Swanee by George Gershwin. Played on Classic Banjo

From a transcription I made of the 1920 recording played by the Fred Van Eps Quartet. Piano arrangement by my wife and banjo by Alfred Weaver. Forgive the lo...

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Comment by thereallyniceman on October 26, 2014 at 15:29

As I continue to hunt for Fred Van Eps recordings I came across him (and Quartet) playing “Swanee” and fell in love with it. Steve, with a little help from me, did a banjo score for the piece and that is in the MUSIC LIBRARY, but this version is one that I transcribed from the 1920 Van Eps recording. I will add my score to the LIBRARY when I have completed notating it. My wife, Lynn, arranged the piano accompaniment and plays along, so it is a bit of a Reallynicefamily performance ;-)

George Gershwin wrote a large number of popular tunes including Rhapsody in Blue, Summertime, S’wonderful etc etc but until a short time ago I did not even know that his most popular composition, in terms of sheet music and recording sales was “Swanee”. I was not even aware that he wrote the tune!

Gershwin composed the tune in 1919 and the lyrics were written by Irving Caesar. Gershwin was only 20 years old at the time.

The song was written for a New York City revue called Demi-Tasse, and was as a parody of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home".

The song had little impact in its first show, but not long afterwards Gershwin played it at a party where Al Jolson heard it and recorded it for Columbia Records, in January 1920.

The song was charted in 1920 for 18 weeks holding the No. 1 position for nine. It sold a million sheet music copies, and an estimated two million records. It became Gershwin's first hit and the biggest-selling song of his career.

Jolson recorded the song several times in his career, and it was performed in the movies The Jolson Story (1946), Rhapsody in Blue (1946), and Jolson Sings Again (1949). Although usually associated with Jolson, many other performers have recorded “Swanee”, the most notable being Judy Garland in “A Star Is Born”.

In 1979 The Muppets performed “Swanee” on the Muppet Show, and in 2014 for this video, it is performed by the Muppets from Blackpool.


Comment by Shawn McSweeny on October 26, 2014 at 16:17

Hi Ian

Wonderful performance from thereallynicecouple! You have crafted a great arrangement and your love of the piece has flowed onto the fingerboard. Your stage presence is superb. Somewhere, FVE is smiling.

Comment by marc dalmasso on October 26, 2014 at 18:52

* * * * *    bravo  Ian & nicelady

Comment by marc dalmasso on October 26, 2014 at 18:53

demi tasse of  what ? of tea ?

Comment by Richard William Ineson on October 26, 2014 at 19:09

A very good arrangement, you got the Weaver banjo then? What do you think of it?

Comment by Steve Harrison on October 27, 2014 at 9:30

I reckon Ian is using FVE as his spirit guide, he's definitely Fred incarnate, a great performance...Steve.

Comment by Sal DeMaio on October 27, 2014 at 11:47


Comment by Mike Moss on October 27, 2014 at 12:23

Not only is Ian using FvE as his spirit guide, Mrs. Reallynice seems to be channelling George Gershwin!

(I hope you didn't forget to erase the pentagram once you were done with the ritual? The spirits of the banjo underworld would be unleashed to roam free among us mere mortals!)

Comment by Alan Sims on October 27, 2014 at 13:41

wonderful ' played so well together ,and i got a bonus prize 0n the next video one of my favorite guitar players Buddy MERRILL.

Comment by Michael Hughes on October 27, 2014 at 14:38

A lovely performance from both of you!

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