Massachusetts-born rock n’ roller Freddy ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon made a career out of singing songs about the South including ‘Tallahassee Lassie,’ ‘Okefenokee’ and ‘Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy’. His biggest hit was ‘Way Down Yonder in New Orleans,’ which he took to number 3 in the charts in both the US and UK in 1959-60. The song has a history though which goes back to the early 1920s, as described below:
“Way Down Yonder In New Orleans“ is a popular song with music by John Turner Layton, Jr. and lyrics by Henry Creamer. First published in 1922, Creamer and Layton advertised it as “A Southern Song, without A Mammy, A Mule, Or A Moon”, a dig at some of the Tin Pan Alley clichés of the era.
It was performed at The Winter Garden Theater in New York in Act 2 of the Broadway musical production, “Spice of 1922.” The original 1922 sheet music featured a drawing of a girl on a spice bottle on the front cover, referring to the musical in which the song eventually made its public debut.
The song has been recorded numerous times from the early 1920s into the 21st century. Notable uses have included being the theme song for the radio program “This Is Jazz” in the 1940s. One of the many in the swing era was recorded by The Andrews Sisters and Al Jolson. The song was revived successfully in 1953 by Frankie Laine and Jo Stafford. According to Dick Biondi, Freddy Cannon’s 1959 version became the first record in the rock era to have a full brass section. It reached number 3 on the Billboard chart in early 1960. The song was performed by Harry Connick Jr. in a September 2005 NBC Katrina fundraiser, “A Concert For Hurricane Relief” that raised over $50 million.