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Sing to Me of Pasadena

Not only has the city of Pasadena been featured on the silver screen and in television shows over the years, but the town has also gained national notoriety in song, as well.

“Home in Pasadena”

In 1924, singer, comedian and actor Al Jolson, dubbed “The World’s Greatest Entertainer,” recorded “Home in Pasadena,” where he rhapsodized about returning to his humble abode in the Southern California town “where honeybees hum melodies and orange trees scent the breeze.” The song, written by Grant Clarke, Edgar Leslie and Harry Warren, reached #15 in the national song charts in June of 1924.

Jolson, whose singing style was quite melodramatic and sentimental, recorded a number of other popular hits, including “California, Here I Come, “My Mammy,” and “Swanee.” During the 1930’s, Jolson was America’s most famous and highest paid entertainer. He is probably best remembered today as the star of Hollywood’s first full-length talking movie, 1927’s The Jazz Singer.

Here’s Al’s version of the song:

“The Little Old Lady from Pasadena”

Forty years after Jolson celebrated the town in song, Pasadena was again featured in a tune that gained wide national prominence. In June of 1964, American pop stars Jan & Dean released their recording of a song entitled “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” which reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Jan & Dean, whose harmonies were similar to their good friends, the Beach Boys, were also part of the 1960s surf and hot rod era, and recorded other popular songs, including “Surf City” and “Dead Man’s Curve.” The Beach Boys also included a version of “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” on their Beach Boys Concert album that same year.

The origin of the tune comes from the fact that in the early 20th century, a great many couples from the Midwest moved into the area, helped on by the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression and World War II. Back then (nowadays, too) women tended to outlive men (Sorry, Victor), and Pasadena became known for its surplus of elderly widows.

It was said that the elderly Pasadena men who died would leave to their widows a powerful car that the women would rarely, if ever, drove. California used car salesmen would tell prospective buyers that the car had little wear and that the previous owner of a vehicle was “a little old lady from Pasadena who only drove it to church on Sundays.” In the song, however, the little old lady not only drove the hot car, but was an accomplished street racer.

Listen to Jan & Dean’s tribute to “the terror of Colorado Boulevard,” click the link below. (Be forewarned, you’ll be humming this song to yourself for days afterward.)


Interested in more information about Greater Pasadena Area cities, check out our City Guide below:

Pasadena City Guide

And, if you are interested in fun activities to do, take a look at our 365 Things To Do in Pasadena® page.

If you are interested in selling your home, call Irina Netchaev at 626-627-7107 for a private consultation.

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