947 — Manuel Gavinovich (vln), Walter Noseda (p), Oscar Alemán (solo g), Guillermo Barbieri (g), Luis Gavinovich (b), Ramon M. Caravaca (d)
Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli — recorded in January or February 1949, RAI Studios, Rome
Django Reinhardt (g)
Stéphane Grappelli (vln)
Gianni Safred (p)
Marco Pecori (b)
Aurelio de Carolis (dm)
Art Tatum piano solo — recorded in Los Angeles on 29 September 1949
- Review at Jazz.com by Thomas Cunniffe
Dinah Washington — recorded in NYC, 15 June 1954 — Clark Terry (tp), Gus Chappel (tb), Rick Henderson (as), Eddie Lockjaw Davis (ts), Junior Mance or Sleepy Anderson (p), Keeter Betts (b), Ed Thigpen (d) — released on the LP After Hours with Miss D, EmArcy MG 36028 (Discogs.com)
- After Hours with Miss D — Wikipedia
unedited version, released on the 2004 CD reissue
(above) sleeve front of the Australian single “Blue Skies” / “Georgia On My Mind,” CBS BA 222669
Willie Nelson – third track on Nelson’s 1978 standards album Stardust; also issued in June 1978 on Columbia 3-10784, b/w “Moonlight in Vermont” — Like Nelson’s “Georgia On My Mind” from the same LP, his recording of “Blue Skies” became a #1 country hit (US, Billboard)
Cassandra Wilson — title track from her 1988 album on the JMT label
- International Lyrics Playground
- Second Hand Songs
- The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, Eds. Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet (2001), pp. 231-232