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The Song; My Melancholy Baby

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; }            MY MELANCHOLY BABY by Ernie Burnett

                (a song with a couple of bizarre twists")

I was born in Saranac Lake, N.Y. in the year 1927 and became involved in music (with piano lessons.)   My parents were avidly interested in music, and it rubbed off. I became a professional musician.

Thus, it was novel to grow up in a small town that was the home of a very famous songwriter, Ernie Burnett. He had had one monster hit song, MY MELANCHOLY BABY, and was constantly asked by the natives when he was going to write another famous song.   This naivete must have bugged Ernie, but some recognition was better than none!  

Ernie's birthplace was Cincinnati (1884) and he died in Saranac Lake in 1959.   In the intervening period, his song was used in many movies, the foremost of which was A STAR IS BORN, in which Judy Garland sang Ernie's MY MELANCHOLY BABY.

I actually peddled the Adirondack Daily Enterprise to Ernie's house in Saranac at 33 Franklin Ave.   I also have a recollection of his dropping by to give us piano students some chocolates when we were having a group lesson at   the Hotel Saranac.

So MELANCHOLY BABY, which had been written in the year 1912, never stopped going strong.   I can tell you, as a piano-player, that I have heard that simulated drunken request a zillion times:   "Hey! Play MELANCHOLY BABY!"   (I tried to research how that started, and there are a large number of "explanations."   Who knows?   

But now it's time for the bizarre part.   Ernie had served in the American armed forces in WW I.   He was grievously wounded and in his unconscious state, placed on the back of a truck with many dead and badly wounded soldiers.   Unfortunately, while this was happening, his "dog tags" were lost, so he was unidentifiable.    After a lengthy period of time, Ernie recovered, but there was a severe problem: He had amnesia. There was no way to figure out who this recovered soldier was! This went on for a number of   weeks (or perhaps months) and his identity remained a big mystery.

But then, one day, an entertainment troupe stopped by to entertain the troops and one of their big tunes was- you guessed it: MY MELANCHOLY BABY.

The minute the song began, Ernie Burnett jumped to his feet and shouted: "HEY!   THAT'S MY SONG!

And that was the way soldier Ernie Burnett recovered his identity.

I have always played this song in my shows and related Ernie's WW I story.   Which brings us to the final bizarre part of this tale.

A number of years ago, I was presenting a program and told Ernie's story to my senior audience.   When the program was over, I was packing up my instruments when a little and very old woman came up to me and said:

"My uncle told me that story"a long time ago, and he said that he was there when it happened.

Well, take that for what it's worth. It may not have been true.*   ( But it's a helluva tag line!)

*   Not only that, it may have been apocryphal!

 

I have spent a long and interesting life involved in music, as a performer (piano,) educator (at every level from elementary to graduate school,) solo pianist, bandleader, composer/songwriter; entertainer, storyteller and humorist. In my final (more...)
 

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Who doesn't know MY MELANCHOLY BABY?  I can g... by Phil Klein on Sunday, Feb 13, 2011 at 5:38:55 PM
Your series of informative articles on song origin... by martin weiss on Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011 at 2:36:23 AM