Above: A collage of some of the great 1911 - 1919 music covers from the Tillinghasts.
The Tillinghast Collection
In this decade of American song we will journey from the days of innocence to the devastation of the First World War. We also will travel through a period when songs were full of good humor and become released from some of the more structured morality and conventions of the past. We'll finally see al vestiges of 19th century music fade away and the style of American popular music emerge. Gus Edwards was one of the most innovative songwriters and producers of the early 20th century. His revues and music were wildly popular and he had an extensive following. That's him on the cover in the rather odd pose and headband. Exactly why he and the one boy near him are wearing headbands is unknown but the photo credit indicates it is a scene from Gus Edwards' "Song Revue."
This song is a very clever novelty song that shows just how music can create an atmosphere in accordance with the story being told by lyrics. In classical music, tone poems often instilled feelings of place, time and emotion that can create pictures in the mind of the subject being portrayed. This song does the same by use of rests and dark passages to portray the subject of the song, Jimmy Valentine and his profession, stealthy robber. The opening introduction and verse clearly sets the scene and you can almost see Valentine creeping around your window looking for a way in to get your goods. The chorus is much brighter but still carries a bit of that dark & scary tone. Overall though it reflects the grand humor of the song. The lyrics are clever and humorous and when combined with the music we have what I consider to be a masterful "tone poem" disguised as a song. This is my number one "discovery of the month."
Gus Edwards (1879 - 1945) Was born in Hohensalza, Germany and at the age of eight his family brought him to America. Considered by some to be the most important songwriter to come out of vaudeville, as a boy he worked as a tobacco stripper at an uncle's cigar store. Gus used to sneak into theaters and somehow made friends with several vaudeville performers, among them, Lottie Gibson who used the boy as a boy stooge in her act. Blessed with a fine voice, Edwards soon was performing in an act, "The Newsboy Quartet". During this period, Edwards met and received coaching from some of the most prominent performers of the time including George Cohan, Emma Carus and Imogene Comer. With Cohan's encouragement, Edwards began writing songs and his first song was All I Want Is My Black Baby Back in 1898 and performed as a part of the Newsboy act. Edwards did not know how to read or write music so had to enlist someone else to notate the melody for him. During the Spanish American war, Edwards was entertaining troops bound for Cuba and met Will D. Cobb, at the time a department store salesman who wrote songs as a hobby. The two hit it off and decided to work together writing songs. From that collaboration came a long list of hit songs including this featured song and Goodbye, Little Girl, Goodbye (scorch format) in 1904. Edwards worked with other composers and with each, wrote other hits. Among his greatest hits are In My Merry Oldsmobile (see our February, 2001 feature), By The Light Of The Silvery Moon in 1909 and Tammany in 1905. Edwards continued to stay involved in vaudeville till it finally died out in the late 30's. He retired in 1938 and lived to see his life story made into a movie, Star Maker (1939), starring Bing Crosby. Edwards died in Los Angeles in 1945.
Edward Madden (b. 1878, New York City, d. 1952, Hollywood, CA.) was a charter member of ASCAP and a respected lyricist best remembered for a pair of moon songs"; By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, a 1909 collaboration with Gus Edwards, and Moonlight Bay (Scorch format) a 1912 collaboration with renowned composer Percy Wenrich Madden collaborated with a veritable who's who of American popular song composers including Theodore F. Morse, Harry Von Tilzer, Louis A. Hirsch and Jerome Kern. Madden was educated at Fordham University and was a writer for the great Fanny Brice and other singers as well. He founded his own publishing firm and enjoyed great success as a key member of the Tin Pan Alley inner circle.
Hear this clever song (Scorch plug-in required)
As with many of the early ballads of this decade, this song is very emotional and yet reserved in its musical style and lyrics. The cover depicts an obviously obsessed young man who is visualizing his love in the clouds over the bucolic village in the valley. The song is one about the charms of a Creole maid in Dixie whom the young man loves from far away. Interracial relationships were rarely seen or discussed in those still proper days yet the man depicted on the cover appears to be Caucasian and the song about a lady of mixed origin. My bet is that though we cannot find any information about him, La Tourette may have been black.
The song begins with a definitely dated introduction in octaves that was characteristic of the harmonies of the first decade of the century (20th.) The melody in the verse is also traditional in harmony, simple and clear with a familiar sound to it. However, the chorus gives us a hint of more progressive or modern music yet to come but is still grounded in the previous decade. The chorus has an often used device, a set of repeated chords echoing a phrase just completed. Over all, this is a very nice song with a pretty melody, especially in the chorus..
