Livingston & Evans: The Last Of The Great Songwriters From The Golden-Age Of Hollywood
Now that Livingston & Evans were pounding the streets of Hollywood and had the recognition and support of non-other than one of the greatest lyricists of all time, Johnny Mercer, it was only time before lady luck knocked. In June 1945, Louis Lipstone, head of the Paramount Pictures Music Department, asked Johnny Mercer if he knew any young songwriters who would write a song on spec. (speculation) for an upcoming Betty Hutton film. Johnny suggested the two new West Coast transplants, Livingston & Evans. Subsequently, Livingston & Evans wrote three songs for this shot, as this was their first assignment (all be it on spec.) from a major film studio and they didn’t want to blow it. But Lipstone told L&E they could only play one song; the only one Lipstone liked called “The Betty Hutton Blues” for Buddy DeSylva, another great songwriter plus being a prominent Paramount Pictures producer (and a notoriously great audience).
DeSylva laughed at every punch line, often pounding the table in delight, then when Jay finished performing the song DeSylva said “I don’t like it”. Thud…welcome to show business. Needless to say Jay & Ray were crestfallen. Louis Lipstone asked the boys to wait in the outer office while he went over some other business with DeSylva. L&E could see and hear what was going on in DeSylva’s office. At some point, Lipstone said to DeSylva, “Buddy, they had another song that I didn’t like, but maybe you should listen to it”. Buddy looked at his watch and said “too early for lunch, O.K. send ’em in for one more”. This was the turning point for Livingston & Evans.
The song Buddy DeSylva chose instead of an early lunch was called “A Square In The Social Circle.” It ended up not only being sung by Betty Hutton in “The Stork Club”, she also recorded it for Capitol Records.
A few weeks later, Louis Lipstone called Livingston & Evans into his office and asked if they would like to work at Paramount Pictures, writing songs on assignment for the musical short subjects. Lipstone said Paramount could only afford to pay them $200 a week, but that, if they did well, maybe Paramount could improve upon that. Jay & Ray had never seen $200 at one time, but they played it cool, saying that would be O.K. On their way out, Jay turned to Ray and asked, “Is that $200 apiece or $200 for both of us?” Ray said, “I was afraid to ask”. When Livingston & Evans got their first checks, they each held $200, which felt like a million to two young songwriters in 1945.
Because Livingston & Evans became staff songwriters for Famous Music on behalf of Paramount Pictures from 1945 until 1956 Famous Music continues to control “A Square In The Social Circle” outside of the US. Because so many other songs written during this period continue to be controlled by Sony ATV/Harmony on behalf of Famous Music we will also be sending along songs contained in Jay Livingston Music that were written after L&E departed their tenure at Paramount. We hope you enjoy the history of Livingston & Evans. We will try and give you a cohesive timeline of their career while including pertinent music from the catalogue of Jay Livingston Music, Inc. for your review.
Attached is “Banana Boat” another L&E song that is controlled by Jay Livingston Music, Inc. worldwide and also recorded by the bombastic Betty Hutton.
Betty Hutton / Banana Boat