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Moonlight in Vermont (1944)

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Origin and Chart Information
“Moonlight in Vermont” sold two million copies in the first two years following its release in 1944.

- Chris Tyle

Rank 141
Music Karl Suessdorf
Lyrics John M. Blackburn

Vocalist Margaret Whiting, daughter of songwriter Richard Whiting, introduced this number in 1944, and it was her first big hit. She recorded it again 10 years later, and this version charted as well:


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

Capitol Records began operation on April 8, 1942. The brainchild of lyricist/vocalist Johnny Mercer, it was intended to be the West Coast competition for big East Coast recording companies like RCA Victor and Columbia. At the time of its formation, the American Federation of Musicians strike loomed, and Capitol quickly recorded and released several sides, two of which (by bandleader/pianist Freddie Slack and Johnny Mercer), became big hits. Once the strike hit, and then the wartime usage of shellac (the material records were made of at the time) made the material scarce, the company put future plans on hold.


More on Margaret Whiting at JazzBiographies.com

Margaret Whiting was one of the vocalists Capitol recorded prior to the ban. Eighteen in 1942, she recorded a session with Freddie Slack and his band and one with a big band under the leadership of trumpeter Billy Butterfield. Although neither produced a huge hit, the records sold well and Capitol president and artists-and-repertory director Johnny Mercer thought Whiting had hit potential.

Because Mercer was operating on a small budget, he needed vocalists and musical groups that were in need of exposure--artists with talent whose careers needed a boost. Trumpeter Billy Butterfield had graced the bands of Bob Crosby, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman, was a swinging jazz artist, and had the experience to organize and direct a big band. His initial recording session for Capitol with Whiting impressed Mercer. Once the A.F. of M. ban was settled, Mercer hired Butterfield to back Whiting.


More on John M. Blackburn at JazzBiographies.com

More on Karl Suessdorf at JazzBiographies.com

Whiting met with Mercer and Capitol musical director Paul Weston to select material to record. One number, by John M. Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, caught the fancy of the young Whiting, but she didn’t really comprehend Blackburn’s lyrics. Mercer came to the rescue, encouraging her to imagine what Vermont was like in the fall. In her autobiography It Might As Well Be Spring, Whiting explains: “Johnny had worked so hard with me before we came into the studio. Breaking the song into sections, I could feel the sad warmth of fall, the smell of leaves. I began to sing. The band was wonderful. Then, when Billy Butterfield’s trumpet came in, all silver and glittering, it changed my voice. We were like two instruments.” When Mercer heard the playback, he knew he had a hit.

“Moonlight in Vermont” sold two million copies in the first two years following its release in 1944. The number was a special favorite of the troops overseas, since the song so poignantly describes what many longed for back home.

The tune was scheduled to appear in a 1943 motion picture with the same name, but was pulled prior to the picture’s release, proving to be a major error by Universal Studios since the rest of the soundtrack music, with the exception of Rodgers and Hart’s “Lover,” went nowhere.

More information on this tune...

Philip Furia
Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer
St. Martin's Press; 1st edition
Hardcover: 320 pages

(In his biography of the lyricist, Furia tells anecdotes about the song and analyzes the lyric.)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

Chris Tyle - Jazz Musician and Historian

Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Margaret Whiting
Capitol Collectors Series
Original Recording 1944

This faithful rendition of “Moonlight in Vermont” was a big hit and introduced the song to the world in 1944. Billy Butterfield’s orchestra provides a lush but not overbearing backdrop for Whiting’s sweet voice.

Betty Carter and Ray Bryant
Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant

Accompanied wonderfully by Ray Bryant’s trio, vocalist Carter offers an early classic among modern jazz interpretations of Moonlight in Vermont.” Her relatively straightforward reading of the melody belies the innovation that was to come from her.

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday for Lovers
Umvd Labels
Original recording 1957

This late-career recording features Holiday at her tender, intimate best. Saxophonist Ben Webster and guitarist Barney Kessel are particularly strong contributors from among the all-star band.

Ahmad Jamal
Cross Country Tour: 1958-1961
Original Recording 1958

Jamal’s widely admired trio with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernell Fournier can be heard in top form on this elegant and clever performance.

Chris Connor
A Jazz Date with Chris Connor/Chris Craft
Atlantic / Wea
Original Recording 1958

Vocalist Connor offers a lovely rendition of “Moonlight in Vermont,” featuring creative and sensitive guitar work from Mundell Lowe.


- Noah Baerman

Jeanie Bryson
Tonight I Need You So
1994 Telarc 83348
Original recording 1994
Vocalist Bryson’s warm, supple voice is seductive, and her stable of talented sidemen are appropriately subdued on this dreamy, ethereal rendition of the song.
Marian McPartland
All My Life
2003 Savoy Jazz 17210
Original recording 1952
This wonderfully elegant and romantic version is from the early days of the pianist. The listener is treated to two takes of the song, subtly different but both fantastic interpretations.
Joe Pass
1998 Pablo Records 2310964
Original Recording 1992
Stripped down to just Pass and the six nylon strings of his guitar, the song is highly melancholic one instant and tentatively optimistic the next. Pass’ intricate fingering expresses emotion that borders on rawness.
Sonny Stitt
Moonlight in Vermont
1994 Denon Records 8566

Saxophonist Stitt conjures up a crisp, clear night with moonlight reflecting off the snow and evergreens standing like sentinels in the distance. Makes you want to get out the skis.

- Ben Maycock

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