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Above: 1910's covers from the Erdmann Collection.

Music of the 1910 - 19 Decade

From the Erdmann Collection

Last year we received a generous and most important donation of sheet music from the Erdmann family of New Jersey. This unique donation included sheet music from the late 19th century up to the 1970's. The total number of sheets donated to us exceeded 6,000 and has increased our collection to a level exceeding all but a few library collections and places us as the top private non-profit web library collection in the country. This issue is the second in a series such as we have done with other large collections such as the Marshall-Morrow collection donated to us in 2009. To continue the review of the decades represented by this collection, this issue will look at music from the 1911 - 19 decade in America from the collection. We hope to make much more of our collection available to view through a redesign of our site and help from volunteers to catalog everything, scan and organize the music to make it more accessible.

As in the previous recent articles, we are continuing to include the full cover art in the Scorch versions so you can enjoy them in more detail than our thumbnail images allow. As a result, the Scorch files are much larger than usual so expect some delay in downloading. In most cases, the download file size exceeds 2mb so some will take quite some time depending on your type connection. The wait will be worth it! In addition, all music featured this month is printable using the Sibelius Scorch player.

The decade of the 1910's continued the development of America's popular music that had begun during the previous decade. Our music became more complex, more expressive and explored new boundaries that earlier music steered clear of. Though earlier music often had innuendos on subjects such as sex and vice, during the 1910's music became a little more explicit and open about some issues such as illicit love, drugs and feminine freedoms. As a transition period, the 1910s also still carried much from the past and some of the music still smacked of the innocence and Victorian ideals of the earlier century however, such songs became fewer and farther between. Of course, the middle of the teens saw the First World War and most of our music turned to that subject for the next few years. The war and growing social freedoms would change our music dramatically and lead us into the roaring twenties where nearly anything was fair game as far as music, movies and behavior. As we said in our series about WWI music, the war once and for all took away the innocence of the 1890-1915 period.

This issue presents you with many songs that are much less known than many from the period, but representative of the continuing development in American popular music that the first decade of the twentieth century represented. As such, you'll experience a mix of forward looking songs as well as backward looking ones. We hope the best part though is the joy of discovery of some songs that have been long forgotten over the last 111 years. Also this month, almost all of the featured songs are printable through the use of the Sibelius Software "Scorch" player.

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, April, 2011. This article published November, 2011 and is Copyright © 2011 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Association, Inc. Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author or a company officer.

 

Listen to this wonderful old song (Scorch format, be patient, long load time due to graphics)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics


Sheet music coverLord Have Mercy on a Married Man

1911

Music by: J. Fred Helf
Words by: Edgar Leslie
Cover art: E. H. Pfeiffer

 

It seems that ever since marriage was an option, jokes about it and laments by men on the merits of marriage have been a requirement. Comic songs and "coon songs" were two of the more popular styles of song during the early 20th century and in this case, both genres have been combined for a very entertaining song that was introduced by Lew Dockstader as a part of his minstrel or black face performances. Lew Dockstader (born George Alfred Clapp, August 7, 1856, Hartford, Connecticut - died October 26, 1924, New York City) was a United States singer, comedian, and Vaudeville star, best known as a black face minstrel show performer in the late 19th century and early years of the 20th century. Dockstader performed both as a solo act and leading a popular Minstrel troupe. Various popular entertainers of the era performed with Dockstader's Minstrels, including Will Oakland, and the most famous being young Al Jolson. Dockstader appeared on film in a number of comedy shorts from 1905 - 1907 and in the title role in the 1914 feature silent film "Dan". (from Wikipedia). The sheet music cover illustrates Dockstader in some of his black face persona.

