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Honeysuckle Rose (1929)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Considered racy at the time, Andy Razaf’s lyrics are actually quite sweet.”

- JW

Rank 15
Music Fats Waller
Lyrics Andy Razaf

“Honeysuckle Rose” was introduced as a dance number in the 1929 revue, Load of Coal, at Connie’s Inn in Harlem by its composer, Thomas “Fats” Waller. “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” also written that year for the musical revue Hot Chocolates, would become the two most enduring compositions born of the longtime collaboration of Waller and lyricist Andy Razaf.

Other songs in Waller and Razaf’s Load of Coal score included the wistful “My Fate Is in Your Hands” and “Zonky.” The oddly titled “Zonky” was a song about a dance written in the spirit of “Walking the Dog” or “Balling the Jack.” The song warns the listener “Other dances, they may come and go but when you learn the Zonky you will want it to stay.”

According to the Kennedy Center’s website page, “A Place Called Harlem,” Connie’s Inn was a Harlem speakeasy that featured song and dance revues. Found at the intersection of 131st Street and 7th Avenue it was second in popularity only to the Cotton Club. The owners eventually opened the originally segregated club to blacks who were allowed to patronize the club after the whites had gone home. Fats Waller was in good company at Connie’s Inn, at least with regard to other performers which included the likes of Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, and Ethel Waters.


More on Fats Waller at JazzBiographies.com

More on Andy Razaf at JazzBiographies.com

Shortly after the opening of Load of Coal, “Honeysuckle Rose,” sung by Mildred Bailey, debuted on the air on Paul Whiteman’s Old Gold Show. Her double-tempo rendition is said to have been a setback for the song; subsequent recordings by Dave Wilborn with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (1930) and Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra (1931) did not become hits. Finally, in 1933, the public took notice with a Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra recording, which climbed the pop charts to number eighteen.

Recordings that made the pop charts include:

  • Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra (1933, #18)
  • Red Norvo and His Orchestra (1935, Mildred Bailey, Vocal, #9)
  • Fats Waller (1935, #17)
  • The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (1935, Don Mattison, Skeets Herfurt and Roc Hillman, vocals, #17)
  • Fats Waller, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan, and Dick McDonough playing on A Jam Session at Victor (1937, #4)

Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

More information on this tune...

W. T. Kirkeby
Ain't Misbehavin': The Story of Fats Waller
Da Capo Press
Paperback: 280 pages

(In Kirkeby’s biography of Waller, one page is given over to an anecdotal history of the song.)
See the Reading and Research panel below for more references.

- Jeremy Wilson

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