And Days of 'Auld Lang Syne'
NPR Recalls Guy Lombardo, and Unveils a New Holiday Tune

listen Listen to Mal Sharpe's commentary on Guy Lombardo.

listen Listen to the new New Year's Eve tune commissioned by All Things Considered.

Guy Lombardo

Guy Lombardo in 1935

obesity Read a profile of Lombardo from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's online series, Canada in the 20th Century.

obesity Browse a Web tribute to Lombardo featuring audio and video clips, a filmography of his Hollywood appearances and a virtual tour of his Ontario hometown.

Dec. 31, 2001 -- For most of four decades, one man practically owned New Year's Eve. He was bandleader Guy Lombardo, who with his brothers formed a band called The Royal Canadians. And every New Year's Eve from the 1930s until the 1970s -- first on radio, later on TV -- Guy Lombardo's version of "Auld Lang Syne" signaled the end of one year and the start of another.

Lombardo began his musical career in 1924 in his native London, Ontario; with brothers Liebert, Carmen and Victor, he formed a big dance band. Originally, Guy was a violinist, but he soon became the band's leader and conductor. The Royal Canadians' slogan was "The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven" -- and by 1930, the group was America's top dance band.

Today, enough years have passed that a generation has come of age not knowing Lombardo's name or what he represented. But commentator Mal Sharpe is old enough to remember the glamour and glory that belonged to "Mr. New Year's Eve." For All Things Considered, Sharpe recalls that time.

In the years since Lombardo began playing what came to be his theme song, countless other artists and groups have recorded "Auld Lang Syne." When NPR's Bob Boilen searched his CD collection, the host of All Songs Considered found this eclectic mix of renditions:

Poster from a 1977 Lombardo concert

Poster from a 1977 Lombardo concert

hear the story Hear a harp version of "Auld Lang Syne" performed by Bronn Journey, from the CD Celtic Journey (Phileo Records).

hear the story Hear the Washington Saxophone Quartet play "Auld Lang Syne," from the CD To China and Bach (Sterling Productions).

hear the story Hear Cyril Pahinui and Bob Brozman play "Auld Lang Syne" on Hawaiian slack key guitar, from the CD Hawaiian Slack Key Christmas (Dancing Cat Records).

hear the story Hear "Auld Lang Syne" played on a harp guitar by Stephen Bennett from the CD The Nutcracker Suite for Guitar Orchestra (Cimirron/Rainbird Records).

hear the story Hear Woody Phillips play "Auld Lang Syne" on hand and power tools, from the CD A Toolbox Christmas (Gourd Music).

Though "Auld Lang Syne" continues to be played and sung by millions, All Things Considered host Robert Siegel notes that "it's been around for a while. It's on that realization," Siegel says, "that we created an assignment for a Boston band called Jim's Big Ego. We asked them to come up with a new song for this holiday." Band leader Jim Infantino admits the assignment was "kind of daunting" -- but with bandmates Jesse Flack and Dan Cantor, he took it on.