Cowboys and Indians!
During the golden age of popular song Tin Pan Alley published a large number of songs that were ostensibly themed around Western images. Among the songs published were many with traditional cowboy themes and those with Indian (Native American) themes.
My Pony Boy1909
Music by: Charley O' Donnell
Lyrics by: Bobby Heath
Cover artist: DeTacaks
We lead off this month with a rousing "cowboy" song that many of you may remember, especially the bouncy "giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, whoa!" line in the great chorus of this song. The songs has an all star cast of composer, lyricist, artist and performer that probably meant lots of sales for this particular work. Notice that Anna Held's name is quite prominent however, she is not the one who sang the song. Yet she was the headliner of the production this song first appeared in so the publisher has wisely traded on her
name. Held was married to the Great Florenz Ziegfield for a while. Unfortunately, as with many performers of the period, I cannot find any information on Ms. Lorraine, the singer who performed the song in the show.
Po-ny Boy, Po-ny Boy, Won't you be my To-ny Boy?Listen to this bronco bustin' hit song
Music by: Kerry Mills
Lyrics by: Thurland Chattaway
Cover artist: unsigned/unknown
Now for the "Indians".This is absolutely one of the most colorful & gorgeous covers ever created. In some respects it is also one of the most inaccurate depiction's of a Native American yet typical of the period. Imagine, if you will, a native American woman in a war bonnet complete with full makeup, eye shadow, rouge, lipstick. Sure. But, it is absolutely beautiful. As you will see in all the other Amerindian themed songs this month, the depiction of native Americans on these music covers was very stylized to present them not as they were but it seems, as we envisioned they should be.
There once lived an In-dian maid,
Well, maybe it still isn't much about the real Indians, other than it says she was an Indian maid. The tune however is one that is memorable and this song has held some interest over the years and is still requested from time to time.
My Western Rose1910 Music by: Harry J. Lincoln
Lyrics by: F.W. Vandersloot
Cover artist: Dittmar
Back to some equal time for the cowboys, well, in this case, the cowgirls. My Western Rose is another romantic song about a man's "maid", who lived in a glade, in the shade, in the West of Idaho.
Music by: Chas. L. Johnson
Lyrics by: Wm. R. Clay
Cover artist: unsigned/unknown
This cover, as well as the next Indian themed cover below, "Silver Bell" are of the style Bob calls, the noble savage look. It seems that many of the cover artists tended to want to depict the Native Americans in a stately and noble manner. This pose of an Indian woman certainly does so. Her head held high in a posture of nobility, there can be no question that this woman is someone special!
There was a dusky lit-tle maidHear " Silver Star " now.
Music & Lyrics by: Williams & Van Alstyne
Cover artist: Starmer
We have seen plenty of Van Alstyne's work over the years here at ParlorSongs and for good reason, he and Williams wrote some of Tin Pan Alley's greatest hits. Egbert Anson Van Alstyne was born. Mar. 5, 1882, in Chicago, IL.
After schooling, he toured the western states as a pianist and stage musical director before joining Harry H. Williams in a vaudeville act. In 1900, Van Alstyne and Williams settled in New York City, where Van Alstyne started working as staff pianist in some Tin Pan Alley publishing houses. With Williams as his lyricist, Van Alstyne began writing songs. Some of their songs are classic hits of Tin Pan Alley: "In The Shade of the Old Apple Tree", "Good Night Ladies", "Little Old Church in the Valley" and interestingly in 1903 "Navajo"was their first hit song. Marie Cahill sang this tune in the Broadway show 'Nancy Brown'. This may have been the earliest song to exploit Indian names.
Music by: Percy Wenrich
Lyrics by: Edward Madden
Cover artist: unsigned/unknown
Our last feature this month is a work by the great Percy Wenrich. Born Jan. 23, 1887, in Joplin, MO, Wenrich wrote a number of hit songs many of which were of the rag genre (see "The Smiler" in our catalog for one of his best). Wenrich, came from a musical family. His mother taught him to play the organ and the piano while he was still a child. A little later, he would write melodies and his father would write the lyrics. Often, his songs were heard at conventions and political rallies. When he was 21 years old, he enrolled in the Chicago Music College, and while there had two of his songs published by a Chicago publisher. Both song titles, "Ashy Africa" and Just Because I'm From Missouri" .Among his biggest hits were: 1909 "Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet", lyric Stanley Murphy 1912 "Moonlight Bay", lyric by Edward Madden 1914 "When You Wore A Tulip", lyric by Jack Mahoney. 1914 Scored the Broadway show 'Crinoline Girl'. 1921 Scored the Broadway show 'The Right Girl'. 1926 Scored the Broadway show 'Castles in the Air'. 1930 Scored the Broadway show 'Who Cares?'.
Now that we have seen all of these examples, we know that even though the Amerindians were proudly presented in these covers, we still were faced with both ignorance and stereotypes. Igrorance as to the true music and culture and stereotypes as to appearance. This is the case also with the cowboy songs. For more details as to the Amerindian side of the issue, please do visit our essay this month.
Thanks for visiting us and we hope you enjoyed your time with us this month.
There are more songs to be heard! If you have not already visited our essay on Native American Music, now is a great time to do so. There are several more cover images and songs there as well as some MIDI versions of authentic Native American Indian songs. Thanks for stopping by this month. You can visit our past issues by going to the Back Issue Directory to see links to all of our past issues and galleries.
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