Charles H. La Tourette seems to have slipped into obscurity. We have no other works by him and neither do the major other on-line libraries.
Enjoy this interesting old love song ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)
It was this decade when novelty songs came into their own and were published in large numbers. One will find many novelty songs in the piano bench during this decade and our feature this month is reflective of that with five of the ten featured songs falling in that category. The rather coy young lady on the cover appears to be a sweet innocent from Victorian times but you'll see that the young lady in the song is much more experienced and forthright in her pleasures. Of course, this was also a time when the last vestiges of Victorian prim and proper behavior were expunged to make way for the roaring twenties.
With an upbeat introduction and the ever present "vamp" the song starts out in a lighthearted tone that carries into the chorus. The story the lyrics tell us are of a young lady who has sneaked a young man to her house via the fire escape while dad is away. We learn that the neighbors know of this and eagerly await dad's return to witness the fireworks when he finds them out. But, the young lady is far too smart and with excellent hearing, can detect dad's footfall in time to send her beau "out the window." It is a fun song with an infectious melody.
Joe Goodwin (1889 - 1943) Goodwin's early career was as a monologist in Vaudeville. Later he moved into working for various publishing houses writing lyrics. As a lyricist, his output was relatively small but significant. He collaborated with the best that Tin Pan Alley had to offer including; George Myer, Al Piantadosi, Nat Ayer and Gus Edwards. Perhaps his most famous set of lyrics were for the song When You're Smiling published in 1930. Among his other popular works are; Tie Me To Your Apron Strings Again (1925), Baby Shoes (MIDI) (1916), Three Wonderful Letters From Home (Scorch) (1918), Everywhere You Go (1927) Strolling Through The Park One Day (1929).
Lew Brown (1893 - 1958) wrote lyrics for some of the most popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s as part of the song writing team of De Sylva, Brown, and Henderson including The Best Things in Life are Free, I Used to Love You But Its All Over Now, Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries, Youre the Cream in My Coffee and Sunny Side Up.
He was born Louis Brownstein in Odessa, Russia on December 10, 1893. His family brought him to America in 1898 at the age of five and he attended De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York. While still in his teens, he began writing parodies of popular songs of the day, and eventually began writing original lyrics. His first songwriting partner was Albert Von Tilzer, an already established composer fifteen years his senior, and in 1912 they had a hit with I'm The Lonesomest Gal In Town. In 1916 the pair had another big hit with If You Were the Only Girl and in the course of the next few years they had a number of successful songs, one of which, Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl, was revived in the 1950s by the popular British singer Frankie Vaughan.
In 1922, Brown met Ray Henderson, a pianist and composer, and they quickly started writing songs together. Their first hit was Georgette, introduced in the Greenwich Village Follies of 1922. In 1925, Brown and Henderson were joined by lyricist Buddy De Sylva, creating one of the most influential and popular songwriting and publishing teams in Tin Pan Alley.
With De Sylva and Brown collaborating on the lyrics, and Henderson writing the music, the threesome contributed songs to several Broadway shows including such as George Whites Scandals of 1925 and 1926 which featured the songs The Birth of the Blues, "Black Bottom, and Lucky Day. In 1928 the threesomes own Broadway musical, Good News, with a book co-authored by De Sylva, opened in 1927 and ran for 557 performances. Among its hits were The Best Things In Life Are Free, Good News, and Lucky In Love. In 1928, Hold Everything! (book by De Sylva and John McGowan) opened and ran for 413 performances, making a star of Bert Lahr. The songs included Youre the Cream in My Coffee. 1929's Follow Thru, again with a book co-authored by De Sylva, ran for 403 performances and introduced Button Up Your Overcoat and in the 1930 production of Flying High, Brown for the first time joined De Sylva and John McGowan as book writer, as well, of course, as collaborating with De Sylva on the lyrics. Once again Bert Lahr was in the cast, and the show ran for 347 performances.
In 1929, De Sylva, Brown and Henderson sold the publishing firm they had founded in 1925 and moved to Hollywood under contract with Fox studios. Their first film was The Singing Fool, starring Al Jolson, and included the trios hit songs Sonny Boy and It All Depends On You. Say It With Songs, another Jolson film, including the songs Little Pal and Sunny Side Up and Just Imagine (the film version of Follow Thru based on their Broadway hit), were both released in 1930.
