Chattanoogan Herbert "Happy" Lawson Penned "Anytime" Song Popularized By Eddy Arnold

  • Saturday, June 22, 2024
Eddy Arnold popularized "Anytime"
Eddy Arnold popularized "Anytime"

“Anytime” - the song that was penned by a colorful Chattanoogan and became a big hit - has been around over 100 years. 

Click here to listen.

Retired Chattanooga City Treasurer and former Hamilton County Trustee Carl Levi served the city and county for over a half century but he had another interest, music. Mr. Levi was and still is a musician at heart.

In a recent conversation with Mr. Levi, this writer learned “Anytime” is one of his favorite songs. The accomplished musician recorded and performed with the late country singer Faron Young and “Anytime” was a listener favorite.

The song was written in 1921 by Chattanooga native Herbert “Happy” Lawson. 

It was first recorded by Emmett Miller in 1924 for OKEH records but there’s limited history on the song or Mr. Miller’s version.

Chattanooga historian Sam Hall found several newspaper stories about Lawson, an interesting character with a checkered past.

Those published reports said Lawson did have fame early on, and then got in trouble in Chattanooga and Florida, but the case here was dropped. Lawson won a lawsuit later bringing him a lot of money for the famous tune.

In several instances, Lawson got into trouble when would-be songwriters gave him money to get their original works on the airwaves. He shrugged off complaints that nothing was happening with their songs by saying it took 30 years to get "Anytime" before the masses.

Lawson escaped jail in Florida in 1950, was arrested in Chattanooga and taken back to Florida where he did some time.

Published reports said a Rossville, Georgia justice of the peace married Lawson and Miss Virginia May. That was after Ms. May's former husband had found her with Lawson and he broke in and forcibly took her back for a brief time.

Lawson’s last known location was a piano bar gig in Cincinnati in 1958. He had been an early minstrel, playing here in local theaters and bars and in other locales.

After World War II, Country Singer Eddy Arnold found the song by accident and convinced RCA to let him record it. Lawson's creation had pretty much been filed away and almost forgotten.

“Anytime” rose to number one in 1948 and remained on the Billboard charts for 39 weeks. RCA executive Chet Atkins said because of the song’s popularity the label decided to have Arnold re-record it 15 years later to reflect more of the Nashville Sound.

Eddie Fisher gave RCA Victor a Christmas present in December 1951 when his rendition of “Anytime” hit the charts. Fisher’s version of “Anytime” remained on Billboard's Hot 100 for over half of 1952.

Dozens of other artists have recorded “Anytime” including Patsy Cline, Dean Martin, the Osmond Brothers, Ray Anthony, Gale Storm, Rosemary Clooney, Guy Lombardo, Jerry Vale, Nancy Wilson, Riders of the Purple Sage and Sonny James.

Trumpeter Anthony said he liked the song so much it was included in his 1992 project, “In the Miller Mood, songs never recorded by Glenn Miller.” Anthony said he got lots of requests for “Anytime” at concerts and dances where his band performed all over the world. Anthony said it was a great dance tune.

Big Band Leader Lombardo recorded “Lombardo Country” in 1967 and “Anytime” was at the top of his list of country songs included on the Capitol album.

Popular Singer Nancy Wilson was a big fan of Eddy Arnold. She liked the song “Anytime” so much that she persuaded Capitol Records to record her version in early 2000.

Orchestra leader Ralph Carmichael included the song “Anytime” in a Capitol album, “I can dream can’t I.” The collection of lush instrumental favorites was heavy on strings and received a lot of radio airplay on FM music stations. The late Luther Masingill said “Anytime” was a relaxing piece of music that local listeners really enjoyed.

When Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass performed at the Tivoli Theater on June 6, 1987, “Anytime” was one of his most requested selections. The band recorded the song in 1972 on their live – in person album.

The late Hamilton County Executive Dalton Roberts, also a musician, said he knew Lawson. Roberts said the two didn’t talk much about his past; they just enjoyed the music.

Roberts said he’d sing “Anytime” at gigs in and around the Chattanooga area as it was a fan favorite. Roberts thought about recording the “evergreen” but never did.

“I didn’t know anything about the writer’s personal life, I just liked the song "Anytime". I don’t know whatever happened to Lawson.” said Roberts.

Mr. Levi said he’d heard the song “Anytime” most of his life but didn’t know much about Happy Lawson either. Levi said, “Lawson did write other songs but they didn’t get much attention and never became popular.”

One website shows in 1928 Lawson wrote and recorded with his wife, “I’ve got the blues for Chattanooga, Tennessee.” It was on the Gennett Record label.

All too many times, songwriters leave us so many good lyrics and melodies but they never get the credit they deserve.

The retired vaudeville blues singer filed a lawsuit in Florida after Arnold recorded the song and it remained on the charts for weeks. The court awarded Lawson $350,000, over 25 years after he composed the almost forgotten song that’s been around over 100 years.

ANYTIME – Herbert "Happy" Lawson

Anytime you're feelin' lonely

Anytime you're feelin' blue

Anytime you feel down hearted

That will prove your love for me is true

Anytime you're thinkin' 'bout me

That's the time I'll think of you

Anytime you say, you want me back again

That's the time I'll come back home to you

Anytime your world is lonely

And you find true friends are few

Anytime you see a rainbow

That will be a sign, the storm is through

Anytime will be the right time

Anytime at all will do

Anytime you're sure, you want only my love

That's the time, I'll come back home to you

Anytime you're thinkin' 'bout me

That's the time I'll think of you

Anytime you say, you want me back again

That's the time I'll come back home to you

Words and music by Herbert "Happy" Lawson published by Hill and Range Songs Inc. sung by sheet music singer

* * *

Heyearl1971@epbfi.com

Grainy newspaper picture is only known photo of Lawson
Grainy newspaper picture is only known photo of Lawson
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