It was originally an instrumental tune titled "I'm Free" by Haggart in 1938, when Haggart was a member of Bob Crosby and His Orchestra. The tune was written with a trumpet solo, meant to showcase the talents of band-mate Billy Butterfield. Crosby's orchestra recorded "I'm Free" the same day it was written.
The following year, the music publishers hired Johnny Burke to write lyrics for the tune. Burke's telling of the torch song is unique, using one side of a casual conversation between former lovers. Thus the song was retitled using the song's first line, "What's New?" The song was recorded with the new title in 1939 by Bob Crosby And His Orchestra With Vocalist Teddy Grace. The song reached a peak chart position of #10.
What's new? How is the world treating you? You haven't changed a bit Lovely as ever, I must admit
What's new? How did that romance come through? We haven't met since then Gee, but it's nice to see you again
What's new? Probably I'm boring you But seeing you is grand And you were sweet to offer your hand, I understand.
Adieu! Pardon my asking what's new Of course you couldn't know I haven't changed; I still love you so