The song begins with an unremarkable "walking" melody and lyrics that like most verses of the period, introduces us to the subject at hand and gives us a little history to prepare us for the chorus. Though the song appeared in 1911, the story seems grounded in the prior century, which of course is where minstrelsy and black face performances first became popular. The chorus is a very upbeat one and has a memorable set of lyrics and melody. Though I can't be sure if this song is the first published expression of the issue, the idea of "mercy on the married man" and title of this song has stayed with us fully one hundred years after publication.

 

J. Fred Helf was a popular composer during the first two decades of the twentieth century who, like many other successful composers, formed his own publishing company. His company did quite well for several years and published for a number of popular songwriters as well as for his own works. Helf's firm's demise shows the fragility of many of the businesses of that period. In 1910 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.
Helf also wrote Every Race Has a Flag but the Coon (1900, with Will Heelan); Texas Tommy's Dance (1911); The Fatal Rose of Red (1900) and perhaps his greatest title, If Money Talks, It Ain't On Speaking Terms With Me ( 1902).

Edgar Leslie ( b. Dec. 31, 1885 Stamford, CT., d. 1976)
Leslie was educated at Cooper Union in New York and published his first song, Lonesome in 1909. Among his many hit songs are; He'd Have to Get Out - Get Out and Get Under, (scorch format) co-lyricists were Grant Clarke and Maurice Abrahams; the great hit For Me and My Gal, (scorch) music by Ray Goetz and Geo. W. Meyer; Oh What a Pal Was Mary, (MIDI) with Pete Wendling. In 1927, Leslie traveled to England. While there, he wrote some songs with composer Horatio Nicholls, a pseudonym for music publisher Lawrence Wright. Among their work was: Among My Souvenirs, the same song that became a Connie Francis hit in 1959; Mistakes, a Vera Lynn hit record and Shepherd of the Hills. Leslie continued writing hits well into the 30'a and beyond. His trademark style included many "place named songs such as Kansas City Kitty, Rose of the Rio Grande and of course, California and You as well as the great America, I Love You (MIDI) and humorous titles such as When Ragtime Rosie Ragged the Rosary and Where Was Moses When The Lights Went Out? Among the many composers with whom Leslie worked, are: Harry Ruby; Fred Ahlert; Joe Burke; Jimmy Monaco, and Walter Donaldson. (Adapted from the Tunesmiths database, http://nfo.net/.CAL/index.html)

Hear this "marriage" novelty song ( printer Scorch format, be patient, all the Scorch files this month are very large file sizes, this sheet music is printable using the Scorch plug-in)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

 



The Horse Trot

1912


Music by Uriel Davis
(Piano solo)
Cover art: Starmer


Though dances have been a popular part of every culture for centuries, up till this time, most were traditional dances of European origin. The "new" music and popularity of Vaudeville and stage acts in the early 20th century inspired new and creative dance styles. Some of this was by necessity as the music that emerged did not suit itself to more traditional dances such as the waltz, polka or other European styles. With more upbeat tempos, and new forms, it was almost necessary and logical for new forms to emerge. The popularity Vernon and Irene Castle also contributed to the development of new dances. They created many dances, the most famous of which was the Castle Walk, a variant of the one-step. Of course, the new music was so infectious that people were not content with simply tapping their toes as they listened so they just had to get up and dance. As a result we saw the development of dances such as the Fox-trot, Hesitation Waltz, Tango, Lindy Hop, Turkey-trot and Charleston and other less well known dances.

"The Horse trot was a 'running walk' dance and was somewhat different than the Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear and Bunny Hug of the time. Most of these Popular Ragtime dances were based on the One Step. It was popular in the early 1910s but was losing favor with the public around 1914. Mainly due to the high kicking involved as the ladies garments of the time made it difficult to do as well as many seeing the dance as vulgar. The music was 2/4 (Ragtime), and very lively. The dance was first introduced at Copley-Plaza in Boston, Ma. at a ball given by Hamilton Fish Jr. in 1912/13.

