I'll Never Smile Again

  • The Song
  • Back Stories
composition date
Ruth Lowe
related performer(s)
Frank Sinatra
Tommy Dorsey

Singing at home

In the summer of 1939, the Tommy Dorsey band flew to Toronto (the first time a band flew to an engagement) to play at the Canadian National Exhibition. Every evening a young girl named Ruth Lowe waited by the stage door in order to meet Tommy. This went on for most of the engagement. Band members noticed the girl and finally guitarist and arranger Carmen Mastren asked her what she was there for. She explained she had a demo of a new song that she considered perfect for the band. Mastren loved the demo and played it for Cliff Leeman who also loved the number—but for months no one could get Tommy to give it a hearing. Songwriter Ray Henderson listened to the demo and gave the song his approval. Once Henderson had listened to the song, Tommy relented, but wasn’t bowled over. In fact, he offered it to Glenn Miller, who recorded it at a relatively fast tempo. Finally, eight months after the Toronto engagement, Dorsey decided to record the song. Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers were looking for a way to perform it that would set it apart from the Miller version. They slowed it down and made it more intimate and conversational. They couldn’t get it quite right until Tommy suggested that they sing it as if they were just getting together informally at someone’s house. It worked—the song became one of their biggest hits.

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