Saturday, December 29, 2012

"When You're Smiling"

By Chet Williamson
Joe Goodwin's passport photo from the 1920s  
The whole world knows his sunny song, but not this prolific, and masterful songwriter. 
Although best known for writing the great American standard, "When You're Smiling," Joe Goodwin is largely an unknown tunesmith deserving much wider recognition. 

He was born Joseph A. Goodwin in Worcester, MA and attended public schools. The middle initial of “A.” could possibly be Altschuler. His father was a German immigrant, Nathan Altschuler.  

A dollar a dance floor, Worcester, MA

Writing testimony for Goodwin in an affidavit for his American passport, his former agent H. Bart McHugh, stated, “As a producer I have booked Joe Goodwin in ‘kid acts,’ when he was about 12 years-old.”
The Olympia Theater on Pleasant Street

Throughout his teen years, Goodwin performed as a monologist -- a solo artist who gives dramatic readings from works of literature, either as a poetry, monologue or soliloquy. He worked in a variety of musical troupes that toured the circuit during the Vaudeville era, all the while continuing to hone his craft as a developing songwriter.

Among his early work is “Billy" (For When I Walk), published in 1911, written with James Kendis and Herman Paley. First introduced by Billy Clifford, it became a vaudeville favorite. It was first recorded by the American Quartet, and later by singer Bonnie Baker with the Orrin Tucker Orchestra for Vocalion, reaching No. 10 on the pop charts of the day. In 1914, at the age of 25, Goodwin became a member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

Goodwin also performed in USO shows at the time and wrote for London revues. After the war, according to his passport, Goodwin resided in France from August of 1918 to June of 1919. As agent McHugh also pointed out, Goodwin joined the military during WWI and served in the 32nd Reg. of Infantry, 81st Division, known as the 81st Wildcats.

Returning stateside, he worked as a talent agent and had his own publishing company. In 1919, Goodwin collaborated with Ballard MacDonald and James F. Hanley to write “Breeze" (Blow My Baby Back To Me), a piece that Warren W. Vache said, “has endeared itself to jazz musicians with its interesting and moving melodic line and its hospitality toward improvisation. Illustrating this is the Bluebird recording by the irrepressible Wingy Manone.” The piece was also recorded by Clarence Williams, Leon Redbone, Al Hirt, and Al Hibbler, among others. 

Evidently Goodwin was a merry prankster. In 1920, fellow songwriter Fred Fisher published a tune called “Daddy, You’ve Been a Mother to Me.” Music writer Arnold Shaw in his book, The Jazz Age: Popular Music in the 1920s retells the tale this way: “After Prohibition, the Globe CafĂ© on Broadway near 47th Street was turned into a freak exhibition hall, with freaks stationed on platforms selling photographs, and performing similar tasks. When Fisher was about to release ‘Daddy, You’ve Been a Mother to Me,’ Joe Goodwin purchased a photograph of the bearded lady and sent it to Fisher with the suggestion that he use it as the illustration on the song cover.” Shaw went on to say that Fisher never forgave Goodwin. 

According to, Goodwin collaborated with “the best that Tin Pan Alley had to offer including; George Myer, Al Piantadosi, Nat Ayer and Gus Edwards." Among his other popular works are “Tie Me To Your Apron Strings Again” (1925), “Baby Shoes” (1916), "Three Wonderful Letters from Home” (1918), “Everywhere You Go” (1927) and “Strolling Through The Park One Day” (1929).

Goodwin moved to Hollywood in 1929, where he wrote for a series of films and local revues. His most prominent work is a collection of song for the film, Hollywood Revue. Charles King sang his “Your Mother and Mine,” in which Jack Benny played the violin. Cliff Edwards – also known as Ukulele Ike -- sang Goodwin’s “Nobody But You,” and “Orange Blossom Time,” while Bessie Love sang his “I Never Knew I Could Do A Thing Like That.” There is an interesting sequence in the film where The Albertina Rasch Ballet performs to Goodwin’s “Orange Blossom Time.” The dance production is choreographed by Sammy Lee.

Over the years, Goodwin’s work has appeared in the repertoires of many jazz musicians from Bix Beiderbecke to Art Pepper. Although much of his lyrics appear on the surface to be dated and not relevant, Goodwin and his collaborators constructed architecturally strong pieces. If put in the hands of today’s creative artists, the quality of Goodwin’s work will hopefully be rediscovered and performed anew.       

STANDARD: “When You’re Smiling” (1928)


Writers: Joe Goodwin, Mark Fisher, Larry Shay

Sung by Louis Armstrong

Though it was first popularized by singer Seger Ellis in 1929 – making it all the way to #4 on the Billboard charts – it was, according to The Tin Pan Alley Song Encyclopedia writer Thomas S. Hishchak, “Louis [Armstrong] who made it a standard.” 

