Friday, August 24, 2012

Stepping Back in Time

I got off to a poor start this morning, having accidentally deleted a number of past blogs accidentally.   Not that they were important in content, but now I have no reference to see if I have covered a subject.  You may not know the story of my stash of sheet music. I have about 300 pieces, plus several old books. The Portland newspaper used to have a column called "Clearing House" which was a wonderful way to let others know if you needed or wanted something, and also to let people know if you had something to give away.    I put an item in that column saying I would like old sheet music.  I never dreamed how much was stashed in "mother's trunk" in attics and garages.   It came to me by the box-full.  I have given away much of the really difficult piano pieces to accomplished musicians, but I have kept over 300 pieces.  Plus several old "collection books."

I have on my desk, among a clutter of other books and papers, a book which says:
          Favorits of Mother and Dad
         Edward B. Marks Collection of Old Time Hits
           of the Gay Eightiesand Nineties
   for Home ~ Community ~ Song Fest ~ Dances
  the price is 74 cs.        Edward R. Marks Music Corporation
                                          RCA Building - radio City
                                               New York
Made in U.S.A.


At the top of each song there are a few words about the composer or performer.   

Jennie Linsay wrote "Always Take Mother's Advice"  Jennie was a popular music hall performer and composer. She wrote the ballad in 1884.  this was known as a "motto"  song, a style which was popular at the time.

An Englishman named Harry Dacre wrote "A Bicycle Built for Two" which has become a standard favorite at sing-alongs in nursing homes and senior facilities.  He also wrote "As Your Hair Grows Whiter" which is a short poem of devotion.

The next song is "The Boston Burglar"  written by M J. Fitzpatrick.  I tried to find out whether this was a fiction or fact ballad to no avail.  The lyrics tell the story of a man who, in spite of a good family background and a maiden at home, fell into bad company and ended up in the "pen-i-ten-tai-ry" in Charleston, Mass.   But, he is vowing to go straight when he has servedhis twenty years!

"Daisies Won't Tell" is another brief poem set to music in Waltz time, writtenby Anita Owen.  There is a great biography of Anita on the internet.  She worte dozens of songs, many of them about flowers including "Daisies Could Tell"   "Only a Bunch of Daisies"  "Only a Rose Bud"  "Only a Bunch of Violets"  "Just a Chain of Daisies"
"Pretty Pansies"  "When The Dew Is On The Rose".   But not all of her songs were about flowers. She wrote and sold her first song at age 15, sold it for $5.   Anita Owen was born in 1874 and died in 1932 after a "brief illness of pneumonia."  

"Everybody Works But Father" is a tongue in cheek piece by Samuel Lehman. who wrote for Broadway in the early 1900's.  It iwas among the first written about "fathers" and came originally from England, according to the information I was able find.   "...It keeps the old man very busy steering clear of work...."    cute song.

A team of Braisted and Carter (who  also used Berdan &; Redcliffe) were grads of Yale selling advertising to a music publisher.  They overheard a man (James Thornton) making a deal with the publisher for $50 for a mnauscript.  Impressed, they set about writing several songs that became popular in  1880's.  And their first "Bred in Old Kentucky" was a hit.  Strangely, in this publication of Marks, only the first page of this song is included.   Marks chose "The Girl I Loved In Sunny Tennessee"  and mentioned "Whispre Your Mother's Name" and "You're Not The Only Pebble On The Beach."   

According to the notes on this next piece,  (remember this publication is dated 1932) "one cannot go to the movies today wihout seeing a newsreel in which there is usually a horse race. During the race the orchestra inevitably plays George Rosey's "Handicap March" probably the best-liked fast march in the world.   I wanted to listen to it, but never got to a site that had an audio version.   Unfortunately, the connotation today mostly refers to handicapped people and the marches for their benefit.  A perfect example of how vernacular changes with the time and circumstances.

Anna Held, who was Florenz Ziegfeld's wife for a time, sang "It's Delightful to be Married!"    V. Scotto wrote the music and she the lyrics.  It's a cute optimistic young-love song.  "I will be your loving husband, your will be my loving wife."  So much for that; they didn't stay married very long.

In the minstrel days, Ren Shields and George "Honeyboy" Evans were a celebrated  pair.   They wrote "In The Good Old Summertime" and the song was introduced  in 1902 by Blanche Ring in the musical comedy "The Defender."   Amazingly it is still a favorite at all sing-along events in nursing homes and  senior centers and probably always will be.  

Ballads of undying love seem a little outdated now with our dismal record of divorce in America. A collaboration between Sylvester Maguire and Alfred Solman produced an enormously popoular song in 1908 called "If I Had A Thousand Lives to Live" and of course, the vow was  "...I'd live them all for you."    It's written in an unusual 12/8 time.

