96-year-old widower's ode to late wife becomes YouTube hit

Fred Stobaugh isn’t a musician and can’t sing. But the newly widowed 96-year-old Illinois man submitted hand-written lyrics about his late wife to a song-writing contest anyway after she died in April on the eve of their 73rd anniversary.

Stobaugh wasn’t even qualified to win the singer/songwriter contest, which required contestants to submit a YouTube video of their entries.

But a 9-minute-and-24-second YouTube documentary (or see video below) about how Stobaugh’s ode to the love of his life touched the organizers of the songwriting contest has become an online hit that was seen more than 2 million times by Friday morning.

And the song, “Oh Sweet Lorraine,” that Green Shoe Studio eventually produced and recorded by professional musicians is now one of iTunes’ Top 10 hits.

Lorraine Stobaugh died in April at the age of 91 just before the couple’s anniversary, which would have been on April 26.

A month later, after he saw an ad in his local newspaper about the Green Shoe Studio contest, Stobaugh put pencil to paper and came up with the lyrics to what would later become “Oh Sweet Lorraine.”

“It came right to me, almost,” Stobaugh says in the documentary. “I just thought, ‘Oh shoot. I’ll just write a letter and send it all in,’ never thinking I’d get an answer or something.”

In the entry he mailed to Green Shoe Studio, Stobaugh wrote that “he was not a musician and was not actually a very good singer,” Jacob Colgan, a producer for the studio, says in the documentary.

Colgan recalled the P.S. that Stobaugh included: “‘I don’t sing. I would scare people. Hah, hah.”

“We didn’t quite expect an entry like Fred’s,” Colgan says in the documentary.

Through his letter, Stoabaugh sounded “like a sweet guy,” Colgan says. “It was just so heartwarming.”

Stobaugh met Lorraine in 1938 when she was working as a car hop at an A&W Root Beer stand in East Peoria.

“She was just the prettiest girl I ever saw,” Stobaugh says. “She gave me 75 years of her life.”

After getting Stobaugh’s entry, Colgan called him to say the studio wanted to put his words to music. But Stobaugh was worried about the cost, saying he didn’t have any money.

When Colgan told him there was no cost because “your song touched us,” Stobaugh began crying over the phone and asked, “Why would you do this for me?”

The answer, according to Colgan, is that “Our mission here at Green Shoe Studio is to change our community one dream at a time. And what a better way to do it.”

In the documentary, Stobaugh reads his lyrics as Colgan picks out a melody on an acoustic guitar.

“Oh Sweet Lorraine, I wish we could do all the good times over again,” Stobaugh recites in a slight monotone as Colgan follows on guitar.

Later in the documentary, Stobaugh puts on a pair of headphones to listen to the finished tune, which is now backed by an electric guitar and includes a catchy refrain to Stobaugh’s original lyrics: “Oh Sweet Lorraine I wish we could do all the good times over again. The good times. The good times. All the good times, all over again.”

On the verge of tears, Stobaugh proclaims the song, “Wonderful. Just wonderful. Just wonderful.”

Judging by the hits on iTunes and YouTube for “Oh Sweet Lorraine,” plenty of hopeless romantics agree.

 

Photo: Jacob Colgan of Green Shoe Studio accompanies recent widow Fred Stobaugh as Stobaugh recites the lyrics to a song he wrote, “Oh Sweet Lorraine,” in honor of his late wife, Lorraine. (ABC News)

Dan Nakaso Dan Nakaso (70 Posts)

Dan Nakaso returned home to San Jose to help tell the story of Silicon Valley and the people who keep the Valley humming.