Armstrong made three different recordings of the song, 1929, 1932, and 1956. Through the years it has been covered by a host of jazz greats including, King Oliver, Lester Young, Benny Goodman, and Art Pepper, and such singers as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole, and Frankie Laine. It was a favorite of Dean Martin and Judy Garland who sang it regularly in concert and it appeared in variety of films, including King of Jazz, Cotton Club, and Swing High. It was the title track of Meet Danny Wilson sung by Sinatra and Frankie Laine sang the song in the film of the same name, When You’re Smiling

“When You’re Smiling” (original recording), see:


“Everywhere You Go” – sung by Doris Day

"Love Ain't Nothin' But the Blues" -- sung by the Boswell Sisters --

“Nobody But You” – sung by Cliff Edwards (AKA Ukulele Ike)

“The Breeze (Blow My Baby Back to Me)” – performed by Clarence Williams and his Orchestra -- -- See: --


“Billy (For When I Walk)” – sung by Bonnie Baker with the Orin Tucker Orchestra --
“Gee, I Hate To Go Home Alone” – sung by Billy Jones

“Hoosier Sweatheart (Say Who?) – sung by Ruth Etting

“I’d Love to Call You My Sweetheart” – sung by Johnny Marvin

“I’m Knee Deep in Daisies” – sung by Whispering Jack Smith

“Your Mother and Mine” – performed by the Dorsey Brothers

“Brass Band Ephraham Jones” – sung by Al Jolson --

Bessie Love

“Thing Like That”—sung by Bessie Love --!

“Tie Me To Your Apron Strings Again” – sung by Eddie Arnold

“Orange Blossom Time” – sung by Cliff Edwards (AKA Ukelele Ike)

And, “All I Want is You” (Charles Hart), “Baby Shoes” (Western Continentals), “I’m A Lonesome Little Raindrop” (Frank Crumit), “Sentimental Rose” (Paul Whiteman) “When I Get You Alone Tonight,” (Dick Robertson), “You Broke my Heart Just to Pass the Time” (Henry Burr) 

Other songs written by Joe Goodwin include: “After All These Years,” “A Little Bit of Sunshine,” “Anywhere, Everywhere, Always with You,” “At the Midnight Masquerade,” “Barnyard Romeo,” “Can You Blame Me?” “Charlie, Gus, and Ike,” “Chin Chin Chinaman,” “Coney Island Baby (We All Fall),” “Crosstown,” “Don’t (Stop Loving Me Now),”  “A Girlie Was Just Made To Love,” “Goodbye Little Lady,” “He’s On A Boat That Sailed Last Wednesday,” “How Can I Forget You?” “How Late Can You Stay Out Tonight,” “I’m Afraid I’m Beginning to Love You,” “I’m Crazy About the Turkey Trot,” “I Never Knew I Could Do A Thing Like That,” “In the Old Red School,” “It’s My Business to Know Them All,” “I Waited A Lifetime for You,” “I Wanna Go Back (To Dear Old Mother’s Knee),” “I Wonder What He’s Doing Now,” “Just A Thought of You,” “Kiss Me Tonight,” “Leave Him Alone If He Leaves You,” “A Little Bit of Sunshine,” “The Little House Upon the Hill,” “Lonesome Baby, I’m Coming Back to You,” “Lookout Mountain,” “Love’s Sentence,” “Maybe That’s Why I’m Lonely,” “Melinda’s Wedding Day,” “Minstrel Days,” “My Croony Melody,” “Naughty! Naughty! Naughty!,” “One Day in June,” “Orange Blossom Time,” “Paul Revere (Won’t You Ride for Us Again),” “The Ragtime Dream,” “Rolling in His Little Rolling Chair,” “She May Be Doing the Same Thing as You,” “That’s How I Need You,” “That’s The Son of Songs for Me,” “That Wonderful Something Is,” “Then I’ll Stop Loving You,” “There’s A Light That’s Burning in the Window,” “There’s A Vacant Chair,” “They’re Wearing ‘em High in Hawaii,” “A Thing Like That,” “When You Play the Game of Love,” “When You’re Smiling,”  “Wherever You Go, Whatever You Do,” “Your Daddy Did the Same Thing Fifty Years Ago.”

Collaborators: Lou Alter, Paul Ash, Nat Ayer, Lew Brown, John Driscoll, Gus Edwards, Fred Fisher, Mark Fisher, E. Ray Goetz, Charles Grant, James Hanley, James Kendis, George A. Little, Ballard MacDonald, Joseph M. McCarthy, George Meyer, Herman Paley, Al Piantodosi, Murray Roth, Larry Shay, Jack Stanley, Emmett Sullivan, William Tracey, Nat Vincent, Leo Wood.

“I hear a tramp say, upon the highway, as he was tramping along; ‘Life is worthwhile, each time you smile.’ Then he started singing this song.” -- Joe Goodwin, the opening verse to “When You’re Smiling.”

Goodwin died at Veterans Hospital in the BronxNew York on July 31, 1943.

DOB: June 6, 1889 (Worcester)
DOD: July 31, 1943 (Bronx, NY)

This is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome. Also see: