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Music From Obscure Broadway;

Songs From Early Broadway Shows, Part Two.

 

Last month (October, 2005) we began a series that features music from early and mostly obscure Broadway shows. This is the second installment with more to come. As I said last month; "Without Broadway, there would have been no 'Tin Pan Alley' for the huge congregation of theaters and performers became a magnet for the finest composers and lyricists that America had to offer. Broadway could be considered the seed for the tremendous development and growth of America's popular music."

 

When I first started planning this feature, I had in mind a single issue that would expose our readers to a sampling of the music from the early years of Broadway. When I began compiling music from our collection, it became clear to me that one issue would never suffice. We have hundreds of songs that had their origins in Broadway productions and to choose but ten or a dozen songs from the incredible treasure trove of music became an impossible task. As a result, I've decided to devote the next three (and maybe more) monthly issues to the songs of Broadway. In doing so I hope to share with you some of the incredible music from those early days, most of which you've probably never heard but deserve exposition to the light of the 21st century. Along the way, we'll learn about some shows that were smash hits and many more that were not. These issues will not be as much a history of Broadway but more a history of some of Broadway's forgotten music and productions." To read more of the introduction to this series, see the October issue.

 

For a very complete and engaging history of Broadway, we highly recommend that you visit the excellent site "Talkin' Broadway" and its "Broadway 101" history of Broadway by Robert Rusie.

 

If you are new to us, to enjoy the full musical experience, we recommend that you get the Scorch plug in from our friends at Sibelius software. The Scorch player allows you to not only listen to the music but to view the sheet music as the music plays and see the lyrics as well. Each month we also allow printing of some of the sheet music featured so for those of you who play the piano (or other instruments) you'll be able to play the music yourself. It's a complete musical experience! Get the Sibelius Scorch player now.

 

Richard A. Reublin, November, 2005. This article published November, 2005 and is Copyright © 2005 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Academy Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author or a company officer.

 


Didn't You

1920


Music by: Hugo Felix
Words by: Anne Caldwell
Cover artist: Unattributed


By 1920, as we've often discussed, the music of Tin Pan Alley had begun to change significantly from the music we heard in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Harmonies were generally more complex, dissonance more often heard and melodies less predictable. One result was a more brash and forward looking sound that ushered in the jazz age. I picked this intensely beautiful duet for it's suave beauty and creative melodic use as well as some enjoyable lyrics. The song is from The Sweetheart Shop which opened at the Knickerbocker Theater on August 31, 1920. Hardly a hit, the show closed in October after only 55 performances and has not been heard of since, as far as we know. Billed as a musical comedy in three acts, the show was set in "The Sweetheart Shop," Lorimer's studio, and a Fifth Avenue auction room. For most of the cast, this show was their one and only appearance on Broadway (still a great accomplishment) and for others it was one of only a few. The result is that all are forgotten except perhaps Helen Ford, who continued to perform on Broadway well into the 40s and Roy Gordon, whose career also extended far beyond this show.

 

As I worked on this song, I was captivated by the lovely melody and the flow of the music. When I got to the end, I was devastated to find that the last several measures had been ripped away and thus I had no ending. I searched high and low for another copy but came up empty. Feeling that this song was simply too good to dispose of, I created an ending so that we could enjoy a "90%" revival of the work. The ending is no doubt anywhere near as good as the original but does get us to a conclusion if not an abrupt one after the repeat (I also had to write lyrics that seemed reasonable given the flow of the lyrics that came before.) The song is a duet between two of the characters; Natalie, played by Helen Ford and Lorimer played by Joseph Lertora. It's a very happy and fun loving exchange between the two that I found to be refreshing. The music surely does have the "jazz age" sound and is clearly much more modern than many of the other songs we'll look at this month. I hope you enjoy it, it's my number one "discovery of the month." If anyone out there happens to have a copy of this work that includes the last page, I'd be indebted to you if you'll share it with us so we can present the song in it's true entirety.

