Saturday, January 12, 2013

"I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart"

By Chet Williamson

Hwas born John Redmond Lynskey in 1906 and grew up in Clinton, MA to become a prolific songwriter and author of the great American standard, "I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart."

According to Bill Coulter, writer for the Clinton Item, Redmond attended Clinton High, “but because his family needed the income, he left school and went to work in the Lancaster Mills at the age of 14.”

Coulter also noted that Redmond played the mandolin as a child, “but this part of his musical career was short lived when he lost the top of the middle finger of his left hand when it became caught in the gears of a weaving machine.”

The Lancaster Mills

Redmond shifted his musical focus to songwriting and singing. At one point, he studied with a vocal coach in downtown Worcester and later in Boston. He made his radio debut singing at WTAG in Worcester. At 20, the Redmond Lynskey family left Clinton and moved to New York City. There, John took a job as a sales clerk at Gimbals department store and in his spare time began making inroads into the world of Tin Pan Alley. He also continued singing and had his voice heard over networks nationally on the "Major Bowes Family Hour," and "Music Festival Programs," among others.    

According to ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), Redmond also continued his vocalizing, becoming a radio singer on a variety of network programs throughout the 1930s. 

One of Redmond earliest pieces found notoriety in the Cotton Club Revue of 1937. The piece is called “Where is the Sun,” written with Fats Waller and Lee David. It was later covered by Billie Holiday. 

Fats Waller
Billie Holiday

As Ted Gioia points out in his book, Jazz Standards, Duke Ellington enjoyed a number one hit with "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" in 1938, “and other bandleaders were quick to follow up with their own renditions. The same week that Ellington topped the charts, both Benny Goodman and Red Norvo recorded versions, as did Hot Lips Page the following week.” The piece was originally written as an instrumental. The tune grew out of an improvised riff that Ellington alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges played another melody, “Once in a While.” 

It was Duke’s manager, Irving Mills who organized a coterie of songwriters to come up with lyrics for the piece. Gioia wrote that he was, “not surprised at this composition’s popularity, especially during the Swing Era, given how well it works both in dance hall and concert settings. The melody has a powerful hook in the opening phrase, with its syncopation on the word ‘song’ and jazzy triplet to open the second measure.” Gioia points out further that the tune found new audiences in the 1950s through recordings by Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Stan Getz. 

Cootie Williams
With the success of “I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart,” Redmond’s stock as a songwriter grew. Jazz fans will note that Redmond also collaborated with Ellington on "Riding on a Blue Note," first composed feature for trumpeter Cootie Williams. 

In 1939, Redmond scored again with “The Man with the Mandolin,” and “Gaucho Serenade,” both songs recorded by Glenn Miller. “Serenade” also had the distinction of being sung by actress Ann Sheridan in the film It All Came True, also starring Humphrey Bogart.

The following year, Redmond’s work also appeared on the charts. This time with Frank Sinatra singing “You’re Breaking My Heart All Over Again” with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

From a 1950 T&G feature called They Made The Headlines

Redmond’s career on Tin Pan Alley was interrupted during WWII, but the intrepid songwriter continuing to set his lyrics to song. Joining the Navy in 1944, Redmond trained at Sampson base in NY. During his stay, the seaman, second class, penned the training station’s song, “You’ll Never be Blue in a Blue Uniform.”   

After the war, Redmond returned to his civilian duties as a prominent American songwriter with a collection of new songs marching on the radio hit parade. Most notably a spate of holiday favorites, including the 1950 smash hit, “Christmas in Killarney” sung by Bing Crosby and the 1951 hit, “Thirty-Two Feet and Eight Little Tails (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen)” with vocals by Gene Autry.   

In 1950, the town of Clinton celebrated its centennial and hired native son, Redmond to write a song for the occasion. The Clinton Item reported that Redmond was in attendance for the celebration to witness the town’s school children and citizenry singing the song. With the lines, “California, the Acre, Burditt Hill and Germantown / Duck Harbor, the North End / The prettiest town for miles aroun',” it’s clear that Redmond remembered his hometown fondly. The “Clinton Centennial Song” was later recorded by fellow Clintonian Carroll Gibbons.

Acetate recording of "Clinton Centennial Song" performed by fellow townsman Carroll Gibbons

Original sheet music written by John Redmond, courtesy of the Clinton Historical Society

Redmond also wrote a song for the state, appropriately titled, “Massachusetts.” According to Bill Coulter, “school children learned how to spell Massachusetts from hearing his song. “John wrote the words and music for this one, which is still used in elementary schools throughout the nation,” he said.

Coulter also reported that Redmond was a great admirer of the late John F. Kennedy. “And, so he wrote a song to be sung to the same melody as ‘Massachusetts.’” Redmond penned new lyrics for future president and were used during his senate campaign and. He called it “Kennedy (K-E-Double-N-E-D-Y).”Coulter reported that in 1958, “the entire student body at Clinton High School honored John Redmond in Fallon Memorial Auditorium for writing “Massachusetts.” The late President Kennedy (at that time a U.S. Senator) and the late Congressman [Philip] Philbin were present and paid tribute to John [Redmond].” Both songs were recorded by the 20th Century Fox, New Frontier label.

In the 1960s Redmond began concentrating his songwriting efforts on sacred music. As he put it, “putting the Catholic doctrine into song.” He relocated to New Jersey and began his own publishing company to advance his new direction, Religious Music Guild. It was founded, he wrote, “for the express purpose of trying to reach little children, through song and have them ‘sing about God and his goodness.’” 

