The title derives from the slang expression “putting on the Ritz,” meaning to dress with style. The expression was inspired by the swanky swag of the Ritz Hotel.
(Original Puttin’ on the Ritz, by Harry Richman, 1930)
The original version of Berlin’s song included references to the then-popular fad of flashily-dressed but Harlemites parading up and down Lenox Avenue, “Spending ev’ry dime / For a wonderful time,” Columbia released a 78 recording of Fred Astaire singing the original lyrics in 1930. For the film Blue Skies (1946), where it was performed by Fred Astaire, Berlin revised the lyrics to apply to affluent whites strutting “up and down Park Avenue.”
(The Puttin’ on the Ritz, by Fred Astaire, 1930 version)
Hit phonograph records of the tune in its original popularity of 1929–1930 were recorded by Harry Richman and Fred Astaire, with whom the song is particularly associated.