Harry Von Tilzer, Tin Pan Alley Pioneer.

 

This month and next, we'll look at one of the greatest pair of song writing brothers who pioneered much of the music of Tin Pan Alley in it's early years; Harry and Albert Von Tilzer. Between them they produced some of the greatest music of the early twentieth century, much of which is still well known. Both were born Gumm (some accounts further say that their birth name was Gummblinsky which was shortened to Gumm ) and when Brother Harry changed his name to "Von Tilzer" in 1884, his brother Albert followed suit when he entered the music business a few years later. Though both wrote songs with almost every major songwriter in Tin Pan Alley, they never wrote a song together (that I can find) and even though Harry helped Albert get started by publishing some of his early works their ties remained seemingly distant. We'll begin our exploration of their lives and music with Harry, the oldest of the pair.

 

Harry was born Harry Gumm (or Gummblinsky) in Detroit in 1872. Oldest of a fairly large family, his five brothers all followed him into the music business, each making their own unique mark in Tin Pan Alley as composers, performers or publishers.Young Harry had a penchant for show business nearly from the start and with encouragement from a musical mother, he played the piano at an early age. At only fourteen, he left home to join a circus as a tumbler and singer. It was at this time Harry felt the name Gumm was simply too mundane and he chose his mother's maiden name Tilzer and in his words, "gussied" it up with a leading "Von" and thus was born the name that would become one of Tin Pan Alley's greatest musical family names. So successful was Harry that his brothers Albert, Jack, Julie and Will all changed their name to Von Tilzer to capitalize on the Von Tilzer magic. While still a teenager, he played stage roles in a repertory company and began writing his own songs. His very first published song was in 1892; I Love You Both. As with many first efforts, his was not particularly noticeable and though published, he earned little from his efforts. Encouraged by a fellow performer, Lottie Gilson, Harry moved to New York the same year and with a princely $1.65 in his pockets having worked as a groom to a carload of horses on the train to New York. (Spaeth, p.304)

 

From 1892 till 1898, Von Tilzer found work as a pianist and singer in a saloon and for a short while, left New York to again perform in a traveling medicine show. On his return to New York he worked in saloons and teamed up with George Sidney to perform a vaudeville "Dutch" act that was fairly popular. It was during this period that Harry met another up and coming songwriter, a lyricist named Andrew B. Sterling. The two became fast friends and together rented a room on E. 15th Street near the Brooklyn Bridge (photo). At this time, Harry's main income came from his performance in vaudeville and though he claimed to have written hundreds of songs by 1898, none had been published since his 1892 premiere work. Some of his songs had been performed by others, including a few by Tony Pastor at his music hall and some he sold to other entertainers for two dollars each. It was destitution that finally pushed Von Tilzer (and Sterling as well) into fame with the hit song needed to put them both into the limelight and circle of success in American song. At some point in 1898, Harry and Andrew were behind in their rent and facing eviction. When the landlord slipped their final notice under the door, Von Tilzer and Sterling used the back of the notice to compose a chorus, then a verse to a song that would later be titled My Old New Hampshire Home (Scorch format, for complete information on the song and a midi version as well as the lyrics, see our August, 2003 feature). The pair made a number of attempts to sell the song to no avail. Despondent and seemingly beaten, a friend, Bartley Costello suggested that they take the song to the owner of the Orphean Music company, William Dunn. Dunn liked the song and gave them a generous five dollar advance but insisted on getting his daughter's approval before publication. Fortunately, the daughter liked the song and they completed the transaction with a final sale of rights to the song to Dunn for $10. The song went on to sell over one million copies. (Spaeth, p. 294). Usually, the story would end there as far as finances related to that song go. When composers sell outright song ownership they often never see another cent while the publisher scoops up the cash. Fortunately, for Von Tilzer, Dunn's company was soon bought by Maurice Shapiro and Louis Bernstein who partnered to form one of Tin Pan Alley's greatest and longest lasting publishing houses (still in existence today as Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. ) Particularly interesting on their web site is their historic hits section, worth a visit but oddly enough, they only go back to 1928. In what might be the only act of charity and fairness ever visited on a composer by a publisher, after Shapiro took over Orphean's assets, he approached Von Tilzer to quit vaudeville and write songs for them. In an astounding act of business ethics, Shapiro offered Von Tilzer $4,000 in royalties from My Old New Hampshire Home to entice him into their organization! Of course, Shapiro was wise enough to see that Von Tilzer had the talent and skill to make their company many times more than the $4,000 that it took to secure Von Tilzer's talents. They enjoyed a successful relationship to the extent that Von Tilzer was made a full partner in the firm soon after jointing them.

