N°1 US. One of Irving Berlin's oldest compositions. First popularised by Emma Carus, big fat shouter from Chicago, who worked it into her vaudeville act. Her picture's on the oldest sheetmusic edition. Introduced that same year by Eddie Miller and Helen Vincent on the Frolic of the author's Friars Club, but unsuccessfully. Set the standard for Berlin's later hits.
Billy Murray [n°2 US]
Prince's Orch. [n°3 US]
Bessie Smith [hit US]
Boswell Sisters [hit US]
Louis Armstrong [hit US]
Alice Faye [in musical film Alexander's Ragtime Band]
Bing Crosby & Connee Boswell [n°1 US; charity recording; introduction by Eddie Cantor, then main fundraiser in Roosevelt's national campaign against Infantile Paralysis (polio)]
Most popular and most lucrative ragtime-era tune ever written, while it ain't ragtime strictly speaking: it's about ragtime. Uses part of Stephen Foster's Swanee River tune to cleverly bridge the gap between old-time march music and hip ragtime. May have been written about the same Alexander as in Harry Tilzer's 1904 song Alexander (Don't You Love Your Baby No More). More likely it's about Jack Alexander, cornet player and bandleader where Berlin wrote Alexander And His Clarionet for (1911). That was no hit and so Berlin (a Harry Tilzer discovery) re-used part of the lyrics in Alexander's Ragtime Band.