Sammy Davis Jr.: "Hey There"


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The Pajama Game—an improbable musical love story about two pajama-factory employees—opened on Broadway in May 1954. In the play, Sid (the factory manager) is spurned by Babe (the grievance committee head) and moons his feelings into a Dictaphone. There were three hit covers of the song out that year. [Pictured above: Sammy Davis Jr. and Eartha Kitt in 1954]

One of the most popular songs from the Richard Adler and Jerry Ross musical was Hey There, and three artists had hits with it in '54. Johnnie Ray's wound-tight version for Columbia came first, peaking at No. 27 in May. In July, Rosemary Clooney's syrupy rendition produced by Mitch Miller hit No. 1—selling 2 million copies in six weeks. Then in August. Davis's hip version followed—peaking at No. 16. It would wind up being the most definitive and durable rendition of the bunch.

According to two June 1954 issues of Billboard, Davis signed with Decca in late May and recorded Hey There that month—his first single for the label. Interestingly, both Clooney and Davis used a mirror as a self-reflective device instead of the musical's Dictaphone. [Pictured above: Self-portrait by Sammy Davis Jr.]

Here are the three versions in three separate clips. It's one of those songs I could listen to over and over:

Here's Johnnie Ray (Columbia)...

Here's Rosemary Clooney (Columbia)...

And here's Sammy Davis Jr., (apparently before his November 1954 car accident in which he lost his left eye). He also seems to have recast the song's theme from a self-confessional to a pre-date pep talk. Watch for the closet door to accidentally bounce off his shoe and how he coolly recovers and moves on...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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