Al Jolson: Souvenir Album

aj-sa-coverVocal with orchestra directed by Morris Stoloff

by Budd Fielding White

An amazing thing has happened in the entertainment business—specifically in films, radio and records, which constitute a large chunk of it—something that, by all the odds, all the predictions of the wiseacres, shouldn’t have happened at all! A star who was the toast of yesterday’s generation has swept today’s generation just as completely off its feet. Al Jolson has never been more popular than he is right now, never more widely acclaimed a truly great entertainer, fully thirty-five years after the brothers Shubert first installed him in New York’s Winter Garden Theatre and starred him there.

The snowball of Al’s tremendous new popularity began accumulating its present astounding proportions in August of 1946, when Decca did an album of “songs he made famous, featured in the Columbia Picture, ‘The Jolson Story’” (Decca Album No. A-469). The picture, released in October of that year, featured a comparatively unknown youngster by the name of Larry Parks who catapulted himself to stardom with his almost unbelievably accurate portrayal as Jolson. Parks’ grasp of the famous star’s vibrant personality, mannerisms, and even the way in which he spoke, were so nearly Jolson himself that many people thought Parks actually sang the songs in the picture. It was, of course, the inimitable Jolson voice that they heard, “dubbed in” to perfection.

And it was the Jolson voice that they kept on clamoring for. “The Jolson Story” was a great picture and a box-office smash, and immediately after it began to be shown throughout the country, record dealers were deluged with demands for Decca Album No. A-469, Al singing songs from the film. To date—within less than a year of its release—it has become one of Decca’s biggest selling albums of all time, one of the few to reach the million sales mark.

Partially due to the impact of the colorful movie-story of his life, and partially because of people’s reawakened awareness of the fact that seldom, if ever, has an entertainer packed his wallop for sheer magnetism and ability to “sell” a song, Jolson became again the man of the musical moment.

You could walk along Broadway and, from any of a score of record shops, hear Al Jolson’s rich baritone singing the surprise hit from “The Jolson Story,” Anniversary Song, on Decca Record No. 23714. As a single, the disc hit the million mark all by itself—and the song became the nation’s No. 1 hit for many months.

Al extended his triumphal return to the entertainment world to radio. Invited to appear as a guest on Bing Crosby’s show for Philco, Al proved so welcome to listeners that he was invited back on the program four times. He sang solos, sang duets with Bing Crosby and traded quips with him; once joined Bing and John Charles Thomas in an uproarious “minstrel show” broadcast starring the threesome; and once co-starred with Bing and Irving Berlin in a program devoted to the great composer’s songs.

Jolson and Crosby clicked together the way Crosby and Hope do as a team, on the air and on records—witness their duet on Decca Record No. 40038, wherein the Jolsonian and Crosbian voices blend to tell of Alexander’s Ragtime Band and The Spaniard That Blighted My Life.

And so a great star has come back into his own—to prove again that he is one of the greatest singing comedians of ‘em all.

This second Decca album of Jolsoniana offers still more of the selections from “The Jolson Story”—other than those included in album number A-469—in addition to several other songs that will always be identified with the name, Al Jolson.

Complete on Four Ten-inch Records

(We got a small but very appreciated stack of old Decca 78’s from Prairie’s Grandfather. Most are from the late ‘40’s, like this one, but there are a few undated platters, some of which are even single-sided discs. Getting these imported is a little amusing; my turntable maxes out at 78rpm, so to get these to sound right, I have to import them at 45rpm — Jolson on some serious valium — and then speed up the recording in software.)


  1. Posted August 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I am trying to find out what this ablum is worth would you have any ideas? Thank You; Patricia Jonews

  2. Posted September 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Al Jolson-Album no. A-469 What is the worth of this album in mint condition? I have others. How do I find out the worth of those? Thank you

  3. Suzi Burin
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I have a large collection of Al Jolson records and 45 r.p.m. Which I would like to sell. Who would buy them. How much are they worth?