    The Basic step for the Horse Trot resembles closely the step of the Cake Walk, raising the foot quite high with rather a jumpy style. It consists of a forward and backward movement, turning to the right and to the left. Taking the Yale or American Ballroom position and dancing around after each other. A stationary step, cutting the foot to the side, a series of dips with the right foot back are often taken." (Horse trot dance description from streetswing.com)

This piece may well be the first written for the dance and may be the one that first introduced the dance at the above mentioned Ball.

Uriel Davis Cited by one web site as the "Dance Master," Davis wrote a number of works that were based on dance fads of the 1910s. At least two of his works were original dances for which he wrote the music; The Davis Foxtrot (1914), and The Horse Trot (1912.) Among his other dance works are, One Wonderful Night. Hesitation Waltz (1914.) He also is credited with a few songs, among them was Broadway Is My Home Sweet Home (1915)

Hear this horsey dance ( Scorch format, be patient, long load time)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (There are no lyrics for this work)

 


sheet music cover
Somebody's Coming to My House

1913


Words and Music by: Irving Berlin
Cover art: Frew

 

Irving Berlin is an American music icon and just about everything he wrote and published became popular or is now a permanent part of American music. However, there were a few of his songs, especially in his earlier years that are largely unknown or forgotten. Some never measured up to that of the standard we expected from him and never made it into the standard repertoire. During his early years, I believe he was still searching for that style and musical formula that would make him so successful in later years and as a result, many of the earlier songs seem to be either tied to his earliest breakout success Alexander's Ragtime Band, or they tend to wander in search of the later style that brought him so much success.

This song, in my opinion is one of those "wandering" songs that is mostly unknown to the general public but which oddly enough, due to its message and tune, has survived as a Barbershop Quartet favorite. The melody is almost perfect for the Barbershop style and the message is one that portends the greatest event in a couple's relationship, the delivery of a new baby. It is a happy song with an upbeat melody that is one of my favorites for the month.

I could not help wondering what event triggered Berlin to write this song. He had no children of his own until 1926 so it was not his house that somebody was coming to. Perhaps a friend or associate was having a child and Berlin wrote this song for him/her, or maybe it just was one of his many inspirations that resulted in many hundreds of great songs for us to enjoy.

Irving BerlinIrving 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.


Whether for Broadway musicals or films, for humorous songs or romantic ballads, his compositions are celebrated for their appealing melodies and memorable lyrics. Among the numerous musical comedies and revues for which Berlin wrote music and lyrics were Annie Get Your Gun (1946), and Mr. President (1962). 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.

Listen to and watch the delivery of this song ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in, long load time)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics


sheet music coverPlayed by a Military Band

1915



Music by: Halsey K. Mohr
Words by: Ballard MacDonald
Cover art: Dunk


With a beautifully eye-catching cover this song has a really nice melody and a great story to tell. Written appropriately as a march it tells of a young man who says that; "When I was young, my fam'ly said That I had nothing in my head, But "Rum-Tum-Tum-Tum-Tiddeley-um!" and goes on to tell us that; "All my life the bugle and fife, the trombone and bassoon,
Will keep me going when they're blowing any raggy tune." The chorus is terrific and the sum total is a very entertaining song that definitely is a "toe-tapper."

According to the cover, the song was introduced in "Ned Wayburn's Big Revue." Known and most famous for his choreography, Wayburn produced a number of Broadway revues including some of the Ziegfeld Follies and some of his own. Born in Pittsburgh, he started his theatrical career as an usher at Chicago's Grand Opera. For a time he turned actor, but in 1901 he began to direct and choreograph Broadway musicals. Over the next thirty years Wayburn staged no fewer than sixty shows in New York and Chicago. Except for the Ziegfeld Follies, six of which he staged between 1916 and 1923, few are remembered today. The list includes Mr. Bluebeard (1903), The Ham Tree (1905), The Time, the Place and the Girl (1907), Old Dutch (1909), The Passing Show of 1912, The Century Girl (1915), The Night Boat (1920), Two Little Girls in Blue (1921), and his last show, Smiles (1930). Wayburn is credited with inventing theatre tap dancing in 1903 by replacing his dancers' clogs with shoes with bits of metal nailed to the soles. Later he founded his own dance school and wrote The Art of Stage Dancing (1925). He flourished long before directors were given to conceiving musicals as totally integrated efforts. Rather than concern himself with overall style and tone, he was preoccupied largely with creating stage pictures and with pacing. After he gave Ira Gershwin and Vincent Youmans the tempo and meter he wanted for each song in Two Little Girls in Blue, Gershwin concluded, “Obviously to Wayburn neither the play nor the numbers were the thing—only tempo mattered.” (from answers.com)

