On April 20, 1937, Judy Garland premiered a sizzling version of “Johnny One Note” on the “Jack Oakie’s College” radio show. This was one of the first (if not the very first) performances of the song to a nationwide audience. “Johnny One Note” had been introduced in the Rodgers & Hart Broadway show “Babes in Arms” just six days prior to this broadcast.
“Babes in Arms” opened on Broadway on April 14, 1937, premiering a stellar score by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Among the standards introduced were: “Where Or When,” “I Wish I Were In Love Again, ” “My Funny Valentine,” “The Lady Is A Tramp, ” “Babes in Arms,” and “Johnny One Note.”
The show starred Mitzi Green, Ray Heatherton, Wynn Murray, Duke McHale and Alfred Drake along with future stars Dan Dailey, Ray MacDonald (who performed with Judy in Babes On Broadway in 1941), and the Nicholas Brothers (featured with Judy in 1948’s The Pirate) in supporting roles. The legendary George Balanchine provided the choreography.
Originally the show wasn’t the huge hit it should have been but after the competing musicals on Broadway all closed that summer, “Babes In Arms” became the only musical in town and eventually ran for a respectable 289 performances.
In 1938, MGM producer Arthur Freed chose “Babes in Arms” as his first project as a producer and the ideal property to co-star Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in what became the first of four “Let’s Put On A Show” musicals. The film was released in late 1939 and was a smash hit.
The show’s plot was altered quite a bit and only a few songs from the Broadway show remained: “Babes in Arms”; “Where or When”; and “The Lady Is A Tramp.” The latter was relegated to the background scoring as the theme music for the “Baby Rosalie” character.
Judy recorded a studio version of “I Wish I Were In Love Again” for Decca Records on November 15, 1947, but aside from the 1948 MGM Records soundtrack version, she never recorded a studio version of “Johnny One Note” or any of the other songs from both the Broadway and film scores.
Judy and Mickey Rooney finally got the chance to duet on “I Wish I Were In Love Again” when they appeared together in 1948’s Words and Music. The film was a highly fictionalized biopic about the Rodgers & Hart partnership with Rooney playing the late Lorenz Hart. Judy guest-starred as herself, performing “I Wish I Were In Love Again” with Rooney in a Hollywood party sequence. For her encore, she soloed on Johnny One Note.”
This April 20, 1937, performance is nothing short of amazing. It’s clear that Judy’s musical mentor Roger Edens had a hand in providing some extra embellishments that, in typical Garland fashion of the time, included some vocal gymnastics that showed off Judy’s precocious voice and personality.
Judy reprised the song on the June 15, 1937, edition of “Jack Oakie’s College.” No recording of that show is known to exist although it’s more than likely that Judy sang the arrangement heard here.
This previously unreleased recording is presented here thanks to the generosity of collector John Newton. Thank you, John!
For more Judy Garland radio performances, check out The Judy Room’s “Judy Sings! On The Radio” pages here: http://www.thejudyroom.com/radiosongs.html