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96-Year-Old's Love Song Breaks Onto Billboard Hot 100 List


Finally, this hour, words of love that became a chart-topping song.

FRED STOBAUGH: That's how it all began. I was just lonely one evening and just sat down and wrote it.

SIEGEL: That's Fred Stobaugh. Earlier this summer, the 96-year-old submitted lyrics to a local songwriting contest at Green Shoe Studio in Peoria, Illinois. The song was in memory of his late wife, Lorraine.

STOBAUGH: She was just one of the beautiful-est girls in the world. She could stand up to anybody, movie stars or anybody.


Lorraine died back in April, just a few months shy of their 73rd wedding anniversary. Stobaugh's entry did not win but it did catch the attention of Green Shoe Studio's CEO, Jacob Colgan.

JACOB COLGAN: It was just so touching and so heartwarming, I had to call him. And the team here at the studio decided we had to bring his song to life.

CORNISH: About a month later, Stobaugh's handwritten lyrics turned into the fully produced "Oh, Sweet Lorraine."


SIEGEL: That's Jacob Colgan singing. Green Shoe Studio posted a video on YouTube of a visibly moved Stobaugh listening to the song for the first time with Colgan.

STOBAUGH: It's wonderful, just wonderful.

COLGAN: Good. I'm glad you like it. So glad you like it.

STOBAUGH: It's wonderful.

COLGAN: It's the most nervous I've been taking someone a song in years because it meant so much.

SIEGEL: This week, "Oh, Sweet Lorraine" debuted at number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Fred Stobaugh the oldest artist ever to appear on the chart. The song also has more than 100,000 downloads on iTunes. Again, Green Shoe CEO and the voice behind "Oh, Sweet Lorraine," Jacob Colgan.

COLGAN: He goes, do you know who this Justin guy is? And we're like, yeah, Justin Timberlake? He goes, yeah, well, evidently, I passed him right on by.

CORNISH: But Colgan says the fame hasn't gone to Stobaugh's head. In fact, Stobaugh has a hard time believing everything that's happened.

STOBAUGH: I just - I'm sitting here thinking it's a big dream. I just think it's a big dream and I'm going to wake up.

CORNISH: But for Fred Stobaugh, the dream is real. And now, thanks to Jacob Colgan and his team, so is his song.

(SOUNDBITE FROM SONG, "OH, SWEET LORRAINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.