This, the second in our two part feature on the subject of hits
explores the years from 1910 to 1920 and the explosion of enduring hits that
came from those years. Be sure to see our January,
2002 feature for a review of the decades when the concept of the hit song
emerged in America from 1890 to 1910. Also, be sure to see our "In
Search Of" series for articles about the concept of hit songs and what
makes a song successful as well as many other articles about American popular
song and some of the people who have made it what it is today. For those of
you with scorch, we have upgraded our Sibelius software and it will incorporate
a number of improved playback capabilities and some scores will now be printable
at no cost. Be sure to upgrade your scorch player to use these new feature and
view the score while the music plays. For those of you who continue to prefer
midi presentation, the upgraded software now produces an improved midi performance
that includes repeats as written.
Your Arms Around Me Honey
Music by: Albert Von Tilzer
Lyrics by: Junie McCree
Cover artist: Unknown
The decade beginning in 1910 brought us a period of popular musical growth
unmatched in prior years and perhaps unmatched since. This period defined
the American popular song and the production of enduring hit songs was
almost overwhelming. This song was introduced in vaudeville by Blossom
Seely, billed as "the Hottest Girl In Town" and was later included
in the musical Madame Sherry that same year. This memorable melody
has appeared as a background theme or song in many movies, including one
starring John Wayne, In Old Oklahoma (1943). Judy Garland sang
it in the film, In The Good Old Summertime (1949) and Judy Canova
sang it in Louisiana Hayride (1944). An immediate hit, the first
recording of this song was produced in 1911 .
Albert Von Tilzer ( nee Albert Gumm, b. 1878, Indianapolis
- d. 1956, Los Angeles)was the brother of the famous Harry Von Tilzer.(
1872 - 1946) Albert, was one of five children, and found a career in music,
more or less following his older brother Harry. It was Harry who decided
to change his name to the more "gussied
up" Von Tilzer (their mother's maiden name was Tilzer and Harry added
"Von" to make it more impressive) and Albert followed to capitalize
on Harry's success.
Though Albert followed his brother in many ways, he was
definitely a fine composer in his own right. He started his career as
a plugger in 1899 and also worked for his brother's firm, von Tilzer Music
Publishers. In 1900 he wrote The Absent Minded Beggar Waltz,
a rather inauspicious start. He went on to write hundreds of songs, many
of them hits at that time and several of which are enduring hits still
Among his greatest works are I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time,
(1920), Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1908) and the present, Put
Your Arms Around me Honey.
Music by: Nat. D. Ayer
Lyrics by: Seymour Brown
Cover artist: Starmer
Another of those immediate hits, as with many of the lasting hits from
this period, Oh! You Beautiful Doll has enjoyed many revivals and performances
in films by some of the greatest singers of the 20th century. Like many
of our lasting hits, Judy Garland sang this one in the 1942 film, For
Me And My Gal. It also was featured in the 1939 film biography, The
Story of Vernon and Irene Castle starring Fred Astaire and Ginger
Rogers. A strange twist was its use in the film biography of Fred Fisher,
Oh! You Beautiful Doll. Why that title was used for the film
and why the song was so prominent is a mystery as Fisher had no connection
to the song at all.
The year 1911 also marked the introduction of a number of other lasting
hits including I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old
Dad, The Oceana
Roll (scorch) and the most famous non ragtime song of them all
Alexander's Ragtime Band,
(midi) a song that had a tremendous effect on American song and which
marked the emergence of Irving Berlin as one of America's greatest and
most popular songwriters.
