Songs About Dixie
Dixie; for some that word may bring to mind a little paper cup. For most of us though it conjures up images of the American South. Those images can range from the ravages of slavery to the genteel pleasures of mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby. The gentle hills of Virginia to the Mississippi flatlands of west Tennessee, the Magnolias of Mississippi to the stately historic homes of Savannah are only a few of the many images and pleasures of Dixie. For those of us who live there, Dixie is as much a state of mind as a place. Unfortunately, history has unfairly branded the people of Dixie as "rednecks," "bigots" and "hillbillies," but those impressions are purely derived from ignorance and lack of personal knowledge.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines Dixie rather dryly as; "A region of the southern and eastern United States, usually comprising the states that joined the Confederacy during the Civil War. The name Dixie was popularized in the minstrel song 'Dixie's Land." Dixie is not defined by the negatives of the past but a way of life and a love of family, good will and relaxed pleasures that soothe the soul and make for a less harried life. No, the people of Dixie are not slow and plodding, rather they take pleasure in many of life's joys and stop to take time to savor them. Dixie is a land not only of cotton but of supreme hospitality, consideration and respect for others, stately homes and absolutely beautiful country. As an aside, I should mention that there is an area in southwestern Utah also known as Dixie, presumably because of the climate and it's suitability for growing of cotton.
The music of America has had a long running love affair with Dixie. Songs about Dixie and the south have long fascinated composers and the ears of listeners as well. It all began in in 1859 when Dan Emmett, a member of the famous Bryant's Minstrels of New York wrote Dixie's Land. "(MIDI format) As we stated in our feature in January 2000, "Dixie's Land has unfortunately been associated with the Confederacy and many African Americans find the tune a distasteful reminder of slavery. Let's hope that we can still retain our focus on the musical greatness of this song and understand that its origins were as far from the meaning of slavery as one could get". Be sure to read the full text of our feature of this song (linked above) to fully understand it's place in America's musical history.
Despite that current association, after the turn of the 20th century and the pain of the Civil War had passed, America enjoyed a musical fascination with songs about Dixie. Popular performers, foremost among them, Al Jolson, popularized songs about the south and with his blackface act, sang the praises of "mammy" and the land of cotton." Jolson sang what might be considered the next most popular "Dixie" song is the 1918 Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody (Scorch version) to read about it see our December, 2002 feature about Jolson. However, many excellent Dixie songs emerged long before his performance of that one as you'll see this month.
We've already published a number of "Dixie" or southern themed songs on our site over the years but this month we want to present to you a number of works that refer very specifically to Dixie and demonstrate that musical love of America's southern heritage. In compiling these songs, I've found that there were several elements that seem to characterize songs about Dixie. Said somewhat with tongue in cheek, I've arrived at the conclusion that in order to be a genuine "Dixie" song, several elements must be present either in part or all. Those key elements seem to be;
As we look at and listen to this month's songs, keep that in mind and see if it's not true in most cases
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Richard A. Reublin, January, 2006. This article published January, 2006 and is Copyright © 2006 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.
I Want To Be In Dixie
Before there was an Alexander's Ragtime Band, there was Irving Berlin wanting to go to Dixie. Talk about a great endorsement. If the "Dean of American Songwriters" recommends it, how can anyone deny the attraction of Dixie? For a short while before writing ARTB, Berlin was teamed up with Ted Snyder in writing a number of songs, most of which were forgettable but still carried the signature style that Berlin would later use to write hit after hit over a span of many decades. In the title of this song, Berlin & Snyder expressed one of the key elements of a song about Dixie; that strong urge to be there.
The song contains a number of other elements we've mentioned. In the third measure of the introduction, we get the obligatory salute to the 1859 benchmark with a short snippet of the melody from Dixie's Land. Guess what, we also have the train taking us to Dixie. In measure 12 we get the "land of cotton" mention. Regrettably, Berlin had a chance to include the whole list but left out mention of a mammy's knee and the sweetheart but this early song surely serves as a good model for the typical Dixie song. The music is really quite good and of course the overall lyrics combined with the melody demonstrates just how early in his career Berlin had talent that was clearly destined for greatness.