 

It was not long before Von Tilzer produced a number of hits not only with Sterling but with many other prominent lyricists of the period. In 1900 Von Tilzer joined the sentimental ballad hit parade with one of the greatest ballads of the genre, A Bird In A Gilded Cage. (Scorch format, for complete information on the song and a midi version as well as the lyrics, see our October, 2001 feature about "Tear Jerkers"). This song also has a charming story behind it as well. Called by Spaeth "his most naive song," the song has a nice waltz tune but it is Arthur Lamb who is responsible for the lyrics that were often a source of derision. Von Tilzer often retold the story behind the song with glee. In 1899, Von Tilzer was approached by Lamb with the words for a possible song. Von Tilzer it is said, recognized the potential appeal to audiences of the time but insisted that Lamb rewrite the words to make it clear that the feminine object of the song was appropriately married to a rich old man rather than living in sin as a kept woman. After all, these were Victorian times and proper decorum was necessary! In a moment, Lamb made a few corrections and Von Tilzer pocketed the lyrics and promptly went to a party at a road house. While his companions reveled, Von Tilzer sat at the piano and worked out a melody for Lamb's poem. As Von Tilzer sang through the new song, he noted that many of the girls nearby were crying. That convinced him that he had a hit on his hands. It's publication in 1900 proved him right when it became the most popular song of the year and has become somewhat of a benchmark for the tear jerker style of those days.

 

That same year (1900), Von Tilzer published another song that struck a chord with the public, When The Harvest Days Are Over Jessie Dear. In collaboration with Howard Graham who wrote the lyrics, the song was graced with a cover by Edward Keller and a picture of the lovely Leah Russell. This song was another of his early hits and one of just a handful that bear the short lived Shapiro Bernsten & Von Tilzer logo. The song is less well known than most of Von Tilzer's songs but is an important early song that merits a place of honor among his works. A great success, the song speaks to the heart and carries a great deal of the sentimentality of the period when tear jerkers and sad songs reigned supreme. The song is a tear jerker that rivals any of the time. The melody is very pleasant and somewhat simple which makes it attractive to me. The story is that of a couple planning to wed when death intervenes. A sad old man sits by the fire remembering and waiting and eventually he is finally able to join his Jessie dear in eternal sleep. This song as well as several others from this period established Von Tilzer as a powerful force in song and one who was more than able to write sentimental ballads that rivaled those of the then king of tear jerkers, Charles K. Harris. Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of the song or listen to the midi and/or see the Lyrics .

 

Von Tilzer continued to crank out hits for Shapiro and he continued to develop his own unique style. In 1901 they published the first in a series of "dance folios" that provided the public with piano only arrangements of popular songs of the period. These "Star" dance folios were quite popular and continued to be published for quite some time. The 1901 edition featured mostly songs by Von Tilzer with several others included. The folio provided a quite generous forty songs for a price of only 75¢. To put that into perspective, at the time, a single sheet generally cost anywhere from 35¢ to 50¢ so these arrangements were a boon to saloon, salon and other public performers. Among the many Von Tilzer hits included in the 1901 edition were a couple of rare Von Tilzer piano solo works. Among them was Marching To The Music Of The Band, one of a very few piano solo marches written by Von Tilzer. With this song, we can perhaps see why Von Tilzer was so successful with ballads but not in other genres. Though the march has its moments, it is actually almost an embarrassment and has some pretty bad moments as well. Perhaps through this work and a handful of others, Von Tilzer realized where his talents were and he thankfully stuck with songs rather than marches or other keyboard works. The song is a curiosity though as it almost seems to me that the central section, the trio in most marches, is so awful that it seems inconceivable that a talent like Von Tilzer would have written it. In considering this, I've come up with two possibilities that seem logical. The first is that the copyist or engraver simply made some mistakes in that section. The most logical error seems to be a possible omission of a key change. By experimenting with various key changes, that section can be made less dissonant and flowing. This possibility is more plausible considering the fact that the beginning and ending sections that surround the middle are quite pleasant. In my experience I've encountered many notation errors in old sheet music so such an error is quite possible. The other alternative explanation is that it is intentional, a modern day Mozartian musical joke. My references make some oblique mention that Von Tilzer may have been a practical joker and a man with a keen sense of humor, and the section in question almost seems to intentionally convey an image of an amateur marching band doing their best to march along and play together, with mixed results. I'd much rather believe the alternative explanations rather than concede that one of America's greatest song writers could have written such an awful composition. I'd love to hear from anyone who can offer opinions on this work and my theories. In spite of that all, the march is not a great one and even if we resolve the dissonance mystery, it is clear that Von Tilzer was at his best composing ballads, not marches. Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of the song (it is printable) or listen to the midi.