Nat D. Ayer (b. 1897, Boston - d. 1952, Bath, England) Ayer wrote
a number of lasting and contemporary hits during his time on Tin
Pan Alley including King Chanticleer (1911, lyrics by Seymour
Brown, used in the Ziegfeld Follies) and a huge hit, If You Were The
Only Girl In The World in 1916. The music from King Chanticleer
is very often performed at ragtime festivals (never the lyrics), - even
used as background music in films and accompaniment to silent films. Ayer
left "Tin Pan Alley" to return to England, where he remained
until the end of his life, composing mostly for the theater. His shows
there include The Bing Boys Are Here (1916), The Bing Boys
Are There (1917) and the Bing Boys On Broadway (1918) all
of which were produced at the Alhambra Theater in London. Among his other
compositions are: Another Little Drink, Bingo Farm, and Zuyder
Zee, a popular novelty song:
Zuyder Zee, Zuyder Zee,
Zuyder Beautiful Zee.
You unt me, You unt Me,
Oh How Happy Ve'll Be"
Music by: Ernie Burnett
Lyrics by: George A. Norton
Cover artist: Unknown
This song is more commonly known as My Melancholy Baby however, when
first published, the title was simply Melancholy. The song is the only
hit produced by Burnett although he was a distinguished and accomplished
musician. Included in 1964's Funny Girl, this song is one of the standard
tunes of the lasting hit parade. Sung by Bing Crosby in The Birth of The
Blues in 1941, Judy Garland in A Star Is Born, 1954, and Gogi Grant (dubbing
for Ann Blyth) in The Helen Morgan Story, 1957, Melancholy has enjoyed
a long and prominent place in the American hit parade.
Ernie Burnett(b. Cincinnati, Ohio 1884 - d. Sarnac Lake, New York,
1959) Like many composers of the era, Burnett spent a few years as a vaudeville
performer. He left the United States while still a teenager to get a formal
education in music abroad. He studied in Italy, Austria and at the Charlottenburg
Conservatory. On his return in 1901 he performed as a pianist in vaudeville.
He led his own orchestra and founded his own publishing company. In W.W.I
he served in the 89th division of the AEF. Melancholy appears to
be his only song composition of note.
Music by: Chris Smith
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: De Takacs
What we know today as a song, really did not start as a song. Ballin'
The Jack began life as a pure piano piece, very much in the ragtime
style and billed as a "Fox-Trot" dance. In fact, this may very
well be among one of the first Fox-Trots to be published. On the cover
appears a photo of Billy Kent and Jeanette Warner captioned, "creators
of the Fox-Trot." In fact, Kent and Warner introduced the work on
vaudeville. The piece begins with a very unfamiliar introduction that
is very "raggy" in its style. It then moves into a central section
that is the melody we are familiar with although rhythmically it is different
than today's versions, it is clearly recognizable. The song ends with
a section based on the James Reece Europe song, What It Takes To Make
Me Love You. The original was actually written in 1912, then in 1913,
Smith teamed with Jim Burris who provided the lyrics and the song took
off as a big hit.
Of course, Judy Garland performed this work with Gene Kelly in For Me
And My Gal in 1942, Danny Kaye had a go at it in 1951 in On The Riviera
and Dean Martin sang it in That's My Boy in 1942. Other lasting hits from
1913 include El Choclo, (midi)
an Argentine tango, Danny Boy, Peg
O' My Heart, (midi) The Trail
Of The Lonesome Pine (midi) and You Made Me Love You.
Chris Smith (b. Charleston, SC 1879 - d. New York City, 1949)
One of a very few African American composers to be successful during this
era, Smith distinguished himself with a large oeuvre of published works
including several hits. He taught himself to play the piano and the guitar.
His first appearances on the stage was with Elmer Bowman, who had a medicine
show. Bowman never paid him, and he had to walk back home to Charleston.
At some point, Chris traveled to New York, and in 1900, he began to write
popular songs. His first song, Never Let The Same Bee Sting You Twice
was published in 1900 with lyrics by Cecil Mack. His collaborations included
a number of major lyricists of the time including Silvio Hein ( He's
A Cousin Of Mine), Jack Drislane ( After All That I've Been To
You) and Avery and Hart (Down Among The Sugar Cane). Sadly,
after WW1, Smith stopped writing. He lived in an apartment in Harlem's
St. Nicholas Avenue, in seclusion and neglect till his death at age 70.
