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Elmer’s Tune – 1941

“Elmer’s Tune” is a 1941 big band and jazz standard written by Elmer Albrecht, Dick Jurgens and Sammy Gallop. Glenn Miller and his Orchestra and Dick Jurgens and his Orchestra both charted with recordings of the composition.

Elmer Albrecht originally composed the song in the early 1920s. At the time, he was a student at the Worsham College of Embalming in Chicago and worked at Louis Cohen’s funeral parlor on Clark Street. According to Albrecht, he originally worked out the tune on a piano in a back room of the funeral parlor which at the time held the corpses of twelve men killed in Chicago’s Tong Wars.

Over the years, Albrecht, who continued to work as an embalmer, played the tune in honky tonks and small night clubs around Chicago. He offered it to Ted Weems, who turned it down. Then, in February 1941, he approached Dick Jurgens, whose band had a residency at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. Albrecht worked nearby and had an arrangement to use one of the pianos at the venue during his lunch break. Albrecht made a nuisance of himself, and Jurgens, who was inundated with requests from song promoters, finally agreed to arrange Albrecht’s song for his orchestra .

A short time later, Jurgens and his band were preparing to perform the tune (still nameless) on the radio. After a frantic effort by the radio announcer and two lyricists to come up with a title, Jurgens casually suggested “Elmer’s Tune” and the name stuck. Jurgens recorded the song as an instrumental for Okeh Records (6209) on April 10, 1941. This version reached no.8 on the Billboard Best Selling Retail Records chart in October 1941.

The popularity of the tune prompted Glenn Miller to ask Jurgens if he could record a vocal version of the song. Robbins Music Company, the song’s publisher, hired Sammy Gallop to write the lyrics. Miller recorded his version of the song for RCA Bluebird (B-11274-A) on August 11, 1941 with Ray Eberle on lead vocals and the Modernaires on backing vocals. This version was an even bigger success than Jurgens’ recording, peaking at no.1 for one week on the Billboard Best Selling Retail Records chart for the week ending December 13, 1941 in a 20 week chart run.