 

Von Tilzer's success caused him to break away from the generous Shapiro and establish his own publishing company in 1902. It was through this publishing company that hundreds of talented songwriters gained fame and success and where Von Tilzer himself would publish his own works for the remainder of his life. His company published thousands of hits and it was through his own works and those he published that Von Tilzer later became known as the "man who launched a thousand hits." With the debut of his own firm, Von Tilzer began cranking out hit after hit. Among his most famous from 1902 was the drinking song, Down Where The Wurzberger Flows which was made famous by Nora Bayes. The song also established Bayes' career and made her a star. In 1908 Bayes with her husband Jack Norworth would write one of Tin Pan Alley's greatest hits, Shine On Harvest Moon (MIDI). This song (Wurzberger) would trigger yet another of America's musical fads, this time for drinking songs with commercial titles. Among those that followed was another of Von Tilzer's own with the clever title, Under The Anheuser Busch in 1903. Spaeth states that 1902 was Von Tilzer's most productive year with success after success flowing from his pen. Among his many 1902 hits, perhaps the best are; On A Sunday Afternoon, In The Sweet Bye And Bye, Down On The Farm, Jennie Lee and Pardon Me, My Dear Alphonse, After You My Dear Gaston. That same year, Arthur Lamb rejoined Von Tilzer for a sequel to A Bird In A Gilded Cage and they produced yet another smarmy sentimental ballad, The Mansion Of Aching Hearts. (Scorch version)We featured this song in the same our October, 2001 feature about "Tear Jerkers" and there you can read more about the song as well as listen to the midi version or see the music and words in the scorch player version. From this point on, Von Tilzer's firm began recruiting and attracted a number of other composers and he began publishing hit songs from many other composers. The greatest hit of 1902 for his firm came not from his own pen but that of James T. Brymn and R.C. Mc Pherson for the song, Please Go 'Way and Let Me Sleep. According to Spaeth (p 307), Von Tilzer helped make the song a hit by frequently placing himself in the audience and pretending to sleep. At the end of the song, Von Tilzer would let out an enormous snore at which point the performer would take him to task and Von Tilzer would sing the song's chorus in a mocking tone. In several cases, Von Tilzer's act was so convincing that he was ejected from the theater. For years afterward, the song was often used in "sleep" scenes on vaudeville and films.

 

By 1906 Von Tilzer and his publishing house had been established as a leading force in Tin Pan Alley. Von Tilzer continued to produce hit after hit, many modeled after those that went before, using proven success as a model. This piece, When The Flowers Bloom In Springtime (Molly Dear) with a very colorful cover by Gene Buck, is similar in many ways to "When Harvest Days," etc. (above). I'll add a point of interest about Gene Buck. As we learned in last month's feature about Flo Ziegfeld and the Follies, Buck was one of the few, perhaps the only cover artist who later became a mainstream songwriter and though his covers are fabulous, his music won him much more fame and success. With this work, Von Tilzer again teamed up with Andrew B. Sterling. Throughout his career, Von Tilzer would couple with almost every great lyricist in Tin Pan Alley, but it was Sterling with whom he produced the most songs and hits. Note that Von Tilzer has also used the subtitle "Molly Dear" as he did with Harvest Days, using "Jesse Dear." Though Harvest Days is a somber and sad tearjerker, this song has a much more hopeful theme and where before, the couple suffered the tragedy of parting by death, here the hopeful couple makes it to their wedding day. Though still carrying many overtones of sadness and pathos, the song at least has a happy ending. By this time, the tearjerker song fad had nearly played itself out and the nature of our music, and Von Tilzer's, was taking on a decidedly more upbeat nature. Click the cover image to hear and see the Scorch version of the song (it is printable) or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