In 1931, De Sylva left the team to work with other composers, and Brown and Henderson continued working together producing Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries and The Thrill is Gone (included in George Whites Scandals of 1931).
Brown collaborated with other composers, including Con Conrad, Moe Jaffe, Sidney Clare, Harry Warren, Cliff Friend, Harry Akst, Jay Gorney, Louis Alter, and Harold Arlen. In 1937, with composer Sammy Fain, he wrote one of the enduring classics of the American popular song, That Old Feeling. In 1939, Yokel Boy opened on Broadway with a book by Lew Brown, and lyrics by Lew Brown and Charles Tobias (additionally, Brown produced and directed the show himself). Songs included in this production included Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me and The Beer Barrel Polka (with music by Jaromir Vejvoda).
In 1956, Hollywood produced a biographical film about the legendary threesome of De Sylva, Brown and Henderson, entitled The Best Things in Life Are Free. Lew Brown died two years after the release of the film on February 5, 1958 in New York City. (Biography from the songwriter's Hall of Fame at: http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/ )
Words and Music by: Irving Berlin
Cover artist: unknown
One of the many masters, and most prolific, of the novelty song writers was Irving Berlin. We've featured many of this songs over the years and quite a few are novelty songs. Berlin 's keen sense of humor showed through in much of his music but was most obvious and captivating in his novelty songs. Fittingly, the cover of this work features none other than the great Al Jolson who was also endowed with a great sense of humor and who could deliver a song like few others could or have since..
This song is similar to many others of the period. For some reason, the idea of farmers coming out of their simple rural life to face the lights and complexities of the big city seemed to capture the attention of songwriters and the public during this period. Songs such as How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm, (Scorch) Arrah,Go On I'm Gonna Go Back To Oregon (Scorch) and Good-bye Ma!, Good-bye Pa! Good-bye Mule! (Scorch) were seen regularly at the sheet music stores during these days. Berlin, in his usual way managed to put a bit of the devil into this song's story and the main character finds himself in a hedonistic heaven and seemingly dumps his wife and family for the good times. There is nothing humorous in that idea but at the hands of Berlin, a very upsetting situation becomes one we can have a good laugh over. The music is classic Berlin, with a catchy melody and wonderfully toe-tapping accompaniment. Both the verse and chorus have great melodies and neither one can be called inferior to the other in my opinion. You'll have a good time with this one!
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.
His many popular songs include There's No Business Like Show Business, God Bless America, and White Christmas. In 1968 Berlin received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. On September 22nd 1989, at the age of 101, Berlin died in his sleep in New York City.
It is almost impossible to provide a meaningful biographical sketch of Berlin in only a few words, he is perhaps the most celebrated and successful composer of American song from the Tin Pan Alley era. Way back in November of 1998 we did a feature on Berlin's music, which we updated early in 2003. In addition, we have added a more extensive biography of Berlin for those who want to know more about him.
Hear this original Berlin novelty song (Scorch format)
Surely you know and have heard this song! The funny chorus of "Aba
- Daba - Daba-Daba- etc." is so memorable that I suspect most people
could recognize it immediately. The music is memorable as well. What I
did discover though that some of the lyrics that seemed to come to us
via the 1951 song are slightly different from the 1951 release. Some lyrics
sites quote the line after the first "Aba-daba" in the chorus
as "said the monkey to the chimp." It actually was "said
the chimpie to the monk." Also, for most of us the verse was never
remembered, perhaps never even heard. With this original you can see and
enjoy the original 1914 lyrics.
Arthur Fields (1888 - 1953) primarily made his mark in the music industry as a vocalist and performer. During the 1920's he specialized in novelty songs, minstrel and rhythmic numbers. As a child, he became a professional performer at age 11. As a recording artist he did extensive freelance work and at one point had a record label under his name, Fields teamed up with Fred "Sugar" Hall in the 20s and co-hosted a morning radio show with Hall in 1937. Despite his recording and performing, Fields also wrote the lyrics to a number of popular songs including Aba Daba Honeymoon, On The Mississippi (MIDI), Auntie Skinner's Chicken Dinner and I Got a Code Id By Dose. Fields also wrote a serious work titled 48 Hymns to Happiness.
Despite the fact that Walter Donovan composed this lasting work, little about his life seems evident. I do know that he published a number of other songs but little else can be found. Among his works are Then You'll Come Back To Me (1927), Arizona Mary (1911), Gila, Galah, Galoo! (1916) and One Dozen Roses (1942).
