Stories of Standards: "Don't Blame Me"

Jun 5, 2018

Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields

Tune in to Jazz with Victor Cooper - weekdays from 6-9 a.m. MT - for Stories of Standards to hear our favorite versions of this song all week long starting Monday, June 4!

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“Clowns in Clover” initially opened in 1927 in London, with music by Noel Gay; Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields then wrote “Don’t Blame Me” for the musical’s 1932 Chicago run, where “Don’t Blame Me” was first sung by tenor Walter Woolf King. In the following year the song was used in the film “Dinner at Eight”, where it became popular enough to make many regard this film as the original source. In 1932 Guy Lombardo had the first hit recording, but Ethel Waters and the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra had the recording most often remembered. The Everly Brothers recorded a rock version in 1961, as did Frank Ifield in 1964. Both John Lennon and Kirk Douglas said that it was one of their favorite songs.

Jimmy McHugh (1896-1969) began writing for the Cotton Club (“When My Baby Walks Down the Street”, 1924) and collaborated with Dorothy Fields for seven years (1927-1934) before going on to work with Harold Adamson and  Frank Loesser. With Adamson he wrote several patriotic songs during World War II, including “Coming In On a Wing and a Prayer”, which resulted in a Presidential Certificate of Merit from Harry Truman.

Dorothy Fields (1905-1974) grew up in a prominent Broadway family, with a father who disapproved of  acting and tried, unsuccessfully, to keep her away from show business. She became one of the first women to  successfully write lyrics for Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood. She also approached Oscar Hammerstein II in 1946 with the idea of a musical based on the life of Annie Oakley; she and her brother Herbert then wrote the book for “Annie Get Your Gun”.