Irving Berlin. Born Isidore Baline in Temun, Russia, in 1888, Berlin moved to New York City with his family in 1893. He published his first work, Marie of Sunny Italy (Scorch format) in 1907 at age 19 and immediately had his first hit on his hands. It was at that time he changed his name to Irving Berlin. His total royalties for this first song amounted to 37 cents. In 1911 the publication of Alexander's Ragtime Band (MIDI) established his reputation as a songwriter. He formed his own music-publishing business in 1919, and in 1921 he became a partner in the construction of the Music Box Theater in New York, staging his own popular revues at the theater for several years. Berlin wrote about 1500 songs. One unique fact about Berlin is that he was not able to read or write music or play the piano except in one key (F sharp). He picked out melodies or dictated them and had assistants fill in the harmonies and accompaniment for him. Berlin never seemed to give credit for these very talented people. In his later years, he had a special device attached to his piano that allowed him to transpose any song into his "favorite" key. His initial start in the music industry was as a singer and then as a lyricist. It was only after great success in writing lyrics that Berlin turned to melodies.
Ted Snyder (b. 1881, Freeport, Illinois d. 1965, Hollywood, CA) Ted Snyder is the person who gave Irving Berlin his start in the music business by hiring him in 1909 as a song plugger for his publishing company. But Snyder is also recalled as a composer in his own right who wrote hits such as The Sheik of Araby (1921) and Who's Sorry Now? (1923).
Little is known of Ted's early life, other than he attended the public schools in Boscobel, WI., and as a very young man, he posted theater bills for a living. Later, he was a cafe pianist, and then a staff pianist and song plugger in Chicago and New York music publishing houses. Like Berlin, his first publications came in 1907 with his first song There's a Girl in This World for Every Boy, with lyrics Will D. Cobb. Snyder wrote a number of other tunes in collaboration with other important lyricists of the day and in 1909 he began his association with Berlin. Some of their first tunes included, Sweet Italian Love, Kiss Me, My Honey, Kiss Me, and Next To Your Mother, Who Do You Love? as well as 1910's That Beautiful Rag.
In 1913, Irving Berlin was writing his own melodies, as well as his own lyrics and Snyder's firm is reorganized and is called, Waterson, Berlin and Snyder. Ted Snyder also continued writing his own melodies, often with other lyricists such as Bert Kalmar and Edgar Leslie. Among the songs he wrote with Kalmar and/or Leslie are: Moonlight on the Rhine, In The Land of Harmony and The Ghost of the Violin. From the end of the first World War till 1930, Snyder continued writing songs with other talented lyricists.
In 1930, Ted Snyder retired from the songwriting business, settled in
Hollywood, CA., and went into the restaurant business. He died in Hollywood.
He is a member of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.
Hear this early Berlin Dixie song ( Scorch plug-in required)
I Guess I'll Soon Be Back In Dixieland
Once we get past the desire to be in Dixie, like Berlin, we board a train and get on our way. At that point we can sing about how soon we'll get there. This song, though again rife with the obligatory references to mammy etc., focuses mostly on the train. As such, it really makes for a fun novelty style song, especially with the "choo-choo-choo-choo-choo-choo-choo" (Whew!) lyric line. The cover features nice artwork but is dominated by an especially good photo of the Dolce Sisters; Rosalie, Gertrude and Regina. Billed as 'Vaudeville's Daintiest Singers' in a 1913 Orpheum Theater playbill in Winnipeg, the sisters were an attractive and popular vaudeville act. Their popularity obviously extended into Canada as well as the US circuit.
The song itself is a delight, the melody is fabulous and is one of the best of the lot this month, it is my personal favorite and my "discovery of the month." The use of appogiaturas in the "choo-choo" part adds liveliness and the later use of triplets to simulate the "clickety clack" of the rails works quite well to help make the song very interesting musically. The lyrics include the mammy that was missing from Berlin's song and of course the train is the central object of interest. We do get mention of the land of cotton and a sweetheart waiting there (in Dixie) for us but Rogers somehow managed to leave out the musical quote from Dixie's Land. This is a real gem from the past!
