The lighter side of this month's issue includes this delightful and playful
tune by the great Theodore Morse. A really happy song with an infectious
melody, this one should get your toes a-tappin'. In this cute novelty
song about sailing, the captain, the crew, the dishes and chairs all have
fun bobbin' up and down and the music is a perfect accompaniment to the
lyrics. Music is one of the greatest ways to communicate a mood or idea
without words. Just listen to this tune (as well as some of the others
this month) and notice how the music really conveys the feeling of being
at sea. It is amazing how a well conceived melody or musical passage can
convey a mood, a feeling or a visual image. This song manages that quite
Theodore F. Morse (b. 1873, Washington, D.C., d. 1924, New York, N.Y.)
was one of the most important composers of the period before and up to
the First World War. He wrote many, many popular songs as well as the
scores to several popular stage shows. His wife, Theodora Morse was also
an accomplished composer and performer who often composed under the name
of Dorothy Terriss. Theodore Morse was a privately tutored student of
piano and violin and began his education at the Maryland Military Academy.
At age 14 (1887), he ran away from the Academy and went to New York where
he became a clerk in a music store. His first song was sold when be was
only 15 and by age 24 he had his own publishing house, The Morse Music
Co, which was in existence from 1898 to 1900. Morse is well represented
on ParlorSongs and has a long list of popular hits to his credit. Among
his most famous works are, Blue Bell (1904), M-O-T-H-E-R
(1915), Down In Jungle Town (1908) and Hail, Hail, The Gang's
All Here (1917). In 1903, Morse wrote Hurray For Baffin Bay
for a new stage show that would become the basis for a blockbuster movie,
The Wizard of Oz.
Music by: James Kendis & James Brockman
Lyrics by: Kendis & Brockman
Cover artist: Rose
The writers of this song, were also the writers of the famous, I'm
Forever Blowing Bubbles, a smash hit song also published in 1919.
When you listen to the beginning of this song, you will hear that they
clearly intended to capitalize on that connection. When I first started
the song I thought I had picked up the wrong score! The song makes liberal
use of the melodic components of "Bubbles". Of course that was
a fairly common practice; the use of another popular melody to stimulate
sales of another. Regardless, it is a very pleasant tune with a nice lyrical
sentiment. I think you will enjoy it.
James Brockman (1886 - 1967) studied music at the Cleveland conservatory
and early in his career was a comedian in stage musicals. His most lasting
hit, I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles was introduced by June Caprice
in the Passing Show of 1918. Among his other hits were, Down Among
The Sheltering Palms, Feather Your Nest and the great novelty
song, I Faw Down An' Go Boom. Brockman had a long and successful
career, turning to film scores later in his life. His partner, James Kendis
(b. 1883, St. Paul, MN, d. 1946, Jamaica, NY) had some of his greatest
success in his collaborations with Brockman. Kendis formed his own publishing
company, Kendis Music Company. Some of his other hits not collaborated
with Brockman include, If I Had My Way, Angel Eyes, and
Come Out Of The Kitchen, Mary Ann.
Music by: Lewis F. Muir
Lyrics by: L. Wolfe Gilbert
Cover artist: DeTakacs
Another of the famous "toe tappers" is this great Jolson hit
from 1912. Perhaps THE definitive paddle wheeler song, Waiting For The
Robert E. Lee is one of America's greatest songs about river boat travel.
Though we are no longer out on the ocean with this song,
the influence and romance of the water is still very much with us. According
to Sigmund Spaeth, author of A History of Popular Music In America
(see our resources
page for details), The Gilbert-Muir combination's "classic for
the year and for all time, was Waiting For The Robert E. Lee. It is not
only topnotch ragtime, with an irresistible sweep of words and melody,
but it has so much of the spirit of the New Orleans levee and of Negro
music in general that it is hard to believe it was written by two white
men. No other song has done as much to immortalize the Mississippi steamboats
of the old days."