Halsey K. Mohr was a moderately successful composer of the period. He also wrote Piney Ridge in 1915 with Ballard MacDonald and They're Wearing 'Em Higher In Hawaii, in 1916, a great comedy song that was very popular with vaudevillians including the great Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson. During the earlier years of the war while antiwar sentiment was high, Mohr was one of the few composers who wrote patriotic, pro-war music with several songs to his credit such as Played by A Military Band in 1915.

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 Carrol 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.

Hear and see the score to this song ( Scorch format, be patient for images to load)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics




sheet music coverAt the Fountain of Youth

1915



Music by: Harry Jentes
Words by: Chas. McCarron & Alex Gerber
Cover art: DeTakacs


The idea of a fountain of youth, a legendary spring that reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. Tales of such a fountain have been recounted across the world for thousands of years, appearing in writings by Herodotus, the Alexander romance, and the stories of Prester John. Stories of a similar waters were also evidently prominent among the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean during the Age of Exploration, who spoke of the restorative powers of the water in the mythical land of Bimini. The legend became particularly prominent in the 16th century, when it became attached to the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. According to that story Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth when he traveled to what is now Florida in 1513. Since then, the fountain has been frequently associated with Florida.

The idea of finding eternal youth is one we all wish for as we get older. We all hope for a chance to "do over" our life and repair wrongs or reach goals we never reached. Unfortunately, we've also learned that God offers no "do-overs" and though the myth is attractive, reality continues to drive our aging and ultimate demise.

This song expresses those desires and the happiness that such a fountain might bring to us as we age. It is a song of hope and happy endings that undoubtedly was popular for at least a short time. The cover art is an excellent example of period cover art and depicts the so try the song tells with great detail. Musically, the song is reflective of the happiness that could be found through a fountain of youth and shows not only that happiness but a good bit of good humor.


Harry Jentes (1887-1958) Harry Jentes was an American vaudeville performer and composer of popular music. He wrote a number of rags the best known probably being The Rhapsody Rag (1911) , The Soup and Fish Rag (1913 ) which he co-authored with Pete Wendling and Bantam Step (1916). His best known song is probably I Don't Want To Get Well (1917). Jentes also wrote for some Broadway productions including Earl Carroll's Vanities in 1925 During the 1920's, Jentes cut several piano rolls. He was born and died in New York City.

Listen to and view this song ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in, be patient, sometimes a long load time due to graphics)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



 sheet music coverOnly You

1915



Music by: Clarence M. Jones
Words by: Arthur J. Lamb
Cover art: Unknown

One thing that often confuses people with regard to song titles is the idea that a title is a "one-off" copyrighted idea as is the content of a song or other literary work. The problem comes in the workings of copyright law which does not allow for the copyright of titles. As a result, we find some titles used over and over thus sometimes obscuring the most popular title. This is an example of a title that for most of us would immediately cause us to think of the 1955 song composed by Buck Ram recorded by The Platters. Sometimes, we find that songs such as Only You were in fact written long before they were popularly recorded, that is the case with many of the 50's songs we connect with performers like Pat Boone or Fats Domino however, that is not the case with this song. It is clearly different and one of over 1600 songs with this title (611 listed at ASCAP and 1037 at BMI).

