Note—We will have another two-fer on New Year’s Eve.
Back in the day everyone who was not a misanthrope or a shut-in went out on New Year’s Eve. The toffs wore their white ties and tails and elegant evening gowns and furs to don paper hats and dance the night way to orchestras in sprawling Art Deco ballrooms. At least that is what all of the old movies taught the rest of the Depression and war weary populous. But those average Joes and Jills also went out and celebrated with their own funny hats and noise makers in urban ballrooms, lodge halls, piano bars, and neighborhood saloons. And it was not just attractive young people. Period photographs reveal that revelers include many middle age and older couples.
Drunk driving enforcement and cozy stay-at-home TV extravaganzas have been eating away at New Year’s Eve revelry for years. And of course this year the Coronavirus precautions will leave the crystal ball to drop in an empty Times Square and in most places clubs and nightspots are shuttered or open to extremely limited capacity. Dancing and smooching at midnight which cannot conform to social distancing or mask-wearing will be discouraged in all but the kamikaze you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do-libtard states.
New Year's Eve--the romantic dream.
But way back when for those who were not married or already romantically involved the question what are you doing New Year’s Eve was of vital importance. Nobody wanted to be alone on New Year’s and everyone wanted someone to kiss at the stroke of midnight. That is what songwriter Frank Loesser had in mind in 1947 when he made the question into a song—What are You Doing New Year’s Eve. Although it was performed on radio shows that often featured the popular composer’s work, it didn’t become a hit until 1949 when the early doo-wop group The Orioles hit #9 on Billboard’s Rhythm & Blues chart.
Ordinary folks of all ages celebrated in more modest venues like lodge halls and even church basements in Sears party dresses and off-the-rack suites.
Despite that success, the song did not become an instant standard or holiday favorite. In fact it languished seldom recorded until Nancy Wilson hit #17 on Billboard’s Christmas Singles chart in 1965. Two years later the same recording returned to the Holiday Chart. Wilson’s silky and sexy, take helped make the song a something of a jazz standard sung by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.
But the song still didn’t register as a pop standard until the new century and streaming video from YouTube made it go viral. In 2011 an utterly charming impromptu duet with Zooey Deschanel and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt made a splash ultimately attracting more than 20 million hits. And in 2017 Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Juke Box covered the song featuring vocalists Rayvon Owen and Olivia Kuper Harris and has registered more than a million views.
But the song still didn’t register as a pop standard until the new century and streaming video from YouTube made it go viral. In 2011 an utterly charming impromptu duet with Zooey Deschanel and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt made a splash ultimately attracting more than 20 million hits. And in 2017 Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Juke Box covered the song featuring vocalists Rayvon Owen and Olivia Kuper Harris and has registered more than a million views.Margaret Whiting in the early 1950s.
But today we are featuring the earliest recording of Loesser.s song by thrush Margaret Whiting in 1947. She was the protégé of singer/lyricist/record label executive Johnny Mercer who signed her to his Capital Records label in 1942 when she was just 13 years old. Mercer helped her get established as a nightclub singer despite her youth and as a regular on radio. He featured her as a vocalist on orchestras under contract with Capitol and eventually putting out her solo recordings. At one point Whiting was a regular on no less than five radio programs at the same tune, Two years after she recorded What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve she had a mega-hit duet Mercer on Baby It’s Cold Outside, a winter song that became a holiday standard.