 

Hugo Felix (b. 1866, Vienna - d. 1934, Los Angeles.) Felix had his first success in Vienna with the operetta Husarenblut (1894) and in Berlin with Rhodolphe (1900). As with so many continental composers, Felix emigrated to the US to bring his talents to the burgeoning stage musical industry. His first contribution here was a remake of a 1902 Berlin work, Madame Sherry which he rewrote and staged in New York in 1910. Quickly learning the American idiom, he went on to stage at least six other shows including Tantalizing Tommy (1912), Pom-pom (1916), Lassie (1920), The Sweetheart Shop (1920), Sancho Panza (1923) and his apparently final Broadway production, Peg-O'-My-Dreams in 1924.

 

Anne Caldwell (b. Aug. 30, 1867 Boston - d. Oct. 22, 1936 Beverly Hills ) I add this entry and vent, as I often have about the infuriating loss of information about so many woman composers from America's past. It often seems that we can find information on some of the least significant, sometimes inept male composers while women of prodigious talent are ignored. None of my references provide any biographical information for Ms. Caldwell and what a loss that is for all of us. I do know that she wrote a number of books and lyrics for Hugo Felix and other composers. In fact, her credits include many more works than Felix, as many as twenty-seven productions yet she has been virtually ignored. Among her many credits (having written the book and lyrics and in some cases the music as well!) are; The Top o' th' World, she composed the music for this musical show in 1907, The Nest Egg, an original play(1910), The Lady of the Slipper (1912), Chin Chin (1914), The Lady in Red (1919), Hitchy-Koo (1920), The Magnolia Lady (1924), Take the Air (1927) and Three Cheers (1928). A 1975 (39 years after her death) revival of Very Good Eddie included song lyrics from some of her prior works.

 

Hear this beautiful 1920 duet. ( Scorch plug-in required)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

 



Dolly Varden

1903 (this issue)


Music by: H. Engelmann
Words by: Richard C. Dillmore
Cover artist: H. B. Pool


Originally staged at the Herald Square Theater in 1902, this particular sheet dates from the September 20, 1903 edition of the New York American and Journal. The NYA&J was one of the premiere publishers of excellent, full size sheet music on Sundays as a music supplement. Unfortunately, having been printed on news paper which has a high acid content, many of these sheets are lost forever. This particular sheet came to us in near perfect condition and we have treated it with an archival paper preservation solution to stop the deterioration. This song is the title song for the show Dolly Varden which opened on January 27, 1902 and closed in June of 1902 after a respectable 154 performances. It reopened in September at the Victoria Theater and ran for an unknown number of performances. The music for the show was primarily written by Julian Edwards with libretto by Hugh Stanislaus Stange. However, this work was separately written by Engelmann and Dillmore. The cast included Lulu Glaser (that's her in the photo on the cover) who had a busy career from 1899 to 1911 and Tom Dillmore, who did not. Dillmore's only Broadway credit seems to be this show. The most successful performer from this cast was Mark Smith (1886 - 1944) whose career spanned from 1900 to 1941 with at least twenty shows to his credit.

 

The song is one that probably did not outlive the production of the show beyond this reprint as a music supplement. Though it's a pleasant musical diversion, it's nothing particularly spectacular. It is a simple tune, very dated and rooted in the "gay nineties" era. Compare it to the previous song and you can hear how much music changed in two decades. It has elements of many of the famous nineties songs and even seems to have borrowed some melodic elements from The Sidewalks Of New York, I think you'll hear the echoes of that song which was published in 1894 by Howley Haviland. The music itself is quite "dumbed down" and simple for this printing, no doubt to please the amateur pianists in the paper's circulation. It's pleasant, but simple. The lyrics deserve some attention for they give some insight into the character of Dolly Varden but seem incompatible with the "as sung by Lulu Glaser in the title role of Dolly Varden." The incompatibility lies in the fact that is a love song to Dolly Varden which it seems unlikely she would sing to herself. I can only assume that the lyrics were modified substantially for this edition or Glaser did not at all sing it in the show.

