More Songs About Ireland and The Irish, Page 2


This is a continuation of the March, 2002 Feature, if you missed page one, check the link at the end of this page.

When It's Moonlight In Mayo


Music by: Percy Wenrich
Lyrics by: Jack Mahoney
Cover artist: Starmer


County Mayo in Ireland Stretching from Lough Corrib in the south to Killala Bay in the north, boasts many attractions including stunning mounting scenery, megalithic tombs, excellent fishing waters, exciting hiking trails and golf courses - including the championship course at Westport in west Mayo. Sharing its name with the County the hamlet of Mayo is located between Claremorris and Castlebar. An historic area, Mayo is populated with castles, cathedrals, fortresses and archaeological sites. Also in county Mayo is the Knock Shrine, the scene of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John on 21 August 1879, witnessed by fifteen local people. Ever since then it has been a place of devotion and pilgrimage. Numerous miracles have been recorded at Knock. Rich in natural beauty, history and Irish heritage, it is no wonder that Moonlight in Mayo would be worth writing a song about. One mystery though would be how Percy Wenrich (born Joplin, Mo.) and Jack Mahoney (born Buffalo, New York) would have known of its charms? Of course, first hand knowledge of any subject is not necessarily important for a versatile songwriter or lyricist and these two were giants of the times.


Musically, this is an interesting work. Wenrich used arpeggiated chords almost completely throughout the song's chorus and though they often add charm and emphasis in a song, I think that the arpeggios are very much overdone in this work. Regardless, the verse melody and chorus make for a delightful listen and I think these two have captured the essence of the classic Irish ballad from the period.


Percy Wenrich. (b. Jan. 23, 1887, Joplin, MO, d. 1952, NYC). Wenrich wrote a number of hit songs many of which were of the rag genre see The Smiler (Scorch format) in our catalog for one of his best. Wenrich, came from a musical family. His mother taught him to play the organ and the piano while he was still a child. A little later, he would write melodies and his father would write the lyrics. Often, his songs were heard at conventions and political rallies. When he was 21 years old, he enrolled in the Chicago Music College, and while there had two of his songs published by a Chicago publisher; Ashy Africa and Just Because I'm From Missouri" Among his biggest hits were: 1909, Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet( Scorch format), lyric Stanley Murphy, 1912 Moonlight Bay (Scorch format), lyric by Edward Madden, 1914 When You Wore A Tulip, (Scorch format) lyric by Jack Mahoney. In 1914 he scored the Broadway show Crinoline Girl and in 1921 the Broadway show The Right Girl, 1926 the Broadway show Castles in the Air and in 1930 scored the Broadway show Who Cares?. He was married to the famous performer, Dolly Connelly and performed with her in vaudeville. For more information, see our complete biography of Wenrich from our "In Search Of" series.


Jack Mahoney was born in Buffalo New York in 1882 and died in New York City in 1945. Mahoney's greatest lyrics hit was When You Wore A Tulip, (Scorch format) with Percy Wenrich but as one of the early 20th century's more popular lyricists, he also wrote a number of other popular (at that time) works including, Kentucky Days (MIDI, 1912), A Ring On The Finger Is Worth Two On The Phone (1911), On A Monkey Honeymoon (1909) and While Others Are Building Castles In The Air in 1919.


Listen to this Irish ballad (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version




She's The Daughter Of Mother Machree


Music by: Ernest R. Ball
Lyrics by: Jeff. T. Nenarb
Cover artist: Unknown

If Chauncey Olcott was the king of Irish ballads, sure'n Ernest R. Ball was the crown prince. In 1910, Ball co wrote the music to the song Mother Machree with Olcott with lyrics by Rida Johnson Young. The song was a huge hit and immediately Ball was established as a premiere writer of Irish Ballads. In 1915, we see Ball continuing to trade off the popularity of Mother Machree with this spin-off song. Though no where near as popular as the original, this song still enjoyed a strong popularity and was recorded by a number of popular performers of the era. An interesting note about to this work is the lyricist's name, Jeff Nenarb. Nenarb was actually Jeff Branen who chose to reverse his name, probably due to contractual obligations. We have seen this with other songs from the period. Often, composers and lyricists were under exclusive contract with a publishing house and could not compose or write for another. By using a false name, they could get around the limitations. Irving Berlin did it in 1913 with the song Pullman Porters On Parade under the name of Ren G. May ( an anagram of Germany the capital of which was..Berlin) shown in our feature on music art by E. H. Pfeiffer .


