Sandy Brown Jazz

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Take Two

My Gal Sal




My Gal Sal intro


Written by Paul Dresser in 1905, My Gal Sal was apparently the first song ever performed in a motion picture film (The Jazz Singer). Sadly, Dresser died the following year and didn't get to know how well his song would do, and what became of it.

My Gal Sal poster



Paul Dresser was born Johann Paul Dreiser Jr in Indiana. He was a singer, songwriter and comedy actor and perhaps his other best-known hit was On The Banks Of The Wabash, Far Away which became Indiana's national song. In all he composed and published more than 150 songs and was at one time compared to Stephen Foster. The turn of the century brought him financial problems when his music became less popular and in 1905 his music publishing business declared bankruptcy. He died the following year.


In 1942, 20th Century Fox made a film about Paul Dresserstarring Rita Hayworth and Victure Mature called My Gal Sal. In the movie, 'Sally Elliott, a musical star meets up with Indiana boy Paul Dresser, a runaway who after a brief stopover with a medicine show arrives in Gay Nineties New York. He composes the title tune for the fair lady and becomes the toast of Tin Pan Alley'. A number of female stars were approached before Rita Hayworth finally took the part but her singing voice is dubbed by Nan Wynn, (Victure Mature's singing voice by Ben Gage).






Here's Rita Hayworth in a clip from the movie where the song is performed in waltz time.




There have been many jazz interpretations of the song over the years by bands including the wonderfully named Stokers Of Hades (a psuedonym for Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra on the Columbia and Parlophone labels); Red Nichols (? Beiderbeck influenced) and even Bobby Darin, but our first 'take' is one we have featured some time ago by the Mound City Blue Blowers from 1929. We are lucky to have this footage from so long ago and the fun with which the band tackle the tune is epitomised in Josh Billings' performance on and off the suitcase. The video starts with the band playing I Ain't Got Nobody before it goes into Paul Dresser's tune. [Click here for more about Josh Billings].


The Mound City Blue Blowers and My Gal Sal with Red McKenzie (comb and vocals), Jack Bland and Carl Kress (banjo and guitar) and Josh Billings (suitcase).




They called her frivolous Sal
A peculiar sort of a gal
With a heart that was mellow
An all 'round good fellow
Was my old pal

Your troubles, sorrow and cares
She was always willing to share
A wild sort of devil
But dead on the level
Was my gal Sal


If your feet aren't tapping already, our second 'take' should sort that out. This is a video of saxophone player Ewan Bleach and friends playing My Gal Sal. The video of this street band with the saxophonist from Tuba Skinny was taken in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 2017. It is good to hear an updated version of the tune without the original essence being lost.


Ewan Bleach and friends playing My Gal Sal.




Sal was clearly a good person to have around.


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Other pages you might find of interest :

More Take Two
The Story Is Told
Video Juke Box
Jazz As Art

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