  4. Bill Cooper
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I also have an Al Jolson souvenir album # A-575 and would like to know it’s current worth ??

  5. Victro Lha
    Posted October 25, 2009 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    What is it worth… I hear that all the time. Do you love the sound of a good Decca record on your Victrola or not? Why worry about it’s worth. Enjoy it. Collect it because you love it. Don’t worry about it’s dollar value. I collect the things that I enjoy and bring me joy. I picked up the Al Jolson “Souvenir ALbum” at a junk store for pennies. What I gain in listening to it is priceless. You Ebay junkies ruin everything

  6. fred petrillo
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    the question remains what kind of price can you sell at a garage sale the old big band sound such as al jolson, guy lombardo, frank sunatra, the dorsey brithers, etc?

  7. fred petrillo
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    the question remains what kind of price can you sell at a garage sale the old big band sound such as al jolson, guy lombardo, frank Senatra, the dorsey brothers, etc? are this excellent records madein the 40’s and 50’s worth anything because they were cut on the old record, such as the “45 and other stand sizes?

  8. fred petrillo
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    In brief, I would just like to know if the “old platters” of the “40’s and 50’s by the great big bands of those times have any monetary value if I was to try and sale tem on e-bay or at my own garage sale-.I must have at least 100 or more of these records that demand an old record player-they are like new-doubt if they even have been played. Inherited the collection from a dear uncle who passed away at the time when these records were being “cut”

  9. Posted February 18, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Hi Fred (and all the others who’ve asked about the value of such records) —

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m ignoring these questions, but the only real answer I can give is that I don’t know. My guess is that in most cases there’s very little individual monetary value, but for collectors, the non-monetary value can be great indeed — and if a seller is lucky, he or she might find such a collector and be able to get what both parties feel is a fair price.

    Personally, I’d love to get my hands on your collection, especially given the quality you describe. However, as an unemployed college student, I’m in no position to be making a bid. 🙂 Good luck!

  10. kim hitch
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    please could you advise me on the value of, Al Jolsen,Vintage collection vol. 1-5

  11. janet holm
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Permalink


  12. carl harrison
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I just got my Numark TT-USB running and I have a lot of great Albums but some need work.

    I enjoyed Al Jolson.. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Posted December 31, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I picked up an Al Jolsen record collection that I found thrown in the garbage. Something about throwing away such an old record disturbed me. I picked it up, and even bought a record player to just hear it. I am enjoying it quite a bit. I think these 78’s are from as old as the 30’s. Nice to know others are enjoying his work.

  14. ron
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I have a bunch of old records for sale where do i find out what they are worth

  15. The Last Of
    Posted November 6, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I note that most of the people who post here are looking to sell their records for the money. I’m trying to clean out my house, and learning already that what something is worth is only measured by who you can find who is willing to pay for it, so your answers are perfectly valid. However, i have a different question: I look at things like this from the perspective that if you were trapped on a deserted island and needed one to get you back to civilization, could you make one to save your life? And then the question really becomes, what would a person who does see things in that kind of value think of someone who throws it away because it has no value to THEM, ignoring what value it might have to anyone else. I don’t expect anyone to pay me enough to retire on my own island for the records I’ve found - most people then have to go out and find a working turntable, and after that worry about speeds. There aren’t many things left that will spin a 78 RPM record, and I think your method of using a 45 and software to shift the recording speed is brilliant. I have a lot of stuff that is meaningless to everyone else but me - I dont have any need for boxes of these records of artists that generally don’t thrill me. I find them curious for the historic value, but I’ll never listen to them for my own enjoyment. What would you suggest I do with them? Some of the boxes got wet; in some collections maybe one or more in the stack has been chipped or cracked - can I ease my conscience and get rid of them? It’s obvious from what youv’e done here that SOMEBODY has at least one copy of the sound itself - it’s not like I’m going to risk throwing away the last exmple of Al Jolsons - or somebone else’s - work. Any thoughts? Thanks.

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