Enjoy this great "monkey" song (Scorch plug-in required)
Aside from escaping to the big city there is always the option of escape to another country to savor new delights and experiences. That is exactly what Carroll and Mac Donald suggest in this novelty song. The cover of this piece by Dunk is perhaps the most colorful and artistic of this month's group and illustrates the song's content quite nicely. The happy pair in the inset photo are Richards & Kyle. This song seems to promote polygamy and desertion for the lyrics provide a "tip" to those who are "tired of "this life and lonely with one wife" to pack up and go to Bombay.
Once in Bom-Bombay, we find a life of leisure and a harem of willing ladies to cater to our every need. I'm so sure! The music starts with an introduction meant to be reflective of Indian music but it comes across as a "hootchie-kootchie" perhaps more appropriate for the Arabian countries. Once past that we get a nice melody that is also filled with stereotypes but they just make for musical fun and interest. The musical style reminds me of Berlin's in many ways and could just as well been written by him. Sit back and let the Harem maidens cater to you while you listen.
Harry Carroll was born born Nov. 28, 1892, Atlantic City, New Jersey and died 1962, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. Self taught, Harry was playing piano in movie houses even while he was still in grade school. He graduated high school and went to New York City, where, during the day, he found work as an arranger in Tin Pan Alley, and, during the night, playing in the Garden Cafe on 7th Avenue and 50th Street. In 1912, the Schuberts hired him to supply songs for some of their shows. He collaborated with Arthur Fields on his first hit On the Mississippi, with lyrics by Ballard MacDonald (for the show The Whirl of Society). Among Carroll and MacDonald's best known compositions, are 1913's There's a Girl in the Heart of Maryland (midi), and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (midi), and It Takes a Little Rain With the Sunshine to Make the World Go Round.
In 1914, he wrote By the Beautiful Sea, (Scorch format) with lyric by Harold Atteridge. In 1918, Carroll produced his own Broadway musical Oh, Look!, and the classic I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, (Scorch format) was written with the lyric by Joseph McCarthy. Harry married Anna Wheaton, and the two starred in vaudeville for many years. After the decline of vaudeville, Harry was a 'single' act in various cafes, where he sang his own songs. From 1914 thru 1917, Harry was the director of ASCAP. Carroll is a Songwriters' Hall of Fame member.
Ballard MacDonald (1882 - 1935) was born in Portland Oregon. He was educated at Princeton and became best known as a lyricist who collaborated with some of the greatest Tin Pan Alley composers of the period. His best known works are The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine, (MIDI) written in 1913 with Harry Carroll and Back Home Again In Indiana with James M. Hanley, 1917. He also wrote Play that Barber Shop Chord in 1910 which resulted in an interesting court case. In 1910, publisher/composer Fred Helf published Play That Barbershop Chord, by Lewis Muir and William Tracey, or at least that is how Helf published it. Songwriter Ballard MacDonald had begun work on the song and had written dummy lyrics before leaving the song behind. The piece was finished by Lewis Muir and William Tracey, and MacDonald was incensed that Helf left his name off the sheet music. He sued Helf successfully, and the award of $37,500 forced Helf into bankruptcy thus ending his foray into publishing. MacDonald died in Forest Hills, New York in 1935.
Listen to this classic novelty (Scorch plug-in)
In 1902 George Evans and Ren Shields published the lasting hit song In The Good Old Summertime and for years after, that phrase stuck in many a song title. We did one feature about such songs and this one fits right in with the rest. The interesting cover a large photo of a presumed performer but she is unnamed. I presume she was so popular at the time as to be instantly recognizable but after almost 100 years, I suspect there are few who would. Along the margins are a series of summer scenes that add to the "summertime" theme. The cover is quite good but unfortunately unsigned.
The song begins with a short introduction of the chorus melody then into a melodic but repetitive verse. The simple phrase repeats just about to the point where you want a change and then it does, so radically that you may think it is the beginning of the chorus but it is not. Rather, it is a little bridge to the chorus which in many ways is not too different from the verse in its sound and melody. The lyrics tell us of the joys of summer; the beach, rollercoaster, bumper cars and the bloom of love in the air. It's really a very bouncy-jouncy song and is, despite my comments, very fun and enjoyable.
Max Clay is another of the many casualties of time and I've been able to find no other songs by him or any biographical information.