During this same period, Von Tilzer and his firm also contributed quite a number of hits to the burgeoning "coon song" genre. Some of his most popular hits in this genre were, Alexander (1904), Good-Bye Eliza Jane (1903) and What You Goin' To Do When The Rent Comes 'Round? (1905). Much earlier, in 1901, he and Sterling published a huge hit with close harmony titled Down Where The Cotton Blossoms Grow, (MIDI) his first "coon song" styled piece. In 1907, Von Tilzer hopped on another of the many musical bandwagons of the era, the Irish song. That year he published a wonderfully upbeat and characteristic song titled Top O'The Mornin', with Sterling as his lyricist. Again, he's added a name subtitle, this time "Bridget McCue." With a suitably, very green cover by Gene Buck. The cover also features an inset photo of Von Tilzer (the small photo, captioned "Our Trade mark") and a larger inset of a performer, Charlie Brown one of the many vaudevillian Irish song stylists of the day. A truly delightful song with a memorable melody and harmony, the song also shows the Irish sense of humor and uses many of the stereotypes of Irish behavior and speech patterns. I've found it to be a good humored work that belongs in the treasury of "Irish" songs that emerged from Tin Pan Alley. The song chronicles the interchange and flirtation between a blarney talking beau Michael O'Carney and a coquettish Bridget who rebuffs him until he fools her and steals a kiss. Classic wonderful stuff from America's musical history! Click the cover image to hear and see the Scorch version of the song (it is printable) or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

As with many of the songwriters and publishers of the day, Von Tilzer was a promoter as well as publisher and took an active part in promoting his own works and those of his publishing house. As he did with "Let Me Sleep," Von Tilzer would often plant himself in audiences to cause some newsworthy attention to be focused on the music. As well, he was not above going around to music halls, vaudeville and music stores to plug his own wares. The same year as Top O' The Mornin', Sterling and Von Tilzer also published the hit, Take Me Back To New York Town. By 1908 the Von Tilzer hit express was running at full force and he teamed up with Vincent Bryan to produce a number of additional hit songs including Don't Take Me Home and this work, Taffy. With yet another cover by Buck, Von Tilzer and Bryan produced a song they subtitled as "a song of love and flattery." The music is quite nice, showing a great deal of the turn of the century innocence and harmony that marked the times. Von Tilzer and Bryan produced a lively melody with a nice story; a very singable one that ensured a high level of acceptance and sales. When I first saw the song, I took the title to be a name, perhaps a pet name for a sweetheart. However the lyrics prove my idea wrong. The lyrics tell a lovely story of a pair of sweethearts who indulge in a bit of repartee over "spooning" techniques and comparison of prior beaus. There is indeed flattery and eventually some love but it takes a bold move by the gal to get Johnnie Brown off his duff to seal their love with a kiss. Von Tilzer uses contrasting dynamics and legato and staccato passages to add interest as well as emphasis as the exchange takes place. Be sure you have the Scorch plug-in installed on your browser so you can fully appreciate this song. Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of the song or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

The same year as Taffy, Von Tilzer and Bryan again teamed up to produce a number of songs for the Broadway production, The Girls Of Gottenburg starring Louise Dresser. Among the many songs contained in the show, I Remember You is noted as "Louise Dresser's great song success in." The ornate cover with Dresser's photo is another Buck creation. Interestingly, the Internet Broadway Databases' information on this production makes no mention of Dresser having been in the cast nor does it credit Von Tilzer or the lyricist for this song, Bryan, with any of the music. The show opened at the Knickerbocker Theater on September 2, 1908 and closed 103 performances later. According to David Ewen in Popular American Composers (p. 175), Von Tilzer was an incredible hit maker as far as ballads go but was not particularly successful in other arenas, notably Broadway productions. Ewen says, "Von Tilzer wrote songs for several Broadway musicals (none of them successful) including The Fisher Maiden (1903) and The Kissing Girl (1910)." Again, no mention is made of The Girls of Gottenburg or his association with it thus making this a bit of an enigma. It may be that the song was added to the show to capitalize on Von Tilzers musical magic. Regardless, it is yet another terrific ballad from a pair of Tin Pan Alley masters. Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of I Remember You (it is printable) or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

