Parlor Songs in search of popular American Song


Sentimental Journeys

Songs Grandma Used To Sing


Rich Beil

The popularity of our Lost Verses CD suggests that there are many who enjoy hearing the songs of Tin Pan Alley as they were originally written. As we've often pointed out in our articles, one of the principal forms of entertainment at the turn of the 20th century was gathering around the piano in the parlor and singing. Here, we've chosen a number of tunes that would have been sung in those days. Some are very recognizable. Others haven't been heard in almost 100 years

About the Sentimental Journeys Songs

1. Take Me To the Land of Jazz (m. Pete Wendling, w. Edgar Leslie, Bert Kalmar-1919)

One of the lesser known songs written by these three who also wrote Oh What a Pal Was Mary in this same year. Edgar Leslie is best known for his lyrics to the tune For Me and My Gal, written in 1917. Bert Kalmar would later team with Harry Ruby and go on to write lyrics for such songs as Who's Sorry Now, with Ted Snyder in 1923, and Three Little Words in 1930. Ruby and Kalmar also became the principal songwriting team for the Marx Brothers. Pete Wendling was a prolific piano roll maker who also wrote the music for Take Your Girlie to the Movies (1919), which is on the Lost Verses CD. Ruby and Kalmar also wrote the lyrics to that tune. In 1918, Wendling wrote Oh How I Wish I Could Sleep Until My Daddy Comes Home (lyrics by Sam Lewis and Joe Young), that appears on Volume 1 of our Songs of the Great War CD.

2. April Showers (m. Louis Silvers, w. Buddy DeSylva-1921)

Written for the Broadway musical Bombo. As we pointed out in our 2002 feature on Al Jolson, this is one of America's most enduring songs. Jolson sang it in every performance and in almost every way imaginable.

3. Look For the Silver Lining (m. Jerome Kern, w. Buddy DeSylva-1919)

Written in for the unsuccessful musical Zip, Goes a Million, in 1920 it was published and reused in the musical Sally, where it was popularized by Marilyn Miller. The song was later covered several times, most notably by Judy Garland, whose version became, and remains, well-known. The 1949 biopic of Miller's life carries this title. The song was also the inspiration for the anthem of the International Ladies Garment Worker's Union "Look For the Union Label".

4. Pick Me Up and Lay Me Down In Dear Old Dixieland (m. Harry Ruby, w. Bert Kalmar-1922)

As mentioned above, Ruby and Kalmar teamed up in 1920 and went on to write many songs. This is one of their first hits.

5. Toot, Toot, Tootsie Goodbye (w/m. Ernie Erdman, Dan Russo, Gus Kahn-1921)

Another of the songs from Bombo most associated with Al Jolson. Although covered by many artists over the years, there's no doubt that whenever it's heard, Jolson's face immediately springs to mind

6.Whose Baby Are You? (m. Jerome Kern, w. Anne Caldwell-1920)

Written for Charles Dillingham's production The Night Boat, a musical farce based on the night boat from New York to Albany, which could be a relaxing scenic tour, but more often it meant an evening of clandestine romance, safely away from prying wives, husbands or in-laws. Sung as a duet in the original play, it is reprised here by Rich and Peggy Wooden of Anderson, MO, who some may recall also teamed with Rich on Irving Berlin's They Were All Out of Step But Jim on our Songs of the Great War by Irving Berlin CD.

7. I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles (m. John Kellette, w. Jaan Kenbrovin, -1919)

Introduced in The Passing Show of 1918, it was first sung by Helen Carrington. When the song was written, James Kendis, James Brockman, and Nat Vincent all had separate contracts with publishers, which led them to use the pseudonym "Jaan Kenbrovin" for credit on this song. James Kendis and James Brockman were partners in the Kendis-Brockman Music Company, which first published the song. Publishing rights were transferred later that year to Jerome H. Remick & Co. The writer Ring Lardner parodied the lyric during the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when he began to suspect that players on the Chicago White Sox team were deliberately losing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. His version began "I'm forever blowing ballgames".

8. I Used To Love You But It's All Over Now (m. Albert Von Tilzer, w. Lew Brown-1920)

Albert Von Tilzer started his career as a song plugger and then joined his older brother, Harry, at the Von Tilzer Music Publishing Company. He is, of course, best known for Take Me Out To the Ballgame, written in 1908 with Jack Norworth. Lew Brown was born in Russia in 1893 and came to America in 1898. In the 20s, he would team up with Buddy DeSylva and Ray Henderson, going on to co-write such recognizable tunes as The Best Things In Life Are Free and Button Up Your Overcoat.

9. After You've Gone (m. Turner Layton w. Henry Creamer-1918)

Another of the standards made popular by Al Jolson. Creamer and Layton teamed as a Vaudeville act after World War I. Along with such other black composers as Shelton Brooks (Some of These Days and Darktown Strutters Ball), W.C. Handy (St. Louis Blues), and James P. Johnson (The Charleston), they made a tremendous contribution to American popular song. Another of their well -known works is Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, written in 1922.

10. If I Had You (w/m Irving Berlin-1914)

Copyrighted May 1, 1914, this is one of Berlin's early ballads. As we pointed out in our article Early Berlin - Songs of a Young Master, Berlin's early inspiration came from his days as a "busker", singing on the street and as a singing waiter in The Pelham café. He didn't really begin to write ballads until the death of his first wife, Dorothy Goetz, in 1912. It was then he wrote When I Lost You, which is featured on volume 1 of our Early Berlin CD. This one demonstrates Berlin's penchant for creating words "automo-bubbles" in order to obtain a rhyme.