 

Hans Engelmann wrote a number of works that were for children and several other works, one of which has remained in the popular repertoire for a century, his Melody of Love (MIDI) from 1903 which we featured way back in '98. In addition, we have several other works by him; Day Dreams (1901) , Rosebud Schottische (1898), Dolly Varden, a Sunday newspaper supplement from 1903, an arrangement of Gounod's Flower Song from 1902 and Rose of Normandy (1906). In addition, we are aware of at least one march he wrote that is in the current marching band repertoire; Philadelphia Record (1902). In spite of what is clearly a large catalog of works (The Little Hostess is marked as Op. 556), I can find little to no other information about him which really is quite puzzling.


Enjoy this wonderful old Broadway song ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in))

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics


 


Foxy Quiller Two-Step

1900

 


Music by: Reginald De Koven
arr. by: Ludomir Thomas
Cover artist: Unattributed

 

Moving further back, much closer to the "gay nineties," we come across a very obscure operetta Foxy Quiller (In Corsica) that premiered at the Broadway Theater on Nov. 4, 1900 and promptly ended on December 22 after only 50 performances. I suppose that makes it a mild success but it never again appeared on the stage on Broadway. The composer, Reginald De Koven and the librettist, Harry B. Smith were stupendously successful on Broadway and collaborated on several works including the famous Robin Hood of 1891. Smith was responsible for at least 107 Broadway productions from 1879 to 1932. His works (as are De Koven's) are still performed and have enjoyed several revivals. De Koven's credits are more modest yet it is he whom is most remembered. The cast of sixteen were barely heard of after the early 1900's save the two leads, Helen Bertram and Louis Casavant who performed into the early thirties.

 

This piece seems to be an adaptation of some of the incidental music within the show. There are no lyrics and as a march, it would not likely be singable anyway. The title inside reads "March from Reginald De Koven's Foxy Quiller" so it's fairly clear that it was included in some form in the show. Of course musicals and operettas often include non vocal music for use in scene transitions or simply to bridge from one activity to the next. It would be interesting to know what part this march played in the operetta. In any event, it is a pleasant work and conjures up images of the cast marching across the stage.

 

Reginald De Koven (b. Middletown, CT, 1859 - d. Chicago, IL, 1920) was a prominent composer and wrote this operetta as well as a large number of others including Don Quixote in 1889, Robin Hood, 1890, Rob Roy, 1894 and The Highwaymen, 1897. His most famous song is Oh Promise Me from Robin Hood. De Koven was also the conductor of the Washington, D.C. Philharmonic orchestra from 1902 -05.

De Koven was musically trained in Europe and was a graduate of Oxford. In 1827 he traveled to Europe and studied piano and composition in Stuttgart. He earned his degree at Oxford in 1879. During his time there he also studied with Von Suppé, Delibes, Genée and Vanuccini, all operatic composers. In 1882 he returned to the US and was employed primarily as a music critic with Harper's Weekly, The New York World, Herald and Journal and the Chicago Evening Post from around 1889 to 1912. He founded and conducted the Washington (DC) Symphony Orchestra in 1902.

At the same time he was writing and conducting, DeKoven was composing well over 400 songs, orchestral works, sonatas, ballets and two grand operas, most of which have faded into obscurity. It is Robin Hood though, his operetta set in Europe that dominated DeKoven's popularity. His music draws on both traditional opera as well as folk melodies. Banking on the success of Robin Hood, de Koven later produced Rob Roy(1896), The Highwayman (1897) and Maid Marian in 1901. None of them ever rose to the popularity of Robin Hood.

 


Listen to and see this interesting work ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)

Listen to MIDI version

There are no Lyrics to this piece


Going Up

1917


Music by: Louis A. Hirsch
Words by: Otto Harbach
Cover artist: Unsigned

 

