Penned by Carmen Lombardo, with Charles Newman as the lyricist, Sweethearts on Parade was released in late 1928 by the composer’s brother Guy Lombardo; the recording (Columbia 1628-D) quickly reached No. 1 on the U.S. charts and continued charting into 1929. The venerable foxtrot was covered the following year by Abe Lyman & His California Orchestra (Brunswick 4117) and was again a hit, reaching No. 8 on the charts, and in 1932 Louis Armstrong’s cover achieved a No. 6 position.
Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, with brother Carmen singing, recorded the original 78-rpm Sweethearts on Parade in Chicago on November 10, 1928, using the relatively new electrical process. The song showcased the band’s trademark polished ensemble playing in the “sweet jazz” style, in a moderate tempo intended for couples dancing.
Opening with an instrumental riff quoting from the widely recognizable “Assembly” bugle call, the recording features military-themed lyrics about a lonely single guy who longs to join the parade of “the army of love.” The recording is a prime example of the popular Lombardo style, nicknamed “The sweetest music this side of heaven,” and it helped put the Lombardo act on the map. At the height of the song’s popularity in 1929 the Royal Canadians commenced their 33-year gig at New York City’s Roosevelt Grill, from where they famously broadcast annual New Year’s Eve celebrations enjoyed by audiences around the world.
Renowned trumpeter Louis Armstrong, himself a consummate musician, was a fan of the Lombardo band’s high musical standards. On December 23, 1930 Armstrong recorded an influential jazz cover (Columbia 2688-D) of Sweethearts on Parade with the Cotton Club Orchestra in Los Angeles. The legendary Billie Holiday reportedly learned the song from this recording, which opens and closes with Armstrong’s trumpet riff (different from Lombardo’s opening in that Armstrong’s quotes from the song High Society.) Sweethearts on Parade became a staple for Armstrong.
Through the ensuing decades, the song continued popular; Etta Jones’s 1961 rendition “bubbled under” the Billboard chart, and organist Lenny Dee’s was a Billboard “Special Merit Pick” in 1965.
Other covers of Sweethearts on Parade range from that of Jack Hylton and His Orchestra in 1929, to later editions by Count Basie, Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson, the Mills Brothers, Lawrence Welk, Joe Newman, Ralph Sutton and Ruby Braff, Brenda Lee, Nat King Cole, Coleman Hawkins, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, Pete Fountain, British jazz trombonist Chris Barber and The Clarinet Kings, the Frank Petty Trio, and many more.
Sweethearts on Parade went on to inspire the title of the 1930 movie of the same name, which featured numerous other Lombardo songs, and was used in the 1937 cartoon “Swing Wedding” as well as in the movie “The Go-Getter” (2007) and TV’s “The Mark of Beauty.”
Songwriter Carmen Lombardo (1903 – 1971) was born in London, Ontario. He was a prominent member of his brother Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians orchestra, with whom he sang and played clarinet. Other hit songs written by Carmen Lombardo include Coquette and Boo Hoo.
Charles Newman (1901 – 1978) was an American songwriter who wrote such hits as the Oscar-nominated song Silver Shadows and Golden Dreams.