To digress somewhat, it is in the early years of Von Tilzer's career that a variant of the legend of the origins of the term, Tin Pan Alley emerged. According to many accounts, and as we recounted in our essay about Tin Pan Alley, "the name is attributed to a newspaper writer named Monroe Rosenfeld who while staying in New York, coined the term to symbolize the cacophony of the many pianos being pounded in publisher's demo rooms which he characterized as sounding as though hundreds of people were pounding on tin pans." According to the story, he used the term in a series of articles he wrote around the turn of the century (20th) and it caught on. However, in researching Von Tilzer, we've found at least two sources that attribute the name to him, or more appropriately, because of him. According to those sources (Ewen, p. 175 & The New Grove, V. 4, p. 463) In, on, or about 1903, Von Tilzer was visited at his publishing firm by the same Rosenfeld who noted that Von Tilzer had stuffed paper between the strings of his old upright to create a tinny sound. According to these sources, the "tinny sounds suggested the title for a series of articles on popular music." The two stories are quite similar but just different enough to make one wonder which is most exactly correct. Is it possible Von Tilzer really was the inspiration, or was it more likely that the cacophony heard from his rooming house was the true inspiration as the other story states? Perhaps we'll never know the answer to that question but regardless, Von Tilzer continued to produce hit after hit.

 

After what seemed like several years away from Sterling's collaboration, in 1910 the two combined again to write one of their best "kid" songs, All Aboard For Blanket Bay. By this time, Buck was moving on to song writing himself and with the return to Sterling, we also find a new cover artist, Etherington, providing us with a very artistic portrait style cover. Unusual for the portrait is in pencil, the cover is considerably more sophisticated than many sheet music covers we encounter. The music contained within is a delightful lullaby, though perhaps more in style than being one that many parents would sing to their kids unless they were fairly accomplished singers. Blessed with a memorable melody and a supurb set of lyrics, this song was one of Von Tilzer's greatest hits and a watershed song that influenced a number of other songs. It seems to have directly inspired a 1939 song that would be made famous by Ozzie Nelson, Little Skipper by Nick and Charles Kenny where the lyrics actually borrowed a bit from this song, at least a part of the title:

Ship ahoy my little skipper
It's time to sail for blanket bay
Climb aboard your baby clipper
But don't you drift too far away
Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of the song (printable using the Scorch plug-in) or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

In 1911, Von Tilzer had two more big hits, both with lyrics by Will Dillon. The most lasting and perhaps most well known was I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad, a song that has found a permanent place in the close harmony of barbershop quartets. The second big hit for that year came with a title that presaged a song by Irving Berlin some thirteen years later with the same title, All Alone. Though song lyrics are copyrighted, titles usually are not. One can often find many songs by the same title published by different composers and publishers over a period of many years. Our copy of All Alone comes to us via the generous donation of the Sylvia English family (see our December, 2003 issue for more about that). With a terrific telephone themed cover by Teller, the song is billed as "Harry Von Tilzer's Great Telephone Song." With a very upbeat tempo and melody, the song brings us a story of a sweet Marie, home alone who calls her sweet Georgie to tell him she is home alone and unchaperoned and invites him to hurry over for what could be a hot time in the home while "Ma and Pa" are out. It was about this time that the telephone really started to become a hot item in America and there were many songs written to chronicle the events. Just about every composer worth his salt jumped on this bandwagon and the result was a plethora of great songs like this one that clearly showed the public the value of a telephone, especially for lovers seeking a quick tryst. Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of All Alone or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

