In the film Primary Colors, Jack Stanton mentions “You Are My Sunshine,” and says, “It is the most American goddamn song I can think of.” He also says, “A southern governor wrote it.” He doesn’t mention who it is, so years ago, I looked it up. It’s a deceptive claim, because it is more accurate to say that a famous singer became a south governor. The song was written years before he was governor too. The famous singer was Jimmie Davis and the state was Louisiana.
The other thing is that Davis almost certainly didn’t write it. He was given credit for it — along with his writing partner Charles Mitchell. He appears to have bought it from Paul Rice of The Rice Brothers Gang — who recorded the song before Davis. But even they weren’t the first to record it. They were beaten by three weeks by The Pine Ridge Boys. So who knows who actually wrote it. Given the usual way of American capitalism, I think we can assume whoever did write it didn’t get paid.
Here is Jimmie Davis performing the song on television. I have no idea when. He only died in 2000, at the age of 101.