In 1969, Redmond made an appearance at Palm Beach Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution. The Palm Beach Daily News reported that Redmond had produced “three albums of songs teaching Christian Doctrine. One album contains ‘Seven Songs on Seven Sacraments’ plus ‘Ten Commandments Song for Little Children.’ A second album has ‘Twelve Songs on the Apostle’s Creed.’ Mr. Redmond recently recorded a third album in Spanish, in Puerto Rico, sung by little Puerto Rican school children.”

Nothing was said of his popular songwriting. Redmond’s separation from the commercial world was so great, that he was often reported to have died in the 1960s. The Clinton-born songwriter published hundreds of songs in his career from love songs to campaign themes, from novelty songs to state songs. He was prolific in output and expansive in subject, often sentimental, yet always popular.

Redmond was a past president of the Song Writers Guild of America and a lifetime member of ASCAP. He died in 1982 with nary a mention in the national press.  


“I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart” (1938)

A partial list of vocalists to record this classic includes Mildred Bailey, Connee Boswell, Dinah Washington, Martha Hilton, Mel Torme, James Clay, Andy Bey, Ella Fitzgerald, Ivie Anderson, Sarah Vaughan, Fats Waller, and Carole Sloan.

Writers: Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Henry Nemo, and John Redmond

“I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart” 
Instrumental version – performed by Duke Ellington

Vocal version – sung by Ella Fitzgerald


"Riding on a Blue Note" -- performed by Duke Ellington 

“Dream Dream Dream” – sung by the Mills Brothers

“Where is the Sun” – sung by Billie Holiday



“Christmas in Kilarney” – sung by Bing Crosby

“You’re Breaking My Heart All Over Again” – sung by the Ink Spots

“Gaucho Serenade” – sung by Ann Sheridan

“Second Fiddle” – sung by Kay Starr

“The Man with the Mandolin” – performed by Glenn Miller and sung by Marion Hutton --

“A Sky-Blue Shirt and a Rainbow Tie” – sung by Norman Brooks

“Crosstown” – performed by Glenn Miller and sung by Jack Lathrop

Other songs written by John Redmond (he published several hundred songs in his career) include: “Adi-Adi-Adios,” “After All I’ve Been to You,” “Atlantic City, By the Rolling Sea,” “The Brand New Brown Bear with the Baby Blue Eyes,” “The Big Apple,” “The Brand New Old Grand Old Polka,” “Brazilian Nuts,” “Buffalo Billy,” “The Brand New Grand Old Polka,” “Chicken Feathers or Chicken Salad,” “The Clinton Centennial Song,” “Cowboy in the Clouds,” “Crosstown,” “Dance Dolores,” “Did you Every Try Fryin’ Snowballs,” “Digbat Acrobat,” “Don’t Tell A Lie About Me,” “Down in the Alley and Over the Fence,” “Florida,” “A Girl, A Fella, and a Beach Umbrella,” ‘The Girl in the Garden,” “Give, Give, Give,” “Golden Years,” “Hot Gavotte,” “A Hundred and One in the Sun,” “I Came, I Saw, I Conga’d,” “I Heard a Hurdy-Gurdy,” “I’ll Never Forgive Myself (For Not Forgiving You),” “I Long to Belong to You,” “I Never Saw a Saw Saw,” “In the Eyes of God,” “The Irish Mambo,” “I Still Love You,” “Jibber, Jabber, Joe,” “Kiss Your Partner,” “The Last Trip on the Old Ship,” “Live to Love to Give,” “A Lovable Song and Dance Man,” “The Love of Maria Bella,” “Lukelani (Heavenly Rose), “The Man on the Ferry,” “Massachusetts,” “More Wine Fraulein,” “Mother’s Day, the Second Sunday in May,” “Nevada, You’ll Find Hearts of Gold in that Silver State,” “On a Simmery Summery Day,” “One Field One Shepherd,” “The Parachute Jump,” "Riding on a Blue Note," “Roll Out the Green Carpet, Mr. Springtime,” “Second Fiddle,” “The Second Sunday in May,” “Somebody Told You a Lie,” “Somebody Went and Stole My Steel Guitar,” “Thirty Two Feet and Eight Little Tails (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen,” “Tipperary Fairy Tale,” “Tony Spumoni, The Ice Cream Man,” “Toy Town Jamboree,” “Wait’ll You See the Place Since I Painted It,” “When I Get Back From My Vacation,” “When Molly O’Neil Does the Irish Reel,” “When Paddy McGinty Plays the Harp,” “You’ll Never Be Blue in a Blue Uniform.”

Collaborators: Arthur Altman, Dorival Caymmi, James Cavanaugh, Lee David, Beatrice Douglas, Duke Ellington, Mart Fryberg, Joe Green, Alex M. Kramer, Pat McCarty, John McCormack, Irving Mills, Henry Nemo, Fred Patrick, Lou Ricca, Mary Schaeffer, Nat Simon, Al Stillman, Irving Taylor, Fats Waller, John Ward, Frank Weldon, and James Weldon.

Quote: “I still get a kick out of hearing Bing Crosby’s recording of ‘Christmas in Killarney,” as told to the Clinton Item.


DOB: February 25, 1906 (Clinton)
DOD: August 26, 1982 (New Jersey)

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


See: An Extraordinary Town: The Amazing Story of Clinton by A.J. Bastarache

Special thanks to The Clinton Historical Society for additional information


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thank you for writing this wonderful tribute to John Redmond Lynskey. He is my Grand Uncle. I have been researching his life and times for 3 years. You have some info I do not yet have and I have some pieces you do not yet have. I thought Uncle John had been forgotten locally. Thank you Chet.

    1. Mary, I'm sorry, but I'm just now seeing your comment. Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. I can be reached directly at:

  3. Very impressed with the great effort and attention to detail in this article. Thank you.