"You Are My Sunshine" is a popular song recorded by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell and first recorded in 1939. It has been declared one of the state songs of Louisiana because of its association with Davis, a country music singer and former governor of the state.
The song has been covered numerous times — so often, in fact, that it is "one of the most commercially programmed numbers in American popular music." The song, originally country music, has "virtually lost" its original country music identity, and "represent[s] both the national flowering of country music and its eventual absorption into the mainstream of American popular culture.” In 1941, it was covered by Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Mississippi John Hurt and Lawrence Welk. In subsequent years, it was covered by Nat King Cole (1955), The Marcels, (1961), Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner, The Rivingtons (1962), Frank Turner, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Brian Wilson, Mouse and the Traps, Jamey Johnson, Low, Andy Williams, and Johnny and the Hurricanes, amongst many others.
Two versions of "You Are My Sunshine" were recorded and released in 1939 prior to Jimmie Davis' version. The first was recorded for Bluebird Records (RCA-Victor's budget label) on August 22, 1939 by The Pine Ridge Boys (Marvin Taylor and Doug Spivey), who were from Atlanta. The second was recorded for Decca Records on September 13, 1939 by The Rice Brothers Gang. This group was originally from north Georgia, but had relocated to Shreveport, where they were performing on the radio station KWKH. The version by Jimmie Davis was recorded for Decca Records on February 5, 1940.
While Davis and Mitchell are the credited songwriters of "You Are My Sunshine", Davis was never known to actually claim authorship, as he bought the song and rights from Paul Rice and put his own name on it, a practice not uncommon in the pre-World War II music business. Some early versions of the song credit the Rice Brothers. Descendants and associates of Oliver Hood, a LaGrange, Georgia musician who collaborated with Rice, claim Hood wrote the song in the early 1930s, first performing it in 1933 at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at LaGrange, Georgia in 1933. According to some accounts, clarinetist Pud Brown was also involved with the Rice Brothers for the song's origin or first arrangement. Davis said that for some time he had been enthusiastic about the song and had unsuccessfully tried to convince record companies to record it before finally making his own 1940 record of the song. Davis' version was popular and was followed by numerous other covers, including those of Bing Crosby and Gene Autry, whose versions made the number a big hit. Davis emphasized his association with the song when running for governor of Louisiana in 1944, singing it at all his campaign rallies, while riding on a horse named "Sunshine".