Listen to this great old "summertime" song ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)
In every decade of song, or any timeline of progress there are always steps back. In song, we see that phenomenon quite often. As our music has developed, there are many times when a composition seems to take us back in time and hearkens back to the "good old days." This song has done that both musically and in the lyrics. While now we are only three years from the jazz age and the roaring twenties, this song seems out of place, better positioned in the prior decade than now. The cover is very artistic and well done in spite of the use of a monochromatic palette. The title also hearkens back, perhaps even to the 19th century. I thought it quite strange. How very formal to ask permission to have the right to love someone.
The introduction shows the song's harmonic origins in the prior decades. The verse is very pleasant and melodic if not a little sparse harmonically. The chorus too is very lovely. Though the song is enjoyable, there is nothing particularly unique or remarkable about it.
The artist for the cover is quite well known and was one of the best of Tin Pan Alley. We did a feature biography on E. H. Pfeiffer and you might enjoy reading it. Unfortunately, the songwriters in this case are not so well remembered or documented. For both Glatt and Bard this seems to be the only published work. However, the names could be pseudonyms.
Listen to this oddly charming love song ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)
The great war to end all wars had been raging in Europe for four years before the United States finally threw its hat in the ring. Nineteen Eighteen saw a flood of music related to the war. For a comprehensive survey of America's music during the war, see our three part series on the Music of World War I. Among the many songs that appeared were "good-bye" songs that spoke of the parting of family and lovers as their soldier boys headed across the sea. Probably the most memorable was (and still is) 'Till We Meet Again by Richard Whiting and Raymond Egan, also published this same year. This song is a close second both in artistry and sentiment and was one of the more popular of the good-bye songs. By this time, phonograph recordings and reproducing pianos had come into their own and this cover bears the caption: "This number on all Phonograph Records and Music Rolls."
The song is a touching and emotional ballad, as one would expect. In waltz time, the song flows beautifully on a very nice melody for the verse and then is the chorus. The sentiment in the lyrics is universal for lovers who must part. Though written for the war, it could just as well be sung today for any of our brave servicemen going into harm's way. Of course, as always, it is the one who is leaving that offers the comfort and strength to the parting.
Maceo Pinkard was born in Bluefield, West Virginia on June 27, 1897. Educated at the Bluefield Colored Institute (BCS), in his early career he formed his own orchestra and toured throughout the US as the conductor. In 1914, Pinkard founded the theatrical agency in Omaha, Nebraska and eventually founded Pinkard Publications, a music publishing firm in New York City.
Primarily writing as the composer and lyricist, Pinkards catalog includes such hit songs as Sugar, Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Ya Huh?, At Twilight, Them There Eyes, Sweet Georgia Brown, Here Comes the Show Boat, Sweet Man, Ill Be a Friend (With Pleasure), Dont Cry Little Girl, Dont Cry, Congratulations, Is That Religion?, Liza, Lila, There Must Be Somebody Else, Okay Baby, That Wonderful Boy Friend of Mine, Lets Have a Showdown, My Old Man and Mammy O Mine.
Pinkard also wrote and produced the Broadway show Liza. Pinkard died in New York City on July 21, 1962. Each year, BCS holds a walking festival in honor of its famous alumnus. ( From the songwriters hall of fame biography of Pinkard, copyright the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.)
Listen to this grand old "good-bye" song ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)
For our last piece we make yet another visit to the jungle and monkey land Monkey songs were a huge fad during this period, see our October, 2003 feature about monkey songs. This song though set in such a clime only makes passing mention of monkeys but says plenty about bananas and the wonders of the tropics. As a one-time resident of the Caribbean, cover images and songs such as this bring wonderful sultry days at the beach to mind and the peace of a pace that always says tomorrow is good enough. The lyrics also take me back to those times, just as they do for the songwriters. Perhaps They once enjoyed the leisurely life in the tropics.
The song is very upbeat and certainly carries us to the next decade of the jazz age. It is definitely a musical celebration of the joys of the tropics. It begins with an introduction and verse that is a bit on the dark and mysterious side, perhaps to signify a jungle setting. The chorus though takes on a much brighter and sunny disposition. This one would have been lots of fun for the family singing around the parlor piano.
This completes our look at the Tillinghast's wonderful donation to our Association. Over the next several years you'll see many more of these wonderful pieces in our future articles. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Tillinghast's for their generosity and foresight in collecting and preserving these historic songs so that thousands of our visitors can experience them.
Listen and see this fun novelty song (Scorch plug-in required)
This article published February, 2007 and is Copyright © 2007 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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