A somewhat lesser hit in 1911 is a delightful song in collaboration with Stanley Murphy that may have left a lasting legacy, They Always Pick On Me. The cover artist Etherington returns to Von Tilzer to produce this captivating cover of an upset school girl, reflective of the story told by Von Tilzer and Murphy in the song. A novelty song, the music is very well matched with the lyrics. The verse is a bit taunting and humorous in itself and provides a good introduction to the chorus which is more flowing and even a little sad in tone. However, what makes this song special is the appearance of a line in the song that has become a classic that would be often repeated by angry children and was also later adapted to a childhood ditty. That now famous line is:

"I'll eat some worms and then I'll die,
And when I'm gone you wait and see,
They'll all be sorry that they picked on me."
The opening lines of the chorus are also timeless and classic as are the verses. I've had inquiries into the lyrics of the childhood song about eating worms and dying but never before, was I aware of the actual origin in a published popular song. Though Von Tilzer was always most famous for ballads, this song as well as the next one, illustrate his sense of humor and ability to write successful songs in various genres. Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of this song or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

During the period from around 1909 till the 20's and beyond, dancing was a national pastime and even a craze. Performers such as Irene and Vernon Castleand other fabulous dancers caught the attention of the public and ignited interest in dancing and dances. Many new dances appeared to sate interest and the Tango, Fox-trot and other new dances such as the Bunny Hug and Turkey Trot emerged. Some lasted, some are but dim memories. We've featured a number of these "made-up" dances over the years and you'll find several of them laced throughout our various features. In 1909 Von Tilzer added to the craze with a wonderfully syncopated song, The Cubanola Glide (MIDI) which we featured way back in one of our earliest features in May of 1998. As we said back then, "The song, one of those great ragtime style songs is a catchy tune that makes your feet want to move, no matter how hard you try not to let them. The song shows a definite Cuban influence and is reminiscent of the works of the great Cuban composer Louis Gottschalk."


Dance themes continued well into later decades and in one 1914 work, Von Tilzer and Andrew B. Sterling managed to combine forces again for a wonderful novelty song that capitalized on the Tango, Fox-trotand another popular dance of the time, the Hesitation Waltz. With the intriguing, and somewhat long title, You Can Tango You Can Trot Dear But Be Sure And Hesitate, and a terrific cover by De Takacs, the song was one of 1914's greatest hits for Von Tilzer. Again, we see Sterling and Von Tilzer's senses of humor in creating a very entertaining novelty song that uses the dance styles in double meanings. A bit on the risqué side (for those days) there are many double meanings and plenty to read between the lines in the lyrics. Basically the song speaks of a young girl charmed by a handsome young beau and her mother's advice as to how to handle the closeness of dancing and the consequences that often follow. Mom sternly tells the girl to dance the tango and fox-trot but to be sure and hesitate (not the dance) at certain points in the process. Mom says, "If a squeeze is allowed, let it be where there is a crowd." She also warns her of the effects of wine and that there are other spots in a relationship where hesitation is wise. The music is typically upbeat and good natured as any novelty song worth its salt would be. The chorus is fun and fast paced. I'm sure you'll enjoy this one! Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of this song or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

By 1914, according to most accounts, Von Tilzer's most important song writing activity was completed. His most popular works had been produced and though he would continue to write songs and work as a publisher well into the twenties, few of his later works met with the success and critical acclaim as those before this time. Though we've seen Von Tilzer's ability to write songs of many styles, it still was his ballads that placed him in the forefront of Tin Pan Alley Composers. In 1915 he and his best collaborator Sterling, produced one of his rare late hits, You'll Always Be The Same Sweet Girl. The wonderful cover by Rosencranz Studios (The Rose Symbol) features a stunning woman in full dress regalia of the period. The hat is a classic and this was the time when women's hats reached enormous proportions and featured ever more decorative dimensions. The music hearkens back to earlier times. Though a little more harmonically complex than some of his earlier songs, this song carries a great deal of nostalgic sound and takes us on a bit of a retro trip to the late 90's or early 00's. A very beautiful work with a splendid melody, Von Tilzer shows his skill and why he was known as a master of the ballad. Of course Sterling as always, manages to craft a poetic set of lyrics that fit perfectly with the music..or vice versa. Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of the song or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics.