Jack Rogers is another of our "lost in time" composers.
I'm unable to find any mention of him in our library and this may well
be the only song he ever published. I've been unable to find any other
songs written by him. If so, that is sad because this song shows so much
talent it seems hard to believe he could have been a "one off"
composer. It seems more likely that Jack Rogers was a pseudonym for a
more well known composer but that is just speculation on my part.
Enjoy this wonderful old Dixie song (Scorch format)
I Love The Name Of Dixie
The attraction of Dixie extended far beyond the borders of America, as did the popularity of American music. This particular song, originally published by Frank K. Root in the U.S., came to us by way of Albert & Son Publishers in Sydney, Australia. With a really quite artistic cover, this is a great example of the beauty of the artwork that appeared for so many years on American popular song sheet music. The inset photo is probably of some well known performer of the period, so well known in fact that her name is not noted. If anyone recognizes her, let me know. The full title is shown on the cover, Some One Waits, And That Is Why I Love The Name Of Dixie.
A wonderfully upbeat song, we can find many of the elements of a good Dixie song in this one as well. At measure 51 we get the melody snippet from Dixie's Land and are treated to several other of the lyrical images we have come to love; magnolias (that's a new one), a sweetheart back in Dixie waiting for us, traveling to Dixie (though no train is mentioned, how else would we get there?) and some cotton thrown in for good measure. The music is really one of those joyful, upbeat songs that were so common during the Tin Pan Alley days. You gotta love this one, and apparently they did in "Oz" as well.
Again, we have a songwriter, actually a pair of who have been neglected
by the historians. E. Clinton Keithley did write a number of other
songs including; They Put Our Little Percy in the Brig (1919),
On the Sidewalks of Berlin (1918), I'll Be There, Laddie Boy,
I'll Be There (1918) and One Wonderful Night (You Told Me You Loved
Me) (1914). I've been unable to find any biographical information
about him. Jack Frost also is elusive as far as biographical data
but as with Keithley, we do know of several other songs he wrote. His
credits include the lyrics of I'll Be There Laddie Boy, I'll Be There
with Keithley as well as At the Funny Page Ball (1918), Giddy
Giddap. Go On-Go On. We're on Our Way to War (1917), When It Comes
To A Lovingless Day (1918) and I Didn't Raise My Ford to be a Jitney
The Dixie Military Ball
Everybody's Crazy Over Dixie
Surely there is nothing like a southern belle to make one happy, I should know, I married one. The land of cotton is not the only item named Dixie, many wonderful women from all compass points are blessed with the name Dixie. Though this song is about such a belle, it is also about Dixie, the land. It also is similar to "Anything Is Nice" as it extolls the virtues of both Dixies. Once again we hear about Georgia peaches, but also about the blue grass of Kentucky and sugar cane of the south.
The music has a fox-trot lilt to it and is a bit jazzy (we're about to enter the jazz age of American music). The verse is not particularly attention grabbing but as in a lot of songs, it's the chorus where the song really shines. I think you'll enjoy it.
The songwriting trio for this song elude me somewhat. I presume that Will Donaldson is a brother or other relative of the great Walter Donaldson but cannot confirm it. As for Jones and Cowan, I'm afraid my research skills let me down for I can find very little information about either of them. I have determined that Cowan wrote a number of songs during this period and was also a partner in the publishing firm Stark & Cowan. Among his songs are: It Was Just A Song At Twilight (Not the one you think it is) (1915), My Mind's Made Up to Marry Carolina (1917), There's Just A Little Touch Of Dixie In Your Eyes (1920) and Living a Life of Dreams (1930). Cowan's son, Stanley Earl went on to become a composer as well.