As what we might consider to be an "also ran" in the title arena, this song is more stylistically placed in the 19th century. The cover is anachronistic in that the artwork is more likely placed in the mid to late 19th century while the song was published much later. I suppose the publishers selected it as it is reflective of a romantic moment but oddly with two women. Well, the music is also a bit less current and is also somewhat of a throwback earlier times. It is a waltz song that is nicely expressive but still a little bit out of place for this period.

Arthur J. Lamb

Arthur J. Lamb (b. 1870, Somerset, England - d. 1928, Providence, R.I.) is perhaps most well known as the lyricist for the famous and still popular, Asleep In The Deep (for a German version, see Des Seemanns Los in our feature about music of the sea). This song though, was his best selling hit song at the time. As with many songwriters, Lamb followed up the success of "Asleep" with At The Bottom Of The Deep Blue Sea in 1899 and another sea themed song, Out Where The Billows Roll High (Scorch format) in 1901, both with music by W.H. Petrie. Other popular songs by Lamb include Dreaming Of Mother And Home, 1898, When The Bell In The Lighthouse Rings Ding, Dong, 1905, The Bird On Nellie's Hat, 1905, You Splash Me and I'll Splash You, 1907 and the 1917 War song, Good Luck To The USA.


Listen to and view an old favorite ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in, be patient, sometimes a long load time due to graphics)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



sheet music coverIn the City of Broken Hearts

1916


Words and Music by: Edgar Allen
Cover art: "RS"

 

Once you look at the cover of this piece, you may see why I chose it for this issue. It's the eyes! The lovely if somewhat unsettling lady on the front cover is none other than the famed silent film star, Theda Bara. Born Theodosia Burr Goodman, Bara was an American silent film actress - one of the most popular of her era, and one of cinema's earliest sex symbols. Her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname "The Vamp" (short for vampire). The term "vamp" soon became a popular slang term for a sexually predatory woman. Bara, Valeska Suratt, and Musidora popularized the vamp persona in the early years of silent film and spawned imitators like Louise Glaum, Nita Naldi and Pola Negri. The photo at right illustrates her exotic, sensual image. It was popular at that time to promote an actress as mysterious, with an exotic background. The studios promoted Bara with a massive publicity campaign, billing her as the Egyptian-born daughter of a French actress and an Theda Bara as CleopatraItalian sculptor. They claimed she had spent her early years in the Sahara Desert under the shadow of the Sphinx, then moved to France to become a stage actress. (In fact, Bara had never been to Egypt or France). They called her the "Serpent of the Nile" and encouraged Bara to discuss mysticism and the occult in interviews. In fact, Bara was from the Avondale section of Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father was Bernard Goodman a prosperous Jewish tailor born in Poland. Her mother, Pauline Louise de Coppett , was born in Switzerland, all a far cry from Egypt.

Now, given that, what connection this song may have to Theda Bara who was not a singer is uncertain. It could be simply that the publishers desired to use her image as an attention getter (it definitely does that) and for marketing purposes. That was a common practice in the early Tin Pan Alley Days and often there was absolutely no connection between the performer on the cover and the song. The song is a story of a sad woman lost and drifting with a broken heart. It is possible the song was written in response to one of Bara's roles however, unless one of you sharp readers out there knows and can tell us, we may never know. Enjoy the music, it is a very nice song.

I've had no luck in finding any biographical information on Edgar Allen however did find several songs other than In The City of Broken Hearts credited to him. Among them are; I'm a Regular Daughter of Uncle Sam (1917), Over the Hill.(1921) and Checkers (1919)

Listen to this sad ballad ( Scorch plug-in, be patient, long load due to graphics)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



 sheet music coverWalkin' the Dog

1916



Words and Music by: Shelton Brooks
Cover art: Starmer

 

Yet another dance that emerged from this period was "walking the dog," introduced through this song by Shelton Brooks. This song is one of the best (along with Brooks' Darktown Strutter's Ball seen below) of the group this month. Brooks lyrics explain the dance and speaks to many of the other dance fads of the period. Musically, this is a gem. Brooks uses silence (rests) in the chorus as an emphasis device and it comes across well. Rests in music are an important device to add emphasis and excitement to a musical piece. Few songs of this period used rests in this manner so when encountered, they tend to add a new dimension and a bit of a startle to the listener.