The early twentieth century was an exciting time of change. Perhaps the most exciting technological change was the development of aviation and flying captivated much of the public's attention. In those heady times, it is no wonder that a musical play about flying would appear. Going Up opened at the Liberty Theater on Christmas day of 1917 and played for a stunning 351 performances to close in October of 1918. This is one of the very few shows we've looked at that has enjoyed a modern day revival. On September 19, 1976, Going Up opened at the John Golden Theater and ran for 49 performances. The original show was clearly more successful. Based on a show that appeared on Broadway in 1910, The Aviator, Going Up also outstripped The Aviator in terms of performances. The Aviator lasted only 44 performances. Interestingly, both were produced by none other than George M. Cohan, "that Yankee Doodle Boy." The lead for Going Up was none other than Ed Begley who not only enjoyed a long career ion Broadway but also in films. Begley won a Tony in 1956 for his performance in Inherit The Wind. His most famous film role is probably that of juror number 10 in 12 Angry Men in 1957. Given his stage and film roles, I was quite surprised to think of Begley as a singer, but sing he did!

 

This song is yet another of our discoveries that is surprising in terms of its quality and odd obscurity. The work is a happy one that tells a cute story of "going up" in an aircraft and experiencing the speed and dizzying disorientation of being in the air and moving so fast. There's no way you can listen to this song and want to tap your toes and sing along, it's almost as delightful an experience as "going up."

 


Louis A. Hirsch (b. 1887, New York City., d. 1924, New York City) In his senior year at City College of New York, Louis, a native New Yorker, went to Europe for a few months. His ambition was to be a concert pianist, and so he wanted to study at Berlin's Stern Conservatory, with pianist Rafael Joseffy. He returned to the U.S. in 1906, but turned his efforts to more practical ends. Hirsch started working in the Tin Pan Alley publishing houses of Gus Edwards, and Shapiro-Bernstein. He also began to write some of his own music.

His first assignment was writing music for the Lew Dockstader's Minstrels. From 1907 to 1909, some of his tunes were included in various Broadway shows, including The Gay White Way, Miss Innocence and The Girl and the Wizard. In 1911, Hirsch wrote the score for the Revue of Revues, which introduced French star Gaby Deslys to Americans. The 1911 production Vera Violetta was his first major success. Starring relative unknown, Al Jolson, this production helped propel Jolson to stardom. Gaby Deslys was

In 1912 Hirsch was hired by the Schuberts and as a result he was involved in a number of successful productions with them including, The Whirl of Society, 1912, also starring Al Jolson; The Passing Show of 1912; Always Together, and The Wedding Guide.

In 1913, Hirsch quit the Schuberts, and traveled to England, only to return to the US at the start of WW1. He went to work for Florenz Ziegfeld. Working mainly with lyricist Gene Buck, he wrote songs four several productions of the famed Ziegfeld Follies. Among his many hits are; Sweet Kentucky Lady, (MIDI) 1914; Hello Frisco!, 1915, Going Up from the musical of the same name in 1917; and the 1920 hit Love Nest perhaps Hirsch's most successful song, which later became the Burns and Allen radio show theme. Louis Hirsch died in New York City, in 1924, of pneumonia.

 

 

Hear this early aviation song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics




Buzzin The Bee

1916



Music by: Jack Wells
Words by: Wells
Cover artist: Barbelle


May Irwin was one of Broadway's more popular performers during the first decade of the twentieth century up to around 1920. Her initial fame was established in 1895 with her performance in The Widow Jones where she gained fame with the "Coon Song," The Bully Song. Despite that dubious achievement, she went on to perform in a number of Broadway shows including No. 33 Washington Square. This play opened at the Park Theater on August 23, 1915 and closed 56 performances later in October of the same year. The cast of this show was definitely all-star material as the majority of the cast performed in many shows over several decades. Among them were; Charles Abbe, Clara Blandick, Charlotte Carter, George Clarke, Ffolliott Paget, Julia Ralph, Lark Taylor, Max Meyer and of course May Irwin.


Buzzin The Bee is a very upbeat novelty song with a bit of a jazzy feel to it. The melody is a bit infectious and the lyrics are really quite clever and original. Regrettably, as is the case for so many early Tin Pan Alley composers, I've been unable to find any information about Jack Wells.