Listen to this great old piece ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)
This work was written by an Army Bandleader and in that regard is a little unusual. Most of the "bandleader" songs from this period were related to either the war (W.W.I) or patriotism. The song is a bit unusual in that it only has one verse and then repeats the chorus three times and an interlude between the second and third repeat. However, bandleader Dixon did manage to bring us back to some of the basic elements of the Dixie song. We have a mammy, fields of cotton, a sweetheart and a plantation home thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, there is no train and no musical quote from Dixie's Land. Regardless, it is a very pleasant and dreamy song (good for a lullaby) and very enjoyable up to a point. The point being that three repeats of the chorus tends to bring on a little weariness. Hmm, I guess that is good for a lullaby too.
Harold Dixon did write several other songs, most of which were war or
military oriented. He also owned his own publishing house, Dixon - Lane
who published this work. Among his other songs are; Louisiana Waltz
(1919), Davy of the Navy. Your [sic] a Wonderful Boy (1918), You
Great Big Handsome Marine (1918), There'll Be A Hot-time (1918)
and perhaps his most well known work, Gunga Din. From the Barrack
Room Ballads (1927).
Listen to this 1919 "Dixie" song (Scorch Format)
I Want A Dixie Sweetheart
The beautiful cover on this song is a photo/painting of a real person, Margurite Clark, captioned as "starring in Paramount Pictures." Clark, an Ohio native was indeed a very popular star from 1914 to 1921. During that period she starred in 40 films all of which are mostly forgotten save one famous performance. In 1918, Clark starred in the production of Uncle Tom's Cabin as Little Eva/Topsy. She also starred in several other groundbreaking films such as Of Mice and Men in 1916 and The Crucible in 1914. Her last film in 1921 was Scrambled Wives. An interesting fact about her that is stated in the Internet Movie Database's biographical notes on Clark is that she was the model for Snow White in Walt Disney's Masterpiece Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. What all that or she might have to do with a Dixie Sweetheart only the publisher knows (knew). She was not from Dixie nor did she star in any movies with a southern theme around this time other than Uncle Tom's cabin. Perhaps that was the motivation, UTC was about the south and she played the beautiful waif who was so abused.
The song has a few more of the required elements of a Dixie song, we
have of course the title sweetheart but Polla & Gartland have also
included a train, magnolias and the Swanee river. And, as a bonus rather
than a quote from Dixie's Land, Polla gives us snippets of Way
Down Upon The Swanee River, another of Dixie's greatest songs. Not
bad for such a relatively short song. At only 44 measures and slightly
over two minutes with the repeat it is the shortest song in this months
William C. Polla (dates unknown) Composer, lyricist and arranger. Arranged a number of W.C. Handy tunes for band and orchestra. Polla was a prolific composer writing a large number of popular songs and several ragtime works as well as some orchestral works. Most of his rags were written under the pseudonym "W.C. Powell." One wonders why, unless he somehow felt that he did not want to mix his classical and heart songs side with a rather racy and wild ragtime persona. Many of his works were graced with beautiful woman covers, several by the now famous "pinup" artist, Rolf Armstrong whose early 20th century portraits are among the best female portraits ever. As with many successful composers, Polla also owned his own publishing house, the W.C. Polla Company, for a few years. Among his works are; Gondolier, The (1903), Missouri Rag (as W.C. Powell 1907), Johnny Jump Up (as W.C. Powell 1910), Dope Rag (as W. C. Powell 1909), Dancing Tambourine (1927), Night In June (1927), You Know (1919), Mama's Gone Goodbye (1924), Funny Folks (as W. C. Powell), Dear Heart (Scorch format) (1919 ), Drifting (1920), My Castles in the Air are Tumbling Down (1919), My Sunshine Rose (1920)
Listen to this great old song (Scorch plug-in required)
I'll Be In My Dixie Home Again To-Morrow
We're moving back a little closer to the formula for Dixie songs with this one. I love the cover on this one. Even though it is sepia toned, the central image of the man on the train steps is great. As you might guess, we have a song about someone far from Dixie who's headed home..on a train..to be back on his mammy's knee..to be with his sweetheart and, there is a very cleverly disguised four note quote from Dixie's Land at measure 50. At last we're back in Dixieland! Actually, there's a chance this guy may have bypassed the train in favor of an "aer-o-plane" if his prediction in the lyrics is any indication.