Shelton BrooksShelton Brooks ( b.1886, Amesburg, Ontario, Canada d. 1975.) A child of Native American and Black parents, Brooks learned his keyboard skills on the family pump organ. His father was a Preacher, and Shelton and his brother would play the organ at services. (Shelton played, and his older brother pumped the Bellows pedals which Shelton couldn't reach.) His family emigrated to Detroit, and the 15 year old Shelton made some appearances as a child prodigy. In time, he became a cafe pianist, and a very famous black performer. He performed as a pianist, playing Ragtime around 1909 and began his composing career with mainly Ragtime numbers.

Shelton wrote his first big hit in 1910, Some of These Days with his own lyrics. He had already introduced the song in his own vaudeville act, when Sophie Tucker's maid, introduced both him and the tune to Sophie. Tucker loved it and she made it her theme song. Brooks also tried his hand at performing is stage roles such as Plantation (1922), Dixie To Broadway (1924), and Ken Murray's Blackouts of 1949. Perhaps Brook's best known hit was his 1917, hit The Darktown Strutter's Ball (see below). Among his other great songs were Walkin' The Dog, There'll Come A Time and Jean. Brooks enjoyed a long recording career as well. Many of his recordings were comedic for example the Okeah record 4632 carried the titles, Collecting Rents and Chicken Thieves both comedy skits, not songs. Shelton died on On September 6, 1975. (Biographical facts from kinkle V. 2, p. 625)

Listen to this old dancin' song ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



 sheet music coverThe Darktown Strutters' Ball

1917



Words and Music by: Shelton Brooks
Cover art: "RS"

 

Just a year after Walkin' the Dog, Brooks wrote what is his most lasting hit. I suspect that even now, nearly one hundred years later, many people could still sing at least the opening phrase of the chorus; "I'll be down to get you in a taxi honey." It is no doubt his most recorded song as well. Popularized by Sophie Tucker, it may have been introduced on Vaudeville by the young lady on the cover, Blossom Seeley. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers performed it in the film, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle in 1937. It was also performed in other films including, Broadway (1942), Incendiary Blonde (1944), The Dolly Sisters (1946) and Little Boy Lost in 1953. Seeley was born Minnie Guyer, in San Francisco, California. A top vaudeville headliner, she was known as the "Queen of Syncopation" and helped bring jazz and ragtime into the mainstream of American music. She introduced the Shelton Brooks classic "Some of These Days" in vaudeville in 1910, one year before Sophie Tucker recorded it in 1911

This is one of "ragtime's" greatest hits and it simply speaks for itself. Enjoy the music..

Shelton BrooksShelton Brooks ( b.1886, Amesburg, Ontario, Canada d. 1975.) A child of Native American and Black parents, Brooks learned his keyboard skills on the family pump organ. His father was a Preacher, and Shelton and his brother would play the organ at services. (Shelton played, and his older brother pumped the Bellows pedals which Shelton couldn't reach.) His family emigrated to Detroit, and the 15 year old Shelton made some appearances as a child prodigy. In time, he became a cafe pianist, and a very famous black performer. He performed as a pianist, playing Ragtime around 1909 and began his composing career with mainly Ragtime numbers.