 

Enjoy this great stage song (Scorch Format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



When Cupid ComesA-Tapping

1906



Music by: Samuel Lehman
Words by: Lloyd Barrett
Cover artist: E. H. Pfeiffer

 

The Beauty Spot opened at the Herald Square Theater on April 10, 1909 and closed after a respectable 137 performances in August. That's a very good run if the prior shows we've looked at were any indication. The credits list Reginald De Koven as the composer with Joseph Herbert as librettist. This song however, is by a different song writing team. Often, Broadway shows included works by other writers either by commission or simply because the song fits well with the production. In this case it seems likely that the latter is the reason as this song was written three years before The Beauty Spot appeared on Broadway. The fellow on the cover of this sheet is Frank Deshon who oddly enough, does not appear in the list of known cast members for the one and only production of this comic opera. Rather, his only credit listed at the Internet Broadway Data Base is the 1916 show, Fast and Grow Fat.

 

The song has a palpable stage production sound and though some of it sounds dated, it is still a very nice tune. It has a somewhat dreamy and mythical sound to it and the composer inserts liberal use of arpeggiated chords which helps give it that "fairy land" flavor. The use of staccato notes and the performance marking "daintily" indicates that the composer intended for the piece to be one that reminds us of Cupid dancing through the forest looking for someone to nail with an arrow. As with the composer of the previous song, Lehman and Barrett leave no trail. I can find no mention of them in our references.

 

Listen to this great old piece ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Babes In The Wood

1914



Music by: Jerome Kern
Words by: Schuyler Greene & Herbert Reynolds
Cover artist: Malcom Strauss

 

From the pen of one of America's greatest musical composers came Very Good Eddie, perhaps a more famous and lasting show in our survey of Broadway music thus far. This work was featured briefly in the 1946 Kern biographical movie, Till The Clouds Roll By. If you are a Kern fan, or just a fan of Tin Pan Alley Music history, this is a must see film. The original staging of Very Good Eddie took place at the Princess Theater on December 23, 1915 and ran for almost a year, ending at 341 performances. The show was revived seventy years later, almost to the day on December 21, 1975 at the Booth Theater. That run was almost as good as the first, closing on September 5, 1971 after 304 performances. For an excellent overview of this play, see The Guide to Musical Theater's summary of the show.

 

Babes In The Wood appears in act two (of three) and is a duet between the characters of Eddie Kettle and Elsie Darling. The song is prompted by a mouse in the hotel room of Elsie who then seeks comfort from Eddie who is in the room next door. As you'd expect from a composer of Kern's caliber, the song is a beautiful duet that is melodic and just about perfect in every respect. Though not a "discovery," this song is probably the best of the lot this month.

 

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 (Scorch) 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 US 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.

 

Listen to this 1915 hit Kern song (Scorch Format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



The High Cost Of Loving

1914



Music by: George W. Meyer
Words by: Alfred Bryan
Cover artist: Rosencranz Studio

Often, music is stimulated by other art forms and I believe this song is a result of that influence. The High Cost of Loving was introduced on Broadway at the Theater Republic on August 21, 1914 and closed 75 performances later. The problem is, that production was not a musical and the writers of this song had nothing to do with the production. Rather, I believe this work was initiated as a result of the play. It certainly has a catchy title and begs for a song. The play was later adapted to film and was issued in 1958 starring Jose Ferer and Gena Rowlands. As for this song, the fellow on the cover is "Little Jerry" who may have performed the song however, Emma Carus is billed as having introduced the song.

 

This is a great novelty song, the cover says sensational. It's up to you to decide whether it goes that far but I certainly enjoyed it. The tune is very good but not the greatest but it is the lyrics and the story they tell that really makes this song. It's a creative and upbeat song that deserves a permanent place in our musical heritage

 

George W. Meyer (b. 1884 Boston, Mass.- d. 1959 New York, NY) was one of the more prolific composers of the period with many, many hits to his credit that spanned many years. Meyer's biggest hit was probably For Me and My Gal in 1917 but he also wrote many favorites that have lasted such as; My Song Of The Nile, Lonesome, My Mother's Rosary and the great novelty song Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday on Saturday Night? (Scorch format)

 

Alfred Bryan (b. 1871, Ontario Canada - d. 1958, New Jersey). A prolific and prominent lyricist of early Tin Pan Alley, Bryan collaborated with some of the best composers including Percy Wenrich and Fred Fisher. Bryan's most lasting hit was the classic, Peg O' My Heart (MIDI) from 1913 with Fisher. Some of his other works include Rainbow (1908),and It's A Cute Little Way Of My Own sung in 1917 by the great Anna Held in the show Follow Me.