The music is quite jazzy and the tune for the chorus is downright fun to listen to. The song has the flavor of both jazz and ragtime and that is surely due to the talents of Robinson who wrote a number of popular rags in the early 20th century.
J. Russel Robinson (1892 - 1963) was a United States ragtime and jazz pianist and a composer of popular tunes. Robinson was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He started publishing ragtime compositions in his teens; his early hits included Sappho Rag and Eccentric (Rag). With his drummer brother he toured the US South in the early 1910s, including an extended stay in New Orleans. He was known for his heavily blues and jazz influenced playing style; advertisements billed him as "The White Boy with the Colored Fingers".
In 1919 Robinson joined the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. He then went
to work with W.C. Handy's publishing company, supplying new arrangements
and lyrics for popular editions of tunes like Memphis Blues and
Ole Miss in the 1920s. He also played piano with various popular
and blues singers in phonograph recording sessions, accompanying singers
such as Annette Hanshaw, Lucille Hegamin, Marion Harris, and Lizzie Miles.
(From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia in accordance with
the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)
Among his works are The Sappho Rag (1909), Dynamite Rag (Midi) (1910), The Minstrel Man (1911), Whirlwind Rag (1911), That Eccentric Rag (1912), Te-na-na (1912), Margie (1920), Aggravatin' Papa (1933) and St. Louis Gal (1923).
Roy Turk was born in New York City on September 20, 1892. He attended City College, and during World War I he served in the United States Navy. After the war, be began writing song lyrics, including special material for such successful vaudeville performers as Rock & White, Nora Bayes and Sophie Tucker. He then became a staff writer for music publishers on Tin Pan Alley, and later went to Hollywood where he wrote song lyrics for films.
Among his collaborators were Harry Akst, George Meyer, Charles Tobias, Arthur Johnston, Maceo Pinkard, and J. Russel Robinson. From 1928 through 1933, he worked especially closely with Fred Ahlert, with whom he had many popular successes. Probably his best known song is Mean To Me, written in 1928 to music by Ahlert, which has become a jazz standard, memorably recorded by Billie Holiday and others.
Other successes include I'll Get By (1928), Walkin' My Baby Back Home (1931), I Don't Know Why (I Love You Like Do) (1931), Love, You Funny Thing (1932), Beale Street Mama (1932) and Aggravatin' Poppa (1933) which was a 1933 hit for Sophie Tucker. With additional lyrics by Bing Crosby and music by Fred Ahlert, Where The Blue Of The Night Meets The Gold Of The Day (1931) became famous as Bing Crosby's theme song.
Roy Turk died in Hollywood, California on November 30, 1934, However, his songs have proven to be timeless. In 1960, Colonel Parker convinced Elvis Presley to record a song written in 1927 by Roy Turk and Lou Handman. The song was Are You Lonesome Tonight and became one of Presley's greatest hits. ( From the songwriter's Hall of Fame biography of Roy Turk)
Listen to this great song (Printable using the Scorch plug-in)
Pick Me Up and Lay Me Down In Dear Old Dixieland
The title of this song is so expressive in that it does say what many people from Dixie feel about our southern home. With a cover adorned by cotton bolls and a river paddle wheeler (it has to be on the Mississippi!) we can see the Dixie theme just waiting for us with the music inside.
The song opens with a lively verse that has a happy feel to it and seamlessly moves into the chorus that is just as upbeat. We have to take the cotton from the cover as one of the Dixie elements here for inside we find a wonderful melody but a sparse inventory of other Dixie song requirements. We do enjoy a mammy here and then a new element thrown in "darkies singings," and a new musical quote in measure 35. The lyric line there is "carry me back to.." and the five note motif with the lyric is from Carry Me Back To Old Virginny.