Music by: Jerome D. Kern
Lyrics by: Herbert Reynolds
Cover artist: unknown
Jerome Kern is one of America's greatest songwriters and this song may
well be his best. Without question it is one of his most enduring hits
and one that has been sung by almost every singer of note, yes, including
Judy Garland. It also happens to be his first hit song, presaging many
years of outstanding songs. Starting in 1911, Kern had written several
stage productions, all of which were not successful. In 1914 however,
he hit paydirt with The Girl From Utah, an adaptation of an English operetta.
He wrote eight songs for the production, three of which were limited successes
by themselves. This one though was an unqualified masterpiece.
On hearing it, the great Victor Herbert said, "this man will inherit
my mantle." (No humility there.) The song was a huge hit and was
published in a number of different wrappers like this one shown here with
a portrait as well as the original show version (above). The "cast"
cover above, shows portraits of Julia Sanderson and below her, Donald
Brian. They premiered the song in he original production. In the 1946
Kern film biography, Till The Clouds Roll By, it was sung by Dinah Shore.
Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson sung it in the 1949 movie, That Midnight
Jerome Kern (b. Jan. 27, 1885, New York City, d. Nov. 11, 1945,
New York City) Kern was one of the most important pioneering composers
of American Popular Song, Jerome Kern was writing for Broadway shows in
1904 (age 19). He wrote his first complete score for a Broadway musical
in 191l. The Kern/Hammerstein score for the musical Showboat
was a landmark in the Broadway theater. He starting writing for Hollywood
as early as 1935. After his last Broadway show Very Warm For May,
Kern wrote exclusively for motion pictures. During 1913, Kern and other
composers and lyricists were experimenting, in the small Princess Theater
in New York, with American subjects for musicals. Kern's first big hit
was They Didn't Believe Me from the 1914 show The Girl from
Utah. In 1919, Kern had a minor hit with the song Ka-Lu-A,
with lyric by Anne Caldwell. The huge success of that year was the song
Dardanella (midi). Kern
used the bass line of Dardanella in his Ka-lu-a, and
the publishers of Dardanella sued him. The case went all the
way to the Supreme Court where Kern eventually lost. (He was never accused
of plagiarizing the melody, only of using the Bass Line.) That case was
a landmark for copyright interpretation and protection. Several other
hit shows followed in the late 1910's and twenties before his biggest
hit musical Showboat. By the end of the thirties Kern had composed
his last Broadway musical.
The son of an upper-middle class new York family, Jerome studied at Heidleberg
University in Germany, returning to the U.S. with a Master of Music degree.
His first published song appeared in a Broadway show, 'Silver Slipper'.
Jerome was 19 years old at the time. During the next eight years, he had
melodies in over 24 Broadway shows before having his first big hit "They
Didn't Believe Me" from the 1914 show The Girl From Utah.
In the 1920's, he wrote material for many shows, but his greatest achievement
came with 1927's Show Boat, one of the finest shows Broadway
has ever produced. By this time, he had already written such songs as
Look For The Silver Lining, Ol' Man River,"Only
Make Believe", and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."
In 1932, he wrote The Song Is You with Oscar Hammerstein for
the Broadway show Music In The Air. That same year he signed
with RKO Pictures for the films Roberta and, in 1936, Swingtime
with it's twin hits of The Way You Look Tonight and A Fine
Romance, both sung by Fred Astaire. His last Broadway show was in
1939 Very Warm For May.
In the 1940's: Kern's Hits included: The Last Time I Saw Paris, Dearly
Beloved Long Ago and Far Away, "Just The Way You Look Tonight,
Pick Yourself Up and Start All Over Again, I'm Old Fashioned and
the Judy Garland hit vocal. "More and More." In 1945
Kern suffered a fatal Stroke. He was 65 years old.