11. Everything Is Peaches Down in Georgia (m. Geo. Meyer, Milt Ager, w. Grant Clarke-1918)

George W. Meyer was a very prolific composer, penning such tunes as For Me and My Gal and Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night, a novelty tune written for Al Jolson. Milton Ager would team with Jack Yellen in 1919. They're first song was a beautiful ballad entitled I'm Waiting For Ships That Never Come In. In the 20s, they would turn their attentions to writing novelty tunes such as Crazy Words, Crazy Tune, Hard Hearted Hannah, and Vo-Do-De-O Blues. Grant Clarke was the lyricist Am I Blue, written with Harry Akst in 1929, which Ethel Waters sang in the 1929 movie On With the Show, and Fanny Brice's great Second Hand Rose, written in 1921 with James F. Hanley.

12. I'm Always Chasing Rainbows (m. Harry Carroll, w. Joe McCarthy-1918)

Published in 1917, the song was introduced in the Broadway production of Oh Look, which opened in March 1918. It was sung in the show by The Dolly Sisters. Although the music is credited to Carroll, the melody actually comes from Fantasie-Impromtu by Chopin. The biggest hit version was sung by Charles Harrison in July 1918. It has been featured in many movies, including the 1941 film Ziegfeld Girl where it was sung by Judy Garland, and in the 1945 movie The Dolly Sisters, where it was sung by John Payne. Joseph McCarthy was also the lyricist for You Made Me Love You, which he wrote with James Monaco in 1913.

13. Tuck Me To Sleep In My Old 'Tucky Home (m. Geo. Meyer, w. Sam Lewis, Joe Young-1918)

Another great tune by Meyer. Lewis and Young would team up and write the lyrics to such memorable tunes as How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm, which they wrote with Walter Donaldson in 1918. They were Al Jolson's favorite lyricists, penning such Jolson tunes as I'm Sitting On Top of the World, Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody, and My Mammy.

14. The Band Played On (m. Charles B. Ward, w. John F. Palmer-1895)

This song was first performed by the composer, Charles Ward in his own vaudeville act in 1895 at Hammerstein's Harlem Opera House. Long a favorite, its lilting waltz melody and chorus are the kind of tunes that stick in your head and make for a lasting hit. Again, we have a song where we recall the chorus, but the fascinating verses are often not heard. As with all lasting hits, this one appeared in several films including a performance by James Cagney and Rita Hayworth in The Strawberry Blonde in 1941 and Dennis Morgan in Cattle Town in 1951. Perhaps its biggest hit recording was the 1941 version by Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra on Decca. This song enjoys the status of being the first song ever promoted by newspaper, the New York World. It sold over one million copies then, and millions since. Clearly, the publishers were learning how to "hype" their wares and generate interest and sales by this time.

15. Gee! But I Hate To Go Home Alone (m. James F. Hanley, w. Joe Goodwin-1922)

Much of Hanley's work was composed specifically for Broadway. As mentioned above, Hanley composed Second Hand Rose for Fannie Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1921. Another of his well-known tunes was Zing Went the Strings of My Heart in 1935. Joe Goodwin was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on June 8, 1889. He began his career as a monologist in vaudeville and a manager and staff writer for various music publishers. During World War I, Goodwin wrote shows for the 81st Wildcats touring with the USO. He contributed songs for films including the Hollywood Revue and for various London stage revues. His other most recognizable song was When You're Smiling, written with Mark Fisher and Larry Shay in 1928.

16. Give My Regards To Broadway (w/m George M. Cohan-1904)

This great favorite was introduced by Cohan himself in his production of Little Johnny Jones, his very first musical play. Sung many times over in film, on record and TV, the song is one of those enduring favorites that never gets old or outdated. The music and melody seem to fit any era and transcend fads and styles to stand as an example of the permanence of a well written song. From its introduction, the song has been heard almost continuously.

17. Grandfather's Clock (w/m Henry C. Work-1876)

One of the songs mentioned in our 2004 article Songs Our Teachers Taught Us. Often called My Grandfather's Clock, most renditions that can be found on the Internet are up tempo and thought of as a children's song. Here, we've provided an accompaniment that captures the true sentiment of the lyrics as intended by the composer

18. Ain't We Got Fun (m. Richard Whiting, w. Gus Kahn, Ray Egan-1921)

This song and some others from this period sing of financial hard times for a couple who basically lose everything they have yet they still manage to find something to sing about to cope with their troubles. Few have ever heard the verses of that explain the story behind the chorus we all know so well. It was first performed in the revue Satires of 1920, and then moved on to Vaudeville and recordings. it appears in some of the major literature of the 20s, including The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and in Dorothy Parker's award-winning short story of 1929, Big Blonde.

19. Beautiful Dreamer (w/m Stephen Foster-1862)

This song, though simple, is clearly a masterpiece, perhaps proving the old saw that "less is more". It seems to take you to another place, a wonderful one, as you allow the music to waft over you. Foster died the year this piece was published making it one of his last, but it is arguably his most beautiful.

20.The Yankee Doodle Boy (w/m George M. Cohan-1904)

Another tune from Little Johnny Jones, the title of this one is most often thought of as Yankee Doodle Dandy, since it was sung by James Cagney portraying Cohan in the movie of that name. This piece stirred up mixed reactions from many critics and theatregoers. In spite of recent successes in the Spanish American War, the people were not used to this blatantly ostentatious display of unbounded patriotism. Many came initially just to see what all the fuss was about. By the end of the Great War, some fourteen years later, this song along with You're a Grand Old Flag, written in 1906, saw a fervent revival.

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