Harry Ruby (1895 - 1959) was born in New York in 1895. He began his career as a pianist in cafes and vaudeville and worked as a song plugger for several publishers, including Von Tilzer and Gus Edwards. He performed as a part of a vaudeville act called Edwards & Ruby. His primary lyricist partner throughout his career was Burt Kalmar (1884 -1947) however he also often teamed with Edgar Leslie. In addition to writing hundreds of popular songs with Kalmar, they also collaborated on several stage works and film scores. Their most notable film scores included the Marx Brother's hit Duck Soup in 1933. They also wrote the music for the Marx brothers' stage production of Animal Crackers in 1928.
Listen to this old song. (Scorch plug-in required)
Dixie Girls Are Good Enough For Me
I think this song will take us fairly far afield from a true Dixie melody but it is another illustration of the attraction of Dixie around the world. This one comes from none other than the great comedic character performer Harry Lauder of Scotland. Lauder was quite popular around the world but perhaps nowhere else as much as in America. He toured here extensively and wrote a number of songs related to American ideals, among them this song about Dixie girls. For more about Lauder, be sure to read our biography and feature about his music.
The music is pretty much standard for Lauder whose music was often no more than a backdrop for the lyrics and patter that he sang and spoke on stage while strutting around in one of his character roles (see the sheet music cover). It's a jaunty melody, a bit like a march and though pleasant, is somewhat innocuous as many of his songs are. The lyrics are fun, as all Lauder songs are and I don't believe we have a single Dixie element other than the word Dixie in the lyrics. There are three verses plus the chorus so Lauder had plenty of time to fit them in. That may be because after all, how could a Scotsman ever understand about mammys, cotton fields and the like? The lyrics do portray the charms of women around the world and compares them to the Dixie girl's attributes. The lyrics tell of a tryst behind the chicken coop so there's no question that he was well aware of southern hospitality and the charms of southern belles!
Listen to this "Dixie" love song. ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)
Our final work for this issue has only one of the Dixie elements, the name. This is a piano solo work by one of America's best ragtime and song composers. The cover is a wonderful painting of a southern belle complete with magnolia blossoms. The cover artist is one I've never heard of before. I'm sure that she must have done many more covers for her work is well above the average.
The melody and construction of this work is very much "ragtime" and a reflection of Wenrich's musical origins and early career in Joplin, Missouri. There he was known as the Joplin Kid and was a main attraction there at the time. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you've enjoyed our presentation of Dixie melodies.
Percy Wenrich. (b. Jan. 23, 1887, Joplin, MO, d. 1952, NYC). Wenrich wrote a number of hit songs many of which were of the rag genre (see The Smiler in our catalog for one of his best). Wenrich, came from a musical family. His mother taught him to play the organ and the piano while he was still a child. A little later, he would write melodies and his father would write the lyrics. Often, his songs were heard at conventions and political rallies. When he was 21 years old, he enrolled in the Chicago Music College, and while there had two of his songs published by a Chicago publisher; Ashy Africa and Just Because I'm From Missouri" Among his biggest hits were: 1909, Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet( Scorch format), lyric Stanley Murphy, 1912 Moonlight Bay (Scorch format), lyric by Edward Madden, 1914 When You Wore A Tulip, (Scorch format) lyric by Jack Mahoney. In 1914 he scored the Broadway show Crinoline Girl and in 1921 the Broadway show The Right Girl, 1926 the Broadway show Castles in the Air and in 1930 scored the Broadway show Who Cares?. He was married to the famous performer, Dolly Connelly and performed with her in vaudeville. For more information, see our complete biography of Wenrich from our "In Search Of" series as well as our feature on his music published in September 2001.
Listen to this "Dixie" piano work. ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)
There are no Lyrics for this work
This article published January, 2006 and is Copyright © 2006 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 an officer of the corporation. Though the songs published on this site are often in the Public Domain, MIDI renditions are protected by copyright as recorded performances.
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