Tin Pan Alley: Music Publishing
This month we continue our journey in search of American popular song by looking at the evolution
of the music publishing business as defined by Tin Pan Alley. Believe it or not, even though the
term came to symbolize the American music publishing industry in general, there really was a place
called Tin Pan Alley.
Nobody Knows Where John Brown Went1909
Music by: Arthur Longbrake
Cover artist: "James"
As you will read in our essay this month about
Tin Pan Alley
, the American popular music publishing industry was largely scattered around the
country before homing in on 28th street in New York. Many of the publishers who existed in other
commercial centers continued to publish music well into the 20th century however they found it
increasingly difficult to compete against the New York group. One such publisher was Joseph Morris,
of Philadelphia. Actually, there were quite a few publishers in Philadelphia if our collection is
any indication and Morris seemed to be one of the more successful. However, like so many of the
publishers from this era, Morris seem to be long gone. A search of the net comes up empty.
"The first thing I saw when I look'd ar-round,Listen to this Philadelphia publisher's work
Music & Lyrics by: Paul J. Knox & Harry S. Marion
Cover artist: unsigned
As mentioned in our essay this month, T.B. Harms was one of the very first of the publishing powerhouses to establish themselves in New York and as such, Harms was one of the seminal publishers to establish Tin Pan Alley. Harms were established in 1881 and could
be considered the very first of the Tin Pan Alley publishers. Our collection has quite a few Harms
pieces and we have featured a number of them over the years. Harms, along with Whitmark were among
the first publishers to use market research and marketing techniques to control the market and gain
"You my sing a-bout your lil-iesHear this interesting song.
(He's Just Plain Ordinary Man But, sic.) Lord How He Can Love1909
Music by: Leo Edwards
Lyrics by: Ed. Madden
Cover artist: E. Herrington
Even though the powerhouse publishers of Tin Pan Alley were controlling much of what was being published, there still existed a large number of independent publishers who joined in to get a piece of the pie. One of the most common practices seemed to be that successful composers would break away and establish their own house. I imagine they did so for two reasons. First, as stated in our essays this month and last, there were enormous amounts of money to be made through the music business, million sellers were not uncommon during these days. Secondly, I think a large number of composers wanted more personal control over what they composed and what was ultimately published.
Music by: Harry Von Tilzer
Lyrics by: Andrew B. Sterling
Cover artist: unsigned
Another of the great composers of this period to establish his own publishing house was Harry Von Tilzer
b. July 8, 1872, Detroit, MI, d. Jan. 10. 1946, New York, NY nee: Harry Gumm. Harry, one of five children, was to find a career in music as did his younger brother Albert. When still a child, his family moved to Indianapolis, IN, where he father acquired a shoe store. A theatrical company gave performances in the loft above the store, and that's where Harry learned to love show business. His career really started in 1886 when, at age 14, he ran away from home and joined the Cole Brothers Circus. By 1887, he was playing piano, composing songs, and acting in a traveling repertory company. He changed his name at that time. His mother's maiden name was Tilzer, and he 'gussied' it up by adding the 'Von'
. Thereafter he would be called Harry Von Tilzer, and later his younger brother Albert would adopt
the name also. Harry met Lottie Gilson when the burlesque troupe with which he was working reached
Chicago. The popular vaudevillian took an interest, and induced him to go to New York. In 1892,
Harry, working as a groom on a trainload of horses, arrived in New York, with just $1.65 in his
pocket. He rented a room near the Brooklyn Bridge and became a $15.00 per week saloon pianist. He
left New York briefly to work in a traveling medicine show, but returned to again work in saloons
and later as a vaudevillian in a 'Dutch' act with George Sidney. At this time, Harry was writing songs
, literally hundreds of songs that were never published. He would sell them outright to other
entertainers for $2.00 each. But the tide was about to turn for Harry. One of his songs was
published, "My Old New Hampshire Home", lyric by Andrew B. Sterling. William C. Dunn, owner of a
small print shop, purchased it outright for $15.00, and issued it in 1898. It was a hit that sold
more than 2 million copies. In 1899, three more of Von Tilzer's songs were published: "I'd Leave My
Happy Home for You", lyric by Will A. Heelan "I Wonder If She's Waiting", lyric by Andrew B.
