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The Music Of Chas. K. Harris, Part 2

 




There Is No Flag Like The Red, White and Blue

1898

 

Music by: Chas. K. Harris, arr. Clauder
Lyrics by: Harris
Cover artist: unknown

 

By now, I'm sure you are thinking that Harris was a one dimensional songwriter, sadness, death, misery and pain. But, he did write a few songs that were upbeat and positive and among them this may be the best of all. A wonderful patriotic song, it resonates today with a feeling of pride and love for the American flag and America. Like most of his earlier works, Jos. Clauder is credited with "arranging" the music, however, it is most likely that Clauder wrote the music as Harris could not read or write music. For more about Harris, be sure to see our special biography on Chas. K. Harris in our "in search of" series.

Harris starts the song off with a bugle call and drum simile and then smartly moves into a march like theme that sets the tone for the work. Musically, I find this an interesting work and Harris has created a jaunty and memorable tune that I'm sure was popular for a while. Written during the Spanish American War, the song was no doubt partly inspired by that conflict as was a rewrite of Break The News To Mother.

 

Enjoy this Harris patriotic song now (SCORCH format)

listen to MIDI version

There's Another Picture In My Mamma's Frame

1907

 

Music by: Charles K. Harris, arr. Clauder
Lyrics by: Harris
Cover artist: unknown

 

Interestingly, by 1907 it seems that Harris has rejoined Clauder and we again see songs attributed to Clauder as arranger. Perhaps Harris was looking to recapture earlier successes as by now, he had few if any big hits. His music did sell moderately well, but he never again recaptured the huge success of After The Ball, Break The News To Mother and Hello Central Give Me Heaven. Also, interestingly, we have a return to the idea of the dead mother and a child trying to cope with it.

Similar to Always In The Way, we have a child whose mother has been replaced by a stepmother and now even her mother's picture is gone from the wall. Harris has returned us to the pathos of earlier times with a vengeance! And also, again, we have a lilting, child like melody that conveys the image of a child singing. Though never a big hit, this song does show Harris' talent at matching words and the story they tell with a melody.

 

Hear this great sad song (scorch format)

listen to MIDI version

 


Can You Pay? (For A Broken Heart)

1915

Music by: Charles K. Harris
Lyrics by: Coleman
Cover artist: unknown

 

Harris was a firm believer in the idea that a song should tell a story and as you have seen, he carried that idea throughout his songwriting career. This song is no exception. Harris takes us back to the "lost love" theme with another heart breaker about a woman who has been hurt by a man who asks her to "take him back" after years of pain. She asks him if he can pay her for that pain and the sorrow his actions caused her, she asks:

Can you pay for a wasted life?
Can you pay for the years of sorrow and tears?
Can you pay that I'm not your wife?..
Can you pay for a broken heart?

Again we see works that are attributed only to Harris, Clauder is missing now and does not appear to again team up with Harris. Very little can be found about Clauder other than he was from Wisconsin and he appears to have never written any songs on his own or in collaboration with any other songwriter. There is evidence that he was a band leader and wrote at least one instrumental march, the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1891. In addition he is credited with some other band and orchestral music. Clauder had his own band and a quintet inside under the direction of violinist Herman Kelbe. I know there is a really interesting story behind their collaboration but I've been unable to find it. If any of our visitors can help unearth the details, let us know and we will be sure to publish it.

 

Listen to this Harris rarity (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

 

Come Back (Let's Be Sweethearts Once More)

1916

Music by: Charles K. Harris
Lyrics by: Harris
Cover artist: Starmer

The cover of this Harris work is stunning in it's departure from the more restrained covers of most Harris works. In many respects, it looks like a Carrie Jacobs-Bond cover. Bond's covers almost all had a rose motif and when I first saw this cover, I thought it was a Bond song and was quite surprised to see that it was actually a Harris work. Of course, the music within is still vintage Harris. Once again, a song of lost love and remorse for past transgressions as someone pleads for a past love to come back to them.

Though I have been able to find plenty of information about Harris' public and professional life, little is said about his personal life. I can't help but wonder what events in his life shaped him and how they affected his music. As we have seen in this feature, there seem to be three recurring themes in his music:

  • Death
  • Lost Love
  • Childhood loss and separation

Almost all my sources simply say "he spent his boyhood in Milwaukee", again, perhaps a relative or music scholar can help us shed more light on this interesting founding father of Tin Pan Alley.

 

Hear this great Harris song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version

 


Danger! In Your Eyes

1923

Music by: Charles K. Harris
Lyrics by: Harris
Cover artist: unknown

Our last offering for this feature is perhaps one of Harris' last songs. Harris died in 1930 at only 63 and was 56 when this song was written. His heyday was from the 90's through the teens of the twentieth century and his popularity waned as music changed and the tear jerker was less interesting to the public. In many respects, Harris' music stayed rooted in his earliest style and in the style of the 90's and early 00's. Musical tastes continued to change and though we can see an evolution in his music, we also can still see the same style and concept of story telling that made him so successful. I've found this song to be rather ordinary and not at all up to Harris' earlier standards. It is a nice waltz tune and it conveys some nice thoughts but it is clear, the storytelling Harris of old has departed.

 

Charles K. Harris changed the nature of American popular music and set a standard for popularity by publishing the first ever million selling hit song. His business acumen, creativity and innovation established him as one of the founding fathers of America's Tin Pan Alley. His ideas and innovations were adopted by many publishers and songwriters and it can be said, arguably perhaps, that Harris is the man most responsible for the emergence of the popular song industry in America.

 

Enjoy this late Harris work(scorch)

Listen to MIDI version

 

That's it for this month's feature, as always, we hope you have enjoyed the music and learned something from it. If You have not already done so, please visit our biography of Charles K. Harris. In that biography there are several more songs to see and hear including Harris' first song and the hit, Break The News To Mother. As for next month, we will have a new feature about classical themes in the parlor. Many famous musical works by the classical masters were adapted and published for home use, we will offer a sampling of some of the best from our collection. Even if you are not a "classical" music fan, we think you will find the issue interesting and entertaining.

If you would like to return to part A of this month's issue, click here.



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