Ruth Etting made her way to New York in 1927, and found success on Broadway almost immediately. Her good friend Irving Berlin was writing the music for Florenz Ziegfeld‘s 1927 Follies, and he introduced her to the Broadway impresario.
Eddie Cantor, a well-known comic was set to star and Ruth was signed to sing Irving Berlin’s Shaking the Blues Away. The song became one of the big hits of the show. She also sang Berlin’s It All Belongs To Me.
“Ruth Etting made the big time when, in 1927, she was selected to appear in that year’s edition of the Follies. Ruth remembered that it was Irving Berlin who recommended her (Berlin was responsible for the ’27 Follies score). Ziegfeld hired Ruth only after he had checked her ankles … not her voice. She remained active in Ziegfeld shows until his death in 1931.” — Jim Bedoian, Take Two Records, 1981
But it wasn’t a perfect transition, as explained in Discovering Great Singers of Classic Pop by Roy Hemming and David Hajdu. “I was supposed to do a tap dance after I sang the song,” Etting later recalled in an interview. “I worked hard on it, but I was a lousy dancer. When I was halfway through the final rehearsal, Ziegfeld said, ‘Ruth, when you get through singing, just walk off the stage.’ I got the message.”
When Mae West first saw Ruth Etting in the Ziegfeld Follies, she described her in this way, “The curtains opened, and here was this girl. Not what you’d call a classic beauty–but unusual. She had a sex quality that seemed to mesmerize the audience. And when she finished singing, they just kind of went crazy.”
George Eells wrote in his 1976 book, Ginger, Loretta and Irene Who?, that “Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., who glorified Ruth in the Follies, rated her as ‘the greatest singer of songs’ that he had managed in a forty-year career.”
The Ziegfeld Follies of 1927 opened on Forty-Second Street in the New Amsterdam Theatre. The theatre originally opened in 1903, and was recently refurbished by the Disney Corporation. The overdone baroque decor from the days of the Ziegfeld Follies has been lovingly returned to its former glory.
The show, a musical revue in two acts, starred Eddie Cantor, Andrew Tombes, Claire Luce, Ruth Etting and the Albertina Rasch Girls. It opened on August 16, 1927 and ran for a total of 167 performances, and launched Ruth’s career in New York.
Ziegfeld Follies, 1927
New Amsterdam Theatre, 214 West 42nd Street, New York, NY
Opened August 16, 1927 and ran 167 performances
Produced by Abe L. Erlanger and Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.
Sketches by Harold Atteridge and Eddie Cantor
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Directed by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., Sammy Lee and Zeke Colvan
Choreographed by Sammy Lee and Albertina Rasch
Costumes by John Harkrider
The Brox Sisters
Fairchild & Rainger
William H. Power
More on the Sheet Music for Shaking the Blues Away.
View the telegrams received by Ruth Etting on Opening Night from Marie Louise Munn, Harry Richman, Helen Morgan, Fred and Adele Astaire, Blossom and Benny, and Ethel Borden.
Shaking the Blues Away, as performed by Ruth Etting with Dan Healy and the ensemble.