January 13: Nelson’s song to Jeanette: My Wonder One

January 13, 1946 was the date that Nelson introduced “My Wonder One” for the first time on radio. He wrote the lyrics, Ted Paxson put it to music. The fans were stunned at hearing him sing it as the lyrics were rather graphic, such as: “I feel your thrilling vibration.” We’re pretty certain Nelson wasn’t referring to Jeanette’s voice!

In fact, to understand what was happening in their relationship at that time, here are some events that directly preceded Nelson singing this very intimate song on national radio. As discussed in Sweethearts, on December 16, 1945 Jeanette was Nelson’s special guest on his radio show. He and Jeanette were also discussing returning to MGM to co-star in Reunion in Vienna. The following week just before Christmas, Nelson and Jeanette hosted a private dinner at their hideaway home on Angelo Drive with Gene Raymond and Jeanette’s PR gal, Helen Ferguson in attendance. From a letter quoted in Sweethearts (© 2014):

The night of the dinner, Jeanette was nervous and upset about something and was, for whatever reason, too high-strung to share in the meal. Nelson insisted that she eat and when she still wouldn’t, he cut up her food and spoon fed her like a child. Helen Ferguson watched this in silent amazement. After dinner she told Gene, “I’ll never get over that sight,” to which Gene replied, “Think nothing of it; that’s been going on for years.”

It’s likely that Jeanette was hoping to “soften up” Ferguson, who apparently disapproved of the current scene. Perhaps Jeanette and Nelson intended to make some upcoming public announcement; we don’t know these details.

For Christmas Day, they hosted another private party at the same location; Gene was there along with Jeanette’s sister Blossom and her husband Rocky, Nelson’s mother Isabel and “Aunt” Gertrude Evans, one of Nelson’s early benefactors who was visiting from the East.  In another book excerpt, Isabel Eddy described the goings-on:

Blossom wore a blue gown, Jeanette one of the new dinner gowns Nelson had given her, a flowing affair with loose sleeves in a deep golden color that set off her hair to perfection. She was breathtaking. In her face this day was nobility, great courage and hope and she must now give it to this man who seldom could take his eyes from her face. At the end of the day, she asked me to leave her alone with her boy for the next two days. She must take him in her arms, must bring to him the promise of life, must give him the refuge he needed.

Nelson was apparently in a highly emotional and lovesick phase with Jeanette, so perhaps this sheds more insight on why he would sing about “My Magic You” not three weeks later.

In fact, you will note that his voice goes slightly sharp when he is most emotional in the song. We have come to recognize that pattern, listen to his “Symphony” (again with his own lyrics for her) sung on the Bob Hope Show, his “Rose Marie” from that show, etc.

Thanks to Anne Billingsley for posting this rare treasure. And thanks to Angela Messino for explaining that this is a longer version with better sound than we’ve heard before; Angela writes: “I believe the longer version is from the AFR recorded version which is clearer.”