Election Special: Wild About Harry
Let’s take a break from the insults and name calling of the 2016 presidential campaign to recall a lighter moment from the Dewey-vs-Truman campaign of 1948. It involves Thomas E. Dewey’s motorcade through the streets of Boston, Nat Pierce’s band, and Harry S. Truman’s campaign theme song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry.”
This all starts with David X. Young, the abstract expressionist painter and proprietor of the legendary Jazz Loft in New York City. He lived in Boston in the late 1940s, and was a devoted fan of Nat Pierce’s jazz orchestra.
Young wrote the liner notes for a 1975 album that collected the work of that band. (Nat Pierce Orchestra 1948–50, Zim Records ZM-1005, out of print) He mentions a 1948 incident where unnamed musicians serenaded Dewey with Truman’s campaign song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” as Dewey passed by on Boylston Street. He noted that Dewey listened “glumly” as confetti rained down. When, I wondered, did this happen?
Truman and Dewey each made one trip to Massachusetts after their respective party conventions, both close to election day. Truman delivered a fire-breathing speech before an enthusiastic crowd in Boston on October 27, and his Democrats were positive they were going to win. Boston mayor James M. Curley said Truman would carry the state by a hundred thousand votes.
Dewey on the Trail in Massachusetts
Dewey arrived the next day. Dewey’s campaign train crossed the state from west to east and ended its trip in Boston, where the Republicans staged a major rally at the Boston Arena (now Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena). October 28 thus has to be the date of our Dewey serenade.
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