Sterling "Where The Sweet Magnolias Grow" The success of "My Old New Hampshire Home" induced Maurice
Shapiro of Shapiro-Bernstein Music Publishers to make Von Tilzer a partner, and the firm was re-named
'Shapiro, Bernstein and Von Tilzer'. Harry then wrote his next hit in 1900. 1900 "A Bird In A
Gilded Cage", lyric Arthur A. Lamb. In 1902, Von Tilzer quit the partnership and formed his own firm
'Harry Von Tilzer Music Company'.
I'm From Missouri (And You Gotter Show Me)1902
Music & Lyrics by: Fred W. Vanderpool
Cover artist: "J.H."
One of the other most influential publishers
who established Tin Pan Alley was M. Whitmark & Sons. Founded by Isadore Whitmark around 1885,
Whitmark was one of the most prominent publishers during the next 40 - 50 years. Interestingly,
I have been unable to find any biographical information on Whitmark or the company. Like so many
others from the period, they seem to have simply disappeared. The same goes for the composer of this
work. Though I have several works by Fred Vanderpool in my collection, I was not able to find out
anything about him either.
"There are a number of stories and legends behind Missouri's sobriquet "Show-Me" state. The slogan is not official, but is common throughout the state and is used on Missouri license plates. The most widely known legend attributes the phrase to Missouri's US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. While a member of the US House Committee on Naval Affairs, Vandiver attended an 1899 naval banquet in Philadelphia. In a speech there, he declared, "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." Regardless of whether Vandiver coined the phrase, it is certain that his speech helped to popularize the saying. Other versions of the "Show-Me" legend place the slogan's origin in the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. There, the phrase was first employed as a term of ridicule and reproach. A miner's strike had been in progress for some time in the mid-1890s, and a number of miners from the lead districts of southwest Missouri had been imported to take the places of the strikers. The Joplin miners were unfamiliar with Colorado mining methods and required frequent instructions. Pit bosses began saying, "That man is from Missouri. You'll have to show him." However the slogan originated, it has since passed into a different meaning entirely, and is now used to indicate the stalwart, conservative, noncredulous character of Missourians."Yet another novelty song, this one is less humorous in its use of offensive racial stereotypes and language in the opening stanzas. However, the chorus is cheerful enough.
"I'm from Mis-sou-ri And you got-ter show meThis song will "show ya"
Shine On Harvest Moon1908
Music by: Nora Bayes-Norworth
Lyrics by: Jack Norworth
Cover artist: "Parry"
Jerome Remick was born on Nov. 15, 1868 and died
July 15, 1931, he is buried in Detroit Michigan. He founded, Jerome H. Remick & Sons in Detroit
and established an office in New York in the heart of Tin Pan Alley. Remick was another of the most
influential publishers of Tin Pan Alley. Oddly enough, hours of searching Detroit Newspaper archives
and the New York Times archives (on-line) turned up nothing more than a photo of Remick's headstone
in a Detroit cemetery. Remick along with the other pioneering publishers have seemed to disappear of
the face of the earth. We do know that Remick's played a key role in the development of popular
music and that many of America's greatest composers got their start there. One of the luminaries was
George Gershwin who when he was fifteen, persuaded his skeptical mother to allow him to leave school
and he took a job as a song-plugger at Remick's in the heart of Tin Pan Alley. George learned the
business quickly, and just as quickly became bored with the ordinary quality of the material he had
to play all day. He even had a song published, "When You Want 'Em You Can't Get 'Em," for which he
received the grand sum of $5.
"Oh, shine on, shine on harvest moon, up in the sky.Hear this great American classic song If you have not already visited our essay on Tin Pan Alley, now is a great time to do so. Thanks for stopping by this month.
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