When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano

Album: Greatest Hits (1939)

Songfacts®:

  • This song was written by Leon René, who also composed the Jazz standard "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" and "Rockin' Robin," which was a hit for both Bobby Day and Michael Jackson.

    René was based in Los Angeles, and about 50 miles away from San Juan Capistrano, where a flock of swallows famously returns to a mission church every March, departing in October. René built the return of the swallows into the storyline of the song, as his heartbroken singer prays for the return of his love, who had promised that she would come back with the swallows, but never did.
  • Leon René came up with the idea for this song when he was in bed one morning recovering from tuberculosis. His wife had not brought him his morning meal, so he quipped, "Maybe when the swallows come back to Capistrano, I'll get my breakfast."

    He thought this could make a good line for a song, and started composing his story. When his wife brought him his breakfast, she told him that she liked the idea, and Leon completed the song.
  • After Leon René wrote this song, he had a hard time getting a publisher to take it. Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., which was one of the major publishing houses, asked him to change the title to "When the Swallows Come Back to Alabama," since they figured nobody would know where Capistrano was. René refused to change it, and eventually the publishing arm at Warner Brothers took the song, giving René a much-needed $500 advance.

    The investment paid off for Warner Brothers, as the song was recorded by many big names and sold very well as sheet music. In addition to Glenn Miller, the song was also recorded by the Ink Spots, Pat Boone and Elvis Presley.

Comments: 1

  • Don from Sevierville, TnI have many Elvis Presley albums, and I have no evidence of him ever recording this song.
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