Performed by Peter Hostage
Written by Al Jolson, Vincent Rose and Buddy DeSylva, published 1920.
This is my first performance video! Sorry for the raspy voice, I was just getting over a cold, and only a few days earlier I could barely even talk. This was the first (and only) take, and though I’m not crazy about the vocal, I think the piano is swingin’! So, that’s why it’s here for you to see.
I don’t remember where or when I first heard “Avalon,” but the “travel on to Avalon” lyric was stuck somewhere in my head. I do remember seeing Harry Connick, Jr. performing it on one of the morning TV shows very early in his career, maybe in 1989 or 1990. Though he played it slowly, I liked his rendition, and decided to try the tune. I found it in a Jamey Abersold “fake” book, and after trying it at a slow tempo, I discovered I liked it best played as an up-tempo stride piano piece.
“Avalon” dates to 1920, when Al Jolson had the first hit with it, and it peaked at #2. Jolson is credited as a co-writer with Vincent Rose on the original sheet music, though is widely believed he added his named to capitalize on his popularity, and didn’t have a hand in actually writing the lyric or music. Jolson was one of the first performers to use this trick (Elvis was also known to have added his name to songs).
Jolson’s original recording:
There’s an intro verse on that recording which I don’t do (and I don’t think anybody does!).
The publishers of “Avalon” were sued by Giacomo Puccini’s publishers because of the similarities to “E Luceva Le Stelle” from the opera “Tosca.” Apparently Vincent Rose took Puccini’s melody in a minor key and made it major. Puccini’s publishers won a judgment of $25,000 for punitive damages, plus all future royalties.
Buddy DeSylva’s name was added to the song credits later, probably because he was the true co-writer and wrote the lyrics.
“Avalon” refers to the town on Catalina Island off the southern California coast. The town was the place for Hollywood elites in 1920 to get away to.
Other jazz artists who have recorded “Avalon“: Red Nichols, 1928; Cab Calloway, 1934; Coleman Hawkins with Django Reinhardt, 1935; Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra, 1935; Benny Goodman (at his famous Carnegie Hall Concert), 1938; Harry James, 1939, and many more.
“Avalon” also has appeared on the big screen in “The Jolson Story,” “The Benny Goodman Story” and is the song that “Sam” (Dooley Wilson) is playing before he plays “As time Goes By” in “Casablanca.”
I found my love in Avalon beside the bay
I left my love in Avalon and sailed away
I dream of her in Avalon from dusk ’til dawn
and so I think I’ll travel on
Sources: Wikipedia and jazzstandards.com