A little good advice from Dave Marion is "It's Not What You Were, It's What You Are To-Day".   Never tell them what you were once upon a time - Don't speak of thousands that you had when you were in your prime."  It refers to money - not girl friends!  Dave Marion was a BIG burlesque figure when that style of entertainment was in it's prime.  He toured with his own troupe and created "Snuffy, the Cab Driver", a very popular comedic character. 

Helene Mora was a female baritone.   She wrote the song "Kathleen" and was known for creating great harmony in her music.  "Kathleen" was a popular quartette piece even even before "Sweet Adeline." 
"Mid shady lane and meadow green, I long to roam with sweet Kathleen."   Mora copyrighted her song in 1894 but Marks, who was the third copyrighter, did so in 1932. 

In 1917 Gilbert and Friedland wrote what is considered the "original nut song".  The legend has it that it was written originally to be a serious love song but became a favorite in its day.  "Be my Lily, I'll be your Forget-me-not."

A team of Charles R.McCarron and Carey Morgan, who was in the Navy, wrote a "nut song" called "OH HELEN!"   It is a stuttering song, which gave comics a wonderful piece of material.   Sadly, McCarron died young, and just as his career was getting established. 

 "The Little Lost Child" (dedicated to Miss Minnie Schult), was written by Jos. W. Stern and Edw. B. Marks.  They were two travelling men who met in a small country town. It sold a million copies.  It established the Edward B. Marks Music Co. (which had formerly been Stern & Co.) in 1894.  In their 34 years of business they copyrighted (?) 10,771 pieces of music.  This song was the first ever to be produced with illustrated slides.

A collaboration of three men created "My Own Iona" (moi-One0Inoae) which is a Hawaiian song, but never mentions Honolulu or Waikiki.
But it does mention Mauna Loa---"...My ukelele played the Mauna Loa gayly..."

Gilbert and Friedland wrote a number pieces together.  You know, they wrote the "nut" song I mentioned earlier.   "My Sweet Adair" is in this collection; they also wrote "Romona", "Shades of Night", "My Little Dream Girl", "Hawaiian Sunshine" and ----"Waiting for the Robert E. Lee."    "..Adair, my sweet Adair - I dare you to be mine."

An incident in a restaurant during which a rude customer was rebuked by a spunky waitress prompted Marks and Stern to write "My Mother Was A Lady".  It was realll only half a song, so they finished it off with
"My Hannah Lady"  which changes the tempo from a Waltz to a Fox Trot for the ending.  

Moth And The Flame was the name of a theater production in the early 1900's.   It starred Effie Shannon and Herbert Kelsey and inspired a song by the same name.  It's a waltz which tells of a moth (maid ) who fluttered too close to a flame (man with bad heart) to her shame.   But she "flutter'd away just in time, so they say, that's the tale of the moth and the flame."  

John Stromberg, musical director at Weber and Fields Music Hall, wrote "My Best Girl's A New Yorker."  It's short and bouncy (although 3/4 time) and became one of those many "singable" songs of the early 20th Century.  

As did "Oh, Didn't He Ramble" written by Will Handy who was actually Bob Cole of Cole and Johnson. But "Ramble" fell into the genre of "low down" songs. Bob Cole also collaborated with James Weldon Johnson to write "Under The BambooTree".   Johnson was a statesman, "man of letters", an authority on spiritual and Negro art.  And obviously, adept at creating music.  "Bamboo" was copyrighted in 1902, but the right was later assigned to Marks.

Banks Winter wrote a song titled White Wings in 1884.  It is a simple,short song. I'm not sure what the meaning is, but the Young Women's Christian Association adopted it as their official song.  I was once a member of that organizaiton and do not recall ever hearing it.Certainly never sang it!

M. H. Rosenfeld copyrighted a song in 1888 called "With All Her Faults I Love Her Still."  There are few other words in the song, but then with those lyrics, little else needs to be said.  

The last song in Marks' collection is "Where the Sunset Turns The Ocean's Blue To Gold".    Eva Fern Buckner wrote the poem, and H. W. Petrie put them to music. 

I don't know where Eva watched the sunset turn the ocean's blue to gold, but I have seen it from Maine, Florida, Hawaii and  Puerto Rico.
It doesn't really matter what ocean it's a beautiful end to a day.

The incomparable music of the old masters, Bach, Chopin, Haydn - whatever you enjoy - are lovely listening pieces.  But lyrics tell more of a story the mores of the times.  

No matter what you like, keep enjoying it.   And if you happen on an old piece of music, frayed and well worn treat it kindly please.


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