Shelton wrote his first big hit in 1910, Some of These Days with his own lyrics. He had already introduced the song in his own vaudeville act, when Sophie Tucker's maid, introduced both him and the tune to Sophie. Tucker loved it and she made it her theme song. Brooks also tried his hand at performing is stage roles such as Plantation (1922), Dixie To Broadway (1924), and Ken Murray's Blackouts of 1949. Perhaps Brook's best known hit was his 1917, hit The Darktown Strutter's Ball. Among his other great songs were Walkin' The Dog, There'll Come A Time and Jean. Brooks enjoyed a long recording career as well. Many of his recordings were comedic for example the Okeah record 4632 carried the titles, Collecting Rents and Chicken Thieves both comedy skits, not songs. Shelton died on On September 6, 1975. (Biographical facts from kinkle V. 2, p. 625)


Listen to and watch the music play (Scorch format, allow time for download)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



sheet music coverChina We Owe a Lot to You

1917



Music by: Milton Ager
Words by: Howard Johnson
Cover art: unknown

 

I was somewhat surprised when I saw this song among the many beautiful covers in the Erdmann collection. What surprised me was simply the title as it is so very timely given the state of our economy and the massive debt (well over one trillion dollars) that we owe to China now that they've funded the bulk of our budgetary over-runs. It struck me as rather ironic that a song with this title was written nearly 100 years ago. What was meant then as far as "owing" and what it means today are distinctly different.

Today's problems aside, the song is a very nice tribute to China which at the time had just (in 1911) changed its political system to a republican form of government that only existed until 1949. Prior to 1911, China had an imperial dynastic system of government, was established as early as 221 BC. Although specific dynasties were overturned, the dynastic system survived for over two thousand years! The song speaks to the political turn of events as a positive and then in the chorus we hear much about all of the things we owe China from a cultural and trade point of view. In some respects it is a bit laughable, mentioned are silk, rice, chop suey and laundries.

The music is terrific. The verse begins with a stereotype of Chinese music and the verse carries that sound through but in a more pop music style. The melody is excellent and if it were not for the limited appeal and dated nature of the song, with a different set of lyrics, I think this could have become a lasting hit.

Milton Ager (b. 1893, Chicago - d. 1979, Los Angeles) Ager 's early career was much like many other Tin Pan Alley greats inasmuch as he started out as a vaudeville pianist and played piano for (silent) movies in theaters. He moved to New York in 1913 and became an arranger for the Waterson, Berlin & Snyder publishing house. He served honorably in the military during WWI and later was an arranger for George M. Cohan. His very first published song was Everything Is Peaches Down In Georgia in 1918. He also wrote scores for a number of Broadway musicals including Rain Or Shine in 1928 which came out as a movie in 1930.

Ager wrote many memorable and lasting hits during his career including; Between 1922 to 1930 he wrote Mama Goes Where Papa Goes, and a hit song for Sophie Tucker, The Last of the Red Hot Mamas!. Other songs in this period include Lovin’ Sam, Hard-Hearted Hannah, I Wonder What’s Become of Sally, Ain’t She Sweet? and the classic Happy Days Are Here Again which later become the theme song for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 inauguration and remained the theme song for the Democratic Party for many years since. Perhaps his best known song was Ain't She Sweet (1927) which has often been used as a song that most represents the roaring twenties. In 1930, Ager moved to Hollywood and contributed to the film scores of Honky Tonk, King of Jazz and Chasing Rainbows. Songs in these pictures include “Happy Feet”, “A Bench in the Park” and If I Didn’t Care. Ager was inducted into the songwriter's hall of fame in 1972. (essential facts from Kinkle, p. 482 and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame biography at http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/exhibit_bio.php?exhibitId=205 )

Howard Johnson (b. 1887, Waterbury, CT, d. 1941, New York,NY) (not the restaurant man) was also one of the greatest lyricists of the period, also with many hits to his credit. His name appears over and over in our collection in such famous works as M-O-T-H-E-R, When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain, Where Do We Go From Here ( Scorch format, featured in the first installment of our three part essay about World War I music) and Freckles.

