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My Romance (1935)

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Origin and Chart Information
“The musical opened with Paul Whiteman riding onto the stage on a white stallion and featured over a dozen circus acts...”

- JW

Rank 91
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Lorenz Hart

Donald Novis and Gloria Grafton introduced “My Romance” in the musical extravaganza, Jumbo. The show, starring Jimmy Durante, opened on November 16, 1935, at the massive Hippodrome Theater on 44th Street. Although it received excellent reviews, it ran for only 233 performances, managing to pay back just half of its record-breaking $344,000 production costs.


More on Donald Novis at JazzBiographies.com

More on Gloria Grafton at JazzBiographies.com

Donald Novis was a big band tenor who appeared in a number of films and sang the title track for Bambi, “Love Is a Song.” Gloria Grafton was a respected stage star and big band singer who dubbed for motion picture actresses such as Lucille Ball and Lana Turner. The Novis and Grafton recording of “My Romance,” with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, reached the 18th position on the pop charts for one week in 1936. While “My Romance” has been performed by most of the jazz greats, interestingly, it has gained most attention as the title track of a 1990 Carly Simon CD.


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

After spending several years in Hollywood (1932-1934) writing songs for musical motion pictures, Richard Rodgers was growing restless. According to David Ewen in Great Men of American Popular Song, the demands of the Hollywood studios were too intermittent, and Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were anxious to try out their visions for a new form of musical, that of a “musical play” instead of a “musical comedy.” Although writing the score for Billy Rose’s production of Jumbo was hardly what they had in mind, it was the ticket that facilitated their return to Broadway.


More on Richard Rodgers at JazzBiographies.com

More on Lorenz Hart at JazzBiographies.com

The Jumbo book was written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (The Front Page, Twentieth Century) and directed by George Abbott. The musical opened with Paul Whiteman riding onto the stage on a white stallion and featured over a dozen circus acts, including clowns, jugglers, girls shot from cannons, and high-wire acts. There were over 1000 animals, not the least of which was Jumbo the elephant. The Rodgers and Hart score included such hits as “Little Girl Blue,” “Why Can’t I?” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” “The Circus Is on Parade,” “Over and Over Again,” and “My Romance.”

In his book on Broadway musicals of the 1930’s, Ring Bells! Sing Songs! Stanley Green comments, “Rodgers and Hart’s musical efforts for Jumbo won top honors of the year, even though Cole Porter’s Jubilee and George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess had their champions (and their detractors).”

“My Romance” appeared in the 1962 film Billy Rose’s Jumbo, a pet project of Doris Day and her then husband Martin Melcher. According to www.dorisday.net the song is considered a cornerstone of the production and is described as

...(Doris) sings the lovely ballad, “My Romance” to (Sam). The camera lingers lovingly on Doris’ face, which is partly shadowed by the dark... she finishes the song just in time to kiss her lover passionately. Very beautiful.

Although the cast included Day, Stephen Boyd, Martha Raye, Dean Jagger, and Jimmy Durante, the film was not a critical or box-office success. In his book The Melody Lingers On: The Great Songwriters and Their Movie Musicals, Roy Hemming says, “...Jumbo didn’t deserve to flop-and it remains unjustly underrated among MGM’s supermusicals of the ‘50s and early ‘60’s.” Hemming further said that audiences had perhaps had their fill of circus movies at that time.

More information on this tune...

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(Author/composer Wilder offers a brief musical analysis of the song in his definitive book on American popular music.)

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
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Ben Webster and Harry Edison
Ben and Sweets
1990 Sony 40853
Original recording 1962
Tenor saxophonist Webster was a brilliant interpreter of ballads and recorded “My Romance” as a ballad numerous times. This performance, featuring the piano of Hank Jones, is the first of these recordings.
Hampton Hawes
The Seance
1991 Original Jazz Classics 455
Original recording 1966
This trio session, featuring bassist Red Mitchell drummer Donald Bailey, marked the end of pianist Hawes’ eleven year stint with Contemporary Records. By this point he had assimilated blues, bebop and cutting-edge modern jazz into a well-defined personal sound. This version of “My Romance” is a classic example of his ability to juggle these elements and present them with a compelling unity.

- Noah Baerman

Bill Evans
Waltz for Debby
Original recording 1961
The piano trio gives us two different explorations of the song, at times becoming quite intimate, in this live performance at the Village Vanguard.
Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae Sings Great American Songwriters
Original recording 1958
McRae offers one of her definitive ballad performances here. She is faithful to the song’s melody, but still injects plenty of her own personality into it.
Red Garland
A Garland of Red
1991 Original Jazz Classics 126
Original recording 1956
Garland was a supremely swinging pianist, but in this instance he shows off his ballad style, replete with lushly orchestrated block chords.
Milt Jackson Quartet
Soul Route
1991, Pablo 2310900
Original recording, 1983
The vibraphonist, in the company of Ray Brown, Mickey Roker, and Gene Harris, takes a soulful look at the standard.
Art Blakey
Get the Message
1995, Drive Archive 41084
Original recording, 1966
This version is of interest not only for drummer Blakey's interpretation of the song but for the lineup. Trumpeter Chuck Mangione shows he has the chops for hard bop, and a 21-year-old Keith Jarrett shows flashes of the genius he would become.
Kevin Mahogany
My Romance
1998 Warner Bros Records 46226
Original recording 1998
The title track of this album is a rich, subtle version from the jazz vocalist. Sung in straight-ahead style, he projects depth and emotion.
Oliver Jones
Have Fingers, Will Travel
1997, Justin Time Records 102

The song allows Canadian pianist Oliver Jones to showcase his technical virtuosity and warm style. At times one can hear shades of his gospel background.

- Ben Maycock

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