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For the First Time in Nearly a Century, Original Orchestrations of “La, La, Lucille”

The U-M Gershwin Initiative is thrilled to share the first-ever recordings of two songs from the recently rediscovered touring orchestration of George Gershwin’s first complete Broadway show — La, La, Lucille, a 1919 bedroom farce! These recordings of the rediscovered orchestrations, likely by Frank Saddler (1864–1921), were filmed live at our Gershwin 1924 Centennial Celebration at Michigan Theater. Based on our research, this was the first time they had been heard since 1926! You can read about the rediscovery in Associate Editor Jacob Kerzner’s post and in a recent University Record article.

The scoring heard in this recording is most likely the orchestration for the touring production, reduced from the original Broadway production. The ensemble comprises flute, clarinet, two trumpets, trombone, percussion, piano, two violins, cello, and contrabass.

With its wistful rue, “Somehow It Seldom Comes True” provides contrast to the show’s farcical antics, while “From Now On” (for which the composer made a piano roll) is both sentimental and optimistic. SMTD musical theater students Aquila Sol and Keyon Pickett perform with conductor Jayce Ogren leading STMD’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble. You’ll see Jacob playing George Gershwin’s personal piano, which is housed at the University of Michigan, as part of the ensemble!

The lyrics for most of La, La, Lucille, including for these two songs, are by Arthur J. Jackson (1893–1922) and Buddy DeSylva (1895–1950). The composer went on to work with Jackson on the George White’s Scandals in 1920 and 1921, the first two of five years in which he supplied the music for this series of revues. Their collaborations tragically were cut short by Jackson’s death from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine.[1]

Buddy DeSylva continued to work with George Gershwin on the Scandals from 1922 to 1924, including the brief opera Blue Monday in 1922 (see former editorial assistants Allison Chu and Ellen Sauer’s presentation on Blue Monday here, and read Ellen’s series of posts here). DeSylva also collaborated with George on the musicals Sweet Little Devil (1924) and Tell Me More (1925, for which he wrote the lyrics with Ira), in addition to several other songs.

Stay tuned for two more songs with DeSylva lyrics from our February 11 concert. Keyon sings “Someone Believes in You” from Sweet Little Devil and Aquila sings “Somebody Loves Me” (lyrics cowritten with Ballard MacDonald) from George White’s Scandals of 1924, the latter restoring a patter section that is rarely performed.


[1] “Arthur J. Jackson Dies in New York,” The Pittsburgh Press, June 20, 1922, page 5. Thanks to Sam Bessen.


Post updated on March 2, 2024 to give details about the orchestration, and on April 13, 2024 to correct the age of Arthur Jackson at the time of his death.  

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