“Just Friends” (1931) by John Klenner and Sam M. Lewis was introduced in October of 1931 by Red McKenzie and His Orchestra, but first hit the charts with Russ Columbo and the Leonard Joy’s Orchestra’s February 1932 recording. Over the years the tempo has ranged from balladic to swinging to up-tempo. As a song about the ending of a relationship, many singers go for a slower timing than most of the instrumental versions.
John Klenner (1899-1955) was born in Germany, where he trained in classical composition. He is best known in jazz circles for the song “Just Friends” (1931) and joined ASCAP the following year. JazzBiographies.com lists other Klenner songs as “Down the River of Golden Dreams” (1930), “Heartaches” (1931), “Round the Bend of the Road” (1932), and “On the Street of Regret” (1942).
Sam M. Lewis (1885-1959) started singing in cafes, then went on to composing lyrics for wildly differing songs, from “For All We Know” (1934), “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm” (1919) “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” (1925), “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” (1925), “Street of Dreams” (1932) to “Have a Little Faith in Me” (1930). Lewis was a charter member of ASCAP; he was also a charter member of The Friars Club and was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1970.
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