That’s my favorite line in “Where’s the Boy? Here’s the Girl!,” and it comes after a big romantic swell in the music — exactly the kind of charming songwriting we’d expect from the Brothers Gershwin. But the song never really took off, perhaps because the show it was written for, 1928’s Treasure Girl, only ran 68 performances. Here’s Ira Gershwin's take on why that was, from Lyrics on Several Occasions:
“...if I may — the songs and dances, thanks to a brilliant cast headed by Miss [Gertrude] Lawrence and Clifton Webb, were well — even rapturously — received. But, some songwriters to the contrary, numbers alone do not make a show.”
The delightful score, one of my favorites, included an up-tempo “I’ve Got a Crush on You” (recycled in Strike Up the Band two years later), “K-ra-zy for You,” “I Don’t Think I’ll Fall in Love Today,” and “Feeling I’m Falling.” And Gertie herself later said that “Where’s the Boy?” was the one song she sang in Treasure Girl that “went over big.”
So when I was looking for one little-known ballad to include in our Gershwin duo-piano show, this one immediately came to mind. The problem was that Gertie never recorded it, nor, it seems, did anyone else until the 1950s. And up to this point in the process, I’d been transcribing accompaniments from original recorded sources. So I decided to take an imaginative leap (informed, ‘tis true, by the 200 or so such arrangements I’d already done) and hope it would land somewhere pleasant.
Treasure Girl was one of the five Gershwin shows that featured duo-piano stars Ohman and Arden in the pit, and in Complete Lyrics of Ira Gershwin, Robert Kimball, writes that this song was ”introduced by Gertrude Lawrence, pianists Phil Ohman and Victor Arden, and ensemble.” So that gave added ballast to a duo-piano treatment. I stayed close to the melodic material and harmonies in the original sheet music accompaniment, and chose to sing the published lyric rather than the one from the show, for the simple reason that I like it better. In a departure from the sheet music, I thought the song might be more affecting in a lower key since our show employs an RCA-44 microphone. Around the same period, Helen Morgan recorded “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” down a minor third from the key she sang it in onstage, so I started with that transposition and it stuck.
We recorded the tune for our soon-to-be-released “Retrophonic Gershwin” album, but in the meantime, here is a bit of the first live performance, featuring Jason Aquila & Jodie Ricci on the pianos. I hope you enjoy it!
This is the second in a series of posts about songs included on our upcoming release, "Retrophonic Gershwin." Part one is "How I Got Rhythm."