Composer Lewis Muir (1884 - 1950) was a pianist and famous
ragtime composer of the period. He performed at honky tonks in St. Louis
on 1904 and in New York City n 1910. He was also an acclaimed performer
in London. His credits include, Play That Barber Shop Chord (1910),
When Ragtime Rosey Ragged The Rosary (1911) and Cowboy Joe
in 1912. His partner in this song, Louis Wolfe Gilbert (1886 - 1970) was
born in Odessa, Russia and was brought to America by his parents when
he was only one year old. He was a vaudeville actor and toured with the
great John L. Sullivan. During the heyday of radio, he wrote for Eddie
Cantor's radio show. Aside from Muir, he also collaborated with Abel Baer
(Lucky Lindy, 1927) and other famous lyricists of the period. Some
of his other hits include, Ramona, O, Katharina, Hitchy Koo and
Music by: Amanda Kennedy
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: unknown
Stepping back to the 19th century, we want to present you with another
of the great classics about the sea. Though no lyrics exist for this wonderful
piano reverie, the music is another example of how a composer can evoke
visions of the sea and ships. The cover is another of those gorgeous lithographs
from that period by an, unfortunately, unidentified lithographer. This
work was "immensely popular" according to the cover, and in
reality it was. The song continued to be published by Feist over a period
of almost 30 years. This first edition states "10,000" already
sold. A 1910 issue using the identical cover states, "Over Two Million
Sold". This song may hold a record for one of the longest runs for
a piece of music from that period, especially one without lyrics. It is
interesting to note that the cover states that this work was also published
under three other titles; March Funebre, Waltz Elegante, Stars
of Our Union and Star of The East. I guess Kennedy kept changing
the title till she hit on one that stuck!
Amanda Kennedy had a successful career as a composer, unusual for a woman
during these times. Her greatest hit is this piece but she also wrote
a number of other works such as the Adrienne Polka (1885), Beyond
the Stars (1883) and I'll Sleep 'Neath the Soft Grassy Turf
also published in 1883. One thing I have discovered in researching composers
and lyricists from this period is the tremendous gap of information related
to women composers. Whereas men of feeble ability and few publications
are sometimes easily found in books from the period, feminine composers
are almost entirely ignored, no matter how accomplished or successful.
It is only grudgingly that we find reference to women composers and then
only when they simply cannot be ignored due to their towering accomplishments.
I find this shameful but worse, we have lost valuable musical history
and have done the memory of these wonderful composers a terrible injustice.
Music by: Delbert Rhoades
Lyrics by: Rhoades
Cover artist: unknown
Our final work this month is one we have not seen at ParlorSongs since
way back in December of 1997. Whenever we think of ships and the sea,
thoughts of the Titanic cannot be far from mind. Several of the songs
this month speak to the dangers of the sea (Des Seemanns Los, The Ship
That Never Returned, We Were Shipmates, Jack and I) and of course
those who go down to the sea in ships face the prospect of never returning
home. This work is one of many songs written in 1912 to commemorate the
loss of the Titanic. It is one of the rarer works as it was published
by the author as publisher in Mendon, Ohio. Mendon is a small town in
Northwestern Ohio near the Indiana border. Mendon boasts a population
of 717 and covers a land area of less than a square kilometer.
The song carries a wonderful sentiment but I have to admit that musically
I can see why it has not survived. Though the melody is a very pleasant
one, the song suffers from the continued repetition of the short phrase
and wears thin very soon. As an historical document, this song is an important
part of the transportation category of sheet music. Obviously Mr. Rhoades
was moved by the incident and wrote this touching song as a tribute to
those who died. We offer you this piece in the same way, as a tribute
to the sea and those who have risked and lost their lives. We began this
month's feature with a song that saluted a ship that never returned, we
end it with the same.
Delbert Rhoades was a longtime resident of Mendon, and was a piano tuner
by trade. He also repaired watches, even though he was legally blind!
In searching for information about Mr. Rhoades, I did make contact with
some current Mendon, Ohio residents who were kind enough to find some
information for us. The following information was kindly provided by Mr.
"John Maurer (78 years old) Still runs the Hardware Store in Mendon,
remembers (Del) playing cards in the furniture store ( morgue in back
room). He was legally blind ,but could see some if held cards REAL close
to his eye, He ALWAYS wore a Derby hat , suit and vest , dressed up all
the time. Was clean shaved. Never married , but rumor has it he dated
Clara Rager. He lived with a John Maurer who said Del also was a watch
repairman , Said he held the watch real close to his eye and could fix
them., but was a good piano tuner and repairman."
Now that you have seen our featured songs, be sure to read our Essay On Work Songs and Sea Shanties for an interesting look at another aspect of popular song. Work songs and sea shanties flourished during the 19th century and helped workers and seamen perform repetitive tasks and build morale. See and hear four traditional sea shanties as well as yet another great old song
of the sea from the past, We Were Shipmates, Jack and I.
We hope you have enjoyed this month's feature. We appreciate
your interest in our efforts to bring you the best American popular music history
site on the web. Be sure to tell your friends and family about us. If you have
suggestions for themes or issues you would like to see in the future, please
contact us. We will see you back next month for a new feature about a different
subject area of American popular music, songs about the moon including the greatest
moon song ever, Moonlight Bay. You won't want to miss it so stay tuned!
Have a great month.
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