 

Listen to this great Broadway song (Scorch Format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Beautiful Queen of the Nile

1917



Music by: Raymond Hubbell
Words by: John L. Golden
Cover artist: Burton Price

 

Cheer Up, is our big winner in this month's collection of shows as far as the most performances. Opening on August 23, 1917 at the Hippodrome Theater, Cheer Up racked up 456 performances before closing in September of 1918; very, very impressive. With a cast of largely unknown performers, for many of whom this would be their only Broadway appearance, the show must have been impressively entertaining. The only true headliner in the cast was John Hendricks (ca.1872 - 1949) who appeared in a string of shows from 1901 up till 1934, almost one big show per year. I have been unable to find specifics about the show's story line or other data about it so we'll have to take this example and it's performance history as proof of how good it really was.

 

The song opens with a very mysterious and sensuous introduction and a melody that is designed to sound exotic and "Egyptian," and it succeeds very well. Once the verse finishes, the song moves into a very upbeat and pleasant melody with great harmony and plenty of musical interest and frills that fill it out very nicely. And while we enjoy the music, we also get a bit of an Egyptian history lesson through a set of well crafted lyrics. Very nice indeed.

 

Raymond Hubbell (b. 1879, Urbana, Ohio - d. 1954, Miami, FL.) Worked originally in Tin Pan Alley for Charles K. Harris as a pianist and arranger and probably wrote the music for many of Harris' songs. As a composer he wrote the music for a large number of successful Broadway musicals including Chow Chow (1902), Fantana (1905), A Knight For A Day (1907), Hip Hip Hooray (1915), The Bid Show (1916), Cheer Up (197), The Elusive Lady (1922), Yours Truly (1927) and Three Cheers in 1928 starring Will Rogers and Dorothy Stone. In total, he wrote music for over 24 Broadway productions including several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies.

 

Listen to this "cheerful" song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Keep The Love Lamp Burning

1919



Music by: Hugo Riesenfeld
Words by: Harry B. Smith
Cover artist: Barbelle

 

"A distinctive Broadway cast and chorus of dainty, dazzling dancing beauties. A smart comedy with Smart music." So says the cover of the sheet music of this song from the musical comedy, Betty Be Good. With such braggadocio how could this play possibly be anything but a huge hit? "Betty" opened at the Casino Theater, May 4, 1920. Despite the hype, she closed after only 31 performances that same month. This show was a musical in three acts set in Massachusetts, New York City and Kew Gardens on Long Island. Betty, the lead character was played by Josephine Whittell whose career was intense but short, her last appearance being the 1925 production No, No, Nanette. The rest of the cast had few credits except for Josie Intropidi, Frank Cunit and Irving Beebe. I suppose the distinction referred to in the hype about the cast referred to the fact that almost all were appearing in their first and only Broadway show?

 

Despite the show's short run, this song shows a lot of promise and I found it quite appealing. The introduction begins with a series of descending chime chords and moves into a nice melody for the verse. The chorus is also quite pleasant but has a bit of a dated sound to it. Still, it's a very nice song that deserves hearing again and again.

 

Hugo Riesenfeld (1879 - 1939) "From 1917-1925, Riesenfeld was the manager of the Rivoli, Rialto and Criterion Theatres in New York. A conductor and violinist, Riesenfeld was educated at the Conservatory of Music in Vienna and the University of Vienna, he then conducted with the Imperial Opera House in Vienna. In 1907 he came to America with Oscar Hammerstein and for four years worked with the Manhattan Opera Company in New York. While on Broadway, Riesenfeld demonstrated the entertainment and box office possibilities of having intelligent music accompany films. In 1928, Hugo was appointed general musical director in charge of musical productions for United Artists Pictures." (Preceding biographical sketch written by Tony Luke Scott from his book The Stars of Hollywood Forever, reprinted with permission from the author.)