 

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sheet music coverIn the Shadow of the Desert Palm

1918



Music by: Will E. Dulmage
Words by: E. J. Myers
Cover art: unknown

 

Yet another subject that spans the decades with vastly different points of view and interests is that of the mysterious Middle East. This song is of the Sahara and caravans and the charm of the peoples while today we trouble ourselves with oil, terrorism and wars. At the time of this song, the Sahara and Middle East were looked on with a great deal of romance and excitement. They were exotic places with interesting people who welcomed us and where lovers often found themselves.

This song is a love song with the flavor of the desert and the area. The chorus, like the China song, is a bit of a musical attempt at depicting the music of the area (no where close) using a common musical stereotype while, as in the previous song, the verse is a bit more "Western" in sound and melodies. This too is a very enjoyable song and one from a time when geopolitical divisions were less important.

Will E. Dulmage (1883–1953) Songwriter ("Holding Hands"), composer and publisher, educated in high school and in private music study. He was a staff member and later an executive of a Detroit, Michigan publishing company. Joining ASCAP in 1946, his other popular-song compositions include "When It's Night Time in Nevada", "Faded Love Letters", "On the Highway to Galilee", "Golden City", and "Tenderly Think of Me". He wrote film soundtracks for The Gene Autry Show (TV series), Night Time in Nevada (1948) and The Black Rider (1950) (From IMDB)

 

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sheet music coverRoguish Rosie Ray

1919



Words and Music by: Edward I. Boyle
Cover art: "J.D.McD."

 

Not only is there a story to be found regarding the composer of this song (see below) but behind the song there is surely a story that now eludes us. Just who was Rosie Ray and is that her photo on the cover? We've found that most songs are inspired by events, people or emotions experienced by the composers but unfortunately, those stories are often never noted and are lost forever. It's a pity.

One story about Boyle that is worth sharing is his bravery during a performance in Worcester, Mass on March 9, 1913 at E. Lynch's Theater on Pleasant Street. According to the story

"The coolness of Edward I. Boyle, a blind singer, in keeping on with his song while fire spread rapidly in the balcony of E. W. Lynch's Pleasant Street theater tonight prevented a panic in the audience of 500 persons, all of whom filed out safely. When the audience had passed out, Joseph L. Rogers, the pianist who had played Boyle's accompaniment throughout the trying time, leaped upon the stage and led the blind man out through a rear exit."
The story goes on to tell that the theater owner's son first noticed the flames, started by "crossed wires" and went on stage and whispered to the singer to make an announcement. Boyle was in the midst of singing an illustrated song, paused and announced to the audience to file out. As some in the audience started to rush, Boyle announced to his pianist "hit up a chord in G" and began singing a "popular air and as Boyle's voice rang out melodiously, all signs of panic vanished."

The story is fascinating and even more interesting in that Boyle's brother was across the street getting a shave and when he saw the smoke, he bolted from the chair and ran into the street with his face lathered up and still swathed in the barber's cover. The police spotted him and thought he was a lunatic and stopped him. You just can't make this stuff up.

As for the song, it is quaint with a pleasant story told through the lyrics. The music in waltz time however is a bit mundane and unremarkable. However, from the pen of a blind performer who showed great poise and bravery, it is a wonderful work that deserves recognition today and for years to come. Enjoy Mr. Boyle's opus.

Edward I. Boyle I've found little else about Boyle but for one very intriguing statement calling him the " Celebrated Blind Entertainer" and two other titles besides Roguish Rosie Ray by him, A Ride in a Jitney For Mine (1915) and Jimmie Boy (1918). Surely there is a story worth finding and preserving about this man but unfortunately, I've had no luck finding it.

 

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This article published April, 2011 and is Copyright © 2011 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.

 

Thanks for visiting us and be sure to come back again later to see our next issue or just to read some or all of our over 130 articles about America's music. See our resources page for a complete bibliography of our own library resources used to research this and other articles in our series.

 

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