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The Music of Percy Wenrich, Part 2




Dimples

1913

 

Music by: Percy Wenrich
Lyrics by: Edward Madden
Cover artist: Starmer

 

By 1913, Wenrich was well established as one of America's most popular songwriter - composers and continued to attract big name lyricists to collaborate with on his music. At the same time, more and more of the more prominent vaudevillians, Victrola artists and stage performers were using his music in their shows. In the case of this song, the publisher, Remick, has used a popular performer's image and reputation to help sell the song. Unfortunately, Miss Irene Frankin is unknown today but she lives on through this cover.

 

The Lyricist, Edward Madden worked with a number of popular composers during these years including Theodore Morse, Albert Von Tilzer and Gus Edwards. Of course, his most lasting hits may be Moonlight Bay with Wenrich and By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, with Edwards. Among his other hits also featured here at ParlorSongs are, Blue Bell and Silver Bell. This song is a sweet novelty ballad done in an interesting "Tango style." It is about a beauty operator named Dimples who charms her customer. It speaks to haircoloring, manicures and other beauty shop activities. I think is it rather unique.

 

Enjoy this Wenrich song now (SCORCH format)

listen to MIDI version

 

When You Wore A Tulip and I Wore A Big Red Rose

1914

 

Music by: Percy Wenrich
Lyrics by: Jack Mahoney
Cover artist: Rose Symbol

 

Now we arrive at what might be considered Wenrich's greatest hit of them all. In cooperation with Jack Mahoney, Wenrich writes one of America's greatest popular tunes, another that has stayed with us for almost 100 years. The photo on the cover, though unidentified, appears to be Dolly Connolly, for whom he wrote this song. By 1914, Wenrich was spending a great deal of time in support of Dolly and was traveling the vaudeville circuit with her. Much of his music written after their marriage in 1909 was specifically for Dolly and she introduced much of his music. This work has had a long and prominent history in the popular repertoire and in films. In 1942 Gene Kelley and Judy Garland performed it in For Me And My Gal. It was also used in the 1943 film Hello Frisco, Hello, the 1944 film The Merry Monahans and 1952's Has Anybody Seen My Gal. The song was an immediate hit and was recorded by Victor the year it was released by the popular American Quartette

 

Jack Mahoney worked with Wenrich on at least two other works, 1912's Kentucky Days and Come Back Dixie (featured below). He also wrote two works with Theodore Morse, Good-bye Betty Brown (1910) and On a Monkey Honeymoon (1909). In 1919 he collaborated with Fred Fisher on While Others Are Building Castles In The Air.

 

Hear this great enduring hit (scorch format)
listen to MIDI version

 


Come Back Dixie

1915

Music by: Percy Wenrich
Lyrics by: Jack Mahoney
Cover artist: unknown

 

In 1915, Mahoney and Wenrich tried to duplicate their prior success but never quite reached the level of "Tulip" in any subsequent attempts. In fact, Wenrich never again had a hit as big as "Tulip" over the remainder of his career. This song is not often seen and probably has not been heard for many many years. However, it is an excellent march style song that is in the style of Wenrich's Silver Bell though rather than an Indian theme, we have a Dixieland theme. It is a very upbeat and enjoyable song that deserves to be heard and remembered in our musical heritage.

 

Listen to this Wenrich rarity (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

 

By The Campfire

1919

Music by: Percy Wenrich
Lyrics by: Mabel Elizabeth Girling
Cover artist: Rose Symbol

By 1919, Wenrich was slowing down in his poplar song composition and concentrating entirely on traveling with Dolly and in scoring stage productions. He wrote few songs after this time. For more details, be sure to read our biography of Wenrich as a part of our In Search Of American Popular music series of articles. This song is incorrectly listed in some reference works as a W.W.I song yet it clearly is not. I can only attribute that to someone making an assumption about the title and not really knowing the content of the song. It also was a very pleasant surprise for me as musically this song is a delight. Through effective use of staccato and flowing phrases, Wenrich has created a lilting upbeat song of love. The melody of the chorus is one that is just plain delightful. Frankly, with such a lovely and memorable melody, I can't understand why this song has not stayed in the active repertoire.

Regrettably, the lyricist Girling is lost to us except for this lovely work. I have been unable to find any other songs by her or references to her. It is interesting to wonder why and how a luminary such as Wenrich connected to a virtually unknown song writer to produce a song deserving of much more exposure than it has had.

 

Hear this great Wenrich song (scorch)
Listen to MIDI version

 


How Are You Going To Wet Your Whistle (When The Whole Darn World Goes Dry)

1919

Music by: Percy Wenrich
Lyrics by: Francis Byrne, Frank McIntyre
Cover artist: Rose Symbol

For our last two work this month, we offer another of Wenrich's later works that has fallen into obscurity. Of course it is a humorous novelty song that was quite topical. In 1919 the US Congress was debating various legislative actions which would control the use of alcohol. Those activities culminated in the Volstead Act of 1920 which introduced the era commonly referred to as prohibition. American popular music has always been a reflection of society and current events and prohibition released a flood of songs that were related to the issue. Many were aligned towards the issue, either pro or con but most took a humorous look at the issue as did this great novelty song by Wenrich in collaboration with Francis Byrne and Frank McIntyre. Unfortunately, little is known about them.

A good humored novelty song, this work asks what people will do with no booze to drink at weddings, christenings and other occasions. I think the rhythm that Wenrich has used in this song gives it a bit of a tipsy, almost drunken motion. It is yet another demonstration of the skill and versatility of this great American popular song composer.

 

Enjoy this unique prohibition era work(scorch)

Listen to MIDI version

 

That's it for this month's feature, as always, we hope you have enjoyed the music and learned something from it. Be sure to read this month's new "In search of" biography of Percy Wenrich. As for next month, we will have a new feature about "tear jerker" songs.

If you would like to return to part A of this month's issue, click here.



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