Music by: Egbert Van Alstyne
Lyrics by: Gustave Kahn
Cover artist: unknown
Memories are what ParlorSongs is all about and this song is arguably,
the greatest "memories" song of them all. The song was an immediate
hit when published and has stayed in the performance repertoire ever since.
This song was heard in the 1951 film biography of Kahn, I'll See You In
My Dreams as well as other films. Often recorded, never forgotten, it
is another of those timeless songs that came from this great era of American
Popular song. This same year yielded numerous lasting (and not so lasting)
hit songs, among them are; America
I Love You (midi), Back Home In Tennessee, Canadian
Capers (midi), I've
Been Floating Down The Old Green River (midi), M-O-T-H-E-R
(midi), The Old Gray Mare
(scorch) and When I Leave
The World Behind (scorch).
Egbert Van Alstyne (b. Chicago, Ill 1882 - d. Chicago, 1951) A
musical prodigy, he played the organ at the Methodist Church in Marengo,
Illinois when only seven! Schooled in the public school system in Chicago
and at Cornell College in Iowa, he won a scholarship to the Chicago Musical
College. After graduation, he toured as a pianist and director of stage
shows and performed in vaudeville. In 1902 he went to New York and worked
as a staff pianist for a publisher in Tin
Pan Alley and began to devote himself to writing songs teamed with
Harry Williams as his lyricist. The teams first success cam in 1903 with
Navajo, one of the earliest commercial songs to exploit Indian
themes. They wrote two more "Indian
Songs";Cheyenne in 1906 and San Antonio in 1907.
In 1905 they produced one of the greatest songs of that early decade,
In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree which sold several million copies.
For several years, the team cranked out hit after hit and music for two
Broadway musicals, A Broken Doll in 1909 and Girlies in
In 1912, Van Alstyne wrote That Old Girl Of Mine with Earle C. Jones
and that same year started his collaboration with Gus Kahn. Their first
important song together was Sunshine and Roses in 1913 and then Memories.
This is the same team that also gave us Pretty
Baby, (midi) Old Pal,
(midi) Your Eyes Have Told Me So and Sing Me A Love Song. Van Alstyne
returned to Chicago in his later years and lived with his mother who enjoyed
a late life (in her eighties) career as "Aunt Em" on the radio.
Gus Kahn (1886 - 1941) is one of America's greatest lyricists.
Born in Coblenz, Germany, his family came to the USA and settled in Chicago
in 1891. He worked mostly in non-music related jobs but persisted in seeking
outlets for his song lyrics. His first song was published in 1907 and
after that, he concentrated on writing lyrics for vaudeville performers
in Chicago first, then in New York in the 1920's. In 1933, he moved to
California and focused on writing for movies. The many eminent composers
he teamed with over his long career include, Isham Jones, Walter Donaldson
(My Buddy) , Egbert Van Alstyne, George Gershwin and Ernie Erdman
(Toot -Toot -Tootsie).
Many of his songs have become standards with Pretty Baby (1916)
being perhaps the most notable. Other standards by Kahn include, Carolina
In The Morning (1922), Makin' Whoopee, 1928 and Liza
(1928). His movie biography, I'll See You In My Dreams (1951) starring
Danny Thomas and Doris day is an engrossing story that is filled with
many of his hits. Kahn died in Beverly Hills in 1941.
The Parlor Songs Academy is an educational website, designated by the "ac" (academic) domain
If you would like to submit an article about America's music for us to publish, go to our submissions page for information about writing articles for us. We also welcome suggestions for subjects for future articles.
Please Help Us Continue our Efforts with a donation. The Parlor Songs Academy. is a Tennessee unincorporated association. Donations go towards the aquisition of additional music, preservation of music, equipment and educational efforts. If you like what we do, please help us out. Donation funds are used entirely for the operating expenses of Parlor Songs and/or aquisition of additional music or equipment.