 

In 1916, Von Tilzer wrote few songs and none merited much notice. He wrote On The South Sea Isle and this fine ballad, There's Someone More Lonesome Than You with Lou Klein. Klein is one of many songwriters who seem to have been lost to us and are only known by a handful of songs, most of which have barely survived. This song by Von Tilzer is not mentioned in any of the catalogs of his works in our library so must be considered one of his least known and rarely heard works. We are delighted to be able to bring it back to light and share it with you. The cover is by the prolific and great cover artist, E.H. Pfeiffer. Musically this is one of Von Tilzer's best ballads, in my humble opinion. The verse is short and upbeat and leads us into a wonderful melody in the chorus. The verse's use of dotted rhythm contrasts nicely with the more flowing and legato chorus melody. Klein's lyrics are well matched to the melody. We do know that Klein wrote lyrics for On The Hoko Moko Isle in 1916, also with Von Tilzer and Over The Hill in 1921 with Edgar Allen and Maurie Rubens but that is all we've found thus far. If any of our readers know anything more about Klein, (not the baseball player) please let us know so we can update our songwriters database. Click the cover image or here to hear and see the Scorch version of this song or listen to the midi and see the Lyrics .

 

By this time, America's music was approaching a revolution, two in fact. The first would be the First World War and the avalanche of war related and patriotic songs. The second would be the coming of the twenties and the jazz age. It seems that Von Tilzer participated in neither of these. His catalog is extremely short between 1916 and 1926 where his last published song, Under A Wurzberger Tree, was a sequel it seems to his 1902 hit, Down Where The Wurzburger Flows. According to Spaeth (p. 311), "he never quite caught on to the tempo of the tough twenties and the later sophistication of jazz and swing." I cannot find any wartime songs written by him and it seems that at this stage in his life he preferred to savor what he had accomplished and chose to spend his later years just enjoying life and letting the young lions take on the new days of American music. Spaeth goes on to say, "he was the last of those natural melody makers like Harris and Dresser, who could bring spontaneous thrills to listeners." His contribution to American music makes him one of the giants of the industry and his music not only helped guide the development of our music but also led us to the brink of new days and an exciting future. The last years of Von Tilzer's life were spent in retirement at the Hotel Woodward in New York. It was there that he passed away on January 10, 1946. In 1970, Harry Von Tilzer was Inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

 

For biographical information about some of the collaborators and lyricists who assisted Von Tilzer with the songs we've featured this month, see our composers biographies page.

 

Want to see and hear more Von Tilzer songs? Explore our site's resources. Over the years we've published many of Harry Von Tilzers songs. Here is a list of songs in addition to the songs featured in this article that have been published on our site and the monthly issue of ParlorSongs where they can be seen and heard.

 
Title & Collaborator
Date
Parlorsongs Issue
All Aboard For Dreamland with Andrew B. Sterling 1904 April, '02
Apple Blossom Time with Neville Fleeson 1920 May 99
Bird In A Gilded Cage, A with Arthur J. Lamb 1900 October, '01
Can You Tame Wild Wimmen? with Andrew B. Sterling 1918 Nov., 99
Cubanola Glide, The (no lyrics this version) 1909 May 98
Down Where The Cotton Blossoms Grow with Andrew Sterling 1901 May, 98 Gallery
IDA-HO with Andrew B. Sterling 1906 March, '03
Knock Wood with Andrew B. Sterling 1911 March, 00
Last Night Was The End Of The World with Andrew B. Sterling 1912 Sep., 2000
Mansion Of Aching Hearts, The with Arthur J. Lamb 1902 October, '01
My Old New Hampshire Home with Andrew B. Sterling 1898 Aug., '03
Old Fall River Line, The with William Jerome, Andrew B. Sterling 1913 Dec. 03
Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie with Andrew B. Sterling 1905 January, '02

This article published by and Copyright © 2004 Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Academy Inc.


That completes this month's feature and addition to our "In Search Of" biographies series. Unlike most prior features, this one is complete on this page, there is no second page. We hope you've enjoyed this article and the music and will come back to explore more of our features and articles. See our resources page for a complete bibliography of all other resources used to research this and other articles in our series.

 

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