Riesenfeld wrote only one Broadway musical, Betty Be Good however, as a film score writer he was incredibly productive. In all he wrote scores for over 100 films. Some of his film credits occurred 40 years after his death through the reuse of prior scores from earlier works. His impressive list of scores includes The Ten Commandments (1923), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), King of Kings (1928), The Iron Mask (1929), Tarzan The Fearless (1933), Dick Tracy (1937) and Dick Tracy Returns in 1938. He continued writing right up to his death.

 

Listen to this "Good" song. ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Dolly

1921



Music by: Vincent Youmans
Words by: Arthur Francis & Schuyler Greene
Cover artist: Unattributed

 

For our last piece this month we have a composition from one of America's "Hall of Fame" composers, Vincent Youmans. This work has it's origins in a musical, Two Little Girls in Blue that premiered on May 3, 1921 at the George M. Cohan's Theater. The show enjoyed moderate success but closed after 135 performances on August 27 of the same year. The show is set aboard a ship at sea, the S.S. Empress, all three acts take place aboard ship. The cast included Madeline Fairbanks (1900 - 1989), her twin sister Marion (1900 - 1973), Emma Janvier and Frederic Santly (1887 - 1953).

 

This song is a duet between two characters, "Bobby" and "Jerry" played by Oscar Shaw and Fred Santly. and is a wonderfully melodic and gay (happy, carefree) song. The verse begins with a lovely slow ballad that sets the stage for a beautiful refrain that is more upbeat. In my opinion, this song is a great example of Broadway music at its best. It has a great deal of expressiveness and even a bit of drama. This is yet another of our "discoveries of the month." An interesting side note to this is that the CO-lyricist, "Arthur Francis" was actually Ira Gershwin. One has to wonder why he resorted to use of a pseudonym? In many cases, such actions were taken to avoid contract conflicts, perhaps that was his reason.

 

Vincent Millie Youmans (1898 - 1946) Youmans was born in New York City on September 27, 1898. Youmans attended the Trinity School in Mamaroneck, NY and Heathcote Hall in Rye New York. Originally, his ambition was to become an engineer but then took a brief job in a Wall Street brokerage firm. In 1914, he joined the United States Navel and served during World War I. Returning to the States in 1918, Youmans began working on Tin Pan Alley first as a song plugger for TB Harms Company and then as a rehearsal pianist for famed composer Victor Herbert’s operettas.

Eventually, Youmans began writing and publishing songs and achieved his own success with several Broadway productions including Two Little Girls in Blue, Wildflower, Mary Jane McKane, No, No, Nanette, Oh, Please!, Hit the Deck, Rainbow, Great Day!, Smiles, Through the Years and Take a Chance. He also wrote the film score to Flying Down to Rio, one of the many Bing Crosby/Bob Hope "road" pictures. The score included the Academy Award nominated song Carioca.

Youmans collaborated with the greatest songwriters on Broadway: Herbert Stothart, Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstien II, Irving Caesar, Anne Caldwell, Leo Robin, Clifford Grey, Billy Rose, Edward Eliscu, Edward Heyman, Harold Adamson, Mack Gordon, BG De Sylva and Gus Kahn.

His extensive catalog holds many of the great standards from the period, most notably Tea For Two, Through the Years, The Carioca and “More Than You Know!. Other hits include Wildflower, Dolly, Bambalina, Tie a String Around Your Finger, No, No, Nanette, I Want to Be Happy, Why, Oh Why, I Want a Man, The One Girl, Who Am I?, Great Day, Oh, Me! Oh, My!, Without a Song, Time on My Hands, Rise N’ Shine, Oh, How I Long to Belong to You, Orchids in the Moonlight and Music Makes Me.

Vincent Youmans died in Denver Colorado on April 5, 1946. ( Biography courtesy of and © 2002-2005 The Songwriters Hall of Fame, permission for use pending)

 

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