Ernest R. Ball (b. July 21, 1878 Cleveland, OH. d. May 3, 1927 Santa Ana, CA)
Ball was precocious in music from the start. He was given music instruction at the Cleveland Conservatory, and as early as age 13 began giving music lessons to others. Today he is noted mostly as one of America's best loved composers of Irish songs and is often called the American Tosti (Francesco Paolo Tosti, 1846-1916, a prolific and talented Italian song composer and teacher.) Though he was famed as a composer of Irish tunes, he wrote many other "mainstream" songs, actually, many more than his "Irish" output.


In 1905, Ball was in New York City and working as a relief pianist at the Union Square Theater and later worked in Tin Pan Alley at the Whitmark publishing house as a song demonstrator. Ball remained a loyal employee of Whitmark for the rest of his life in spite of the fact that his fame would have allowed him to establish his own house. Ball's early attempts at composing were self described as "flops." In 1904 he wrote In The Shadow Of The Pyramids with Cecil Mack. Introduced by the dynamic and popular May Irwin, that song was also a flop. In 1905 he was given a few verses written by the then state Senator, James J. Walker, who later became famous as Jimmy Walker, Mayor of New York City. He put one of the verses to music, and called it Will You Love Me In December as You Do In May?. It became a national hit. This song caused Ball to reassess his approach and in he later recounted that he realized this song had "come from the heart" where his earlier songs had been fabricated and structured. Ball said, "Then and there I determined I would write honestly and sincerely of the things I knew about and that folks generally knew about and were interested in."


From that beginning and from 1907 to 1910, Ball wrote a number of 'mainstream' songs that were moderately successful. But in 1910, a collaboration with Chauncey Olcott, changed his career. In that year, Ball wrote the Irish classic, Mother Machree. Two years later, in 1912 the lyricist of Mother Machree, Rida Johnson Young, joined him again to publish When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and his position as a writer of Irish ballads was cemented forever. He wrote hundreds of songs over his career, many Irish, many not and it is said his output amounted to over 25 million copies of sheet music sold. His last song published was appropriately, Irish, the 1927 hit Rose of Killarney with lyrics by William Davidson.


Ball also enjoyed a long career in vaudeville as a singer of his own ballads. During later appearances, he costarred with his wife, Maude Lambert. In 1927, A few minutes after his act on a Santa Ana, California vaudeville theater, he suffered a fatal heart attack and died, just 49 years old. Fittingly, he had just performed a medley of his greatest hits as a recap of his great musical accomplishments. On hearing of his death, the great Irish tenor John Mc Cormack said; "Ernie is not dead. He will live forever in his songs."

Ball was buried at Lake View Cemetery Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Ohio, USA

Hear and see this song(SCORCH format)

listen to MIDI version




I'm On My Way To Dublin Bay


Music by: Stanley Murphy
Lyrics by: Murphy
Cover artist: Starmer


As the capital of the Irish State, Dublin is the center of her government and a cultural center as well. In the 18th & 19th century, Dublin's bay served as the terminal of commerce and Ireland's main seaport. As such, Dublin bay was often the last thing seen by an emigrant and the first thing seen by someone returning home by sea. A beautiful and scenic area, it is no wonder that songs would be written about it and Dublin. In this case, we have a song written about a soldier, Michael Shea of the Dublin Fusiliers, who is on furlough and on his way home to Dublin marry, Molly, the girl he left behind. Clearly a song that is also about World War I, it is nonetheless, a song about Ireland and the beauty she offers to anyone who visits. This view of Dublin bay is from Ireland's web site and certainly shows why anyone would want to return. The song is a jaunty, almost military march with a great tune that captures the spirit of the event. At last, we also have a song written by a true Irishman and one who can speak authoritatively about Dublin.


Stanley Murphy was born in 1875 in Dublin, Ireland and died in 1919 in New York. Known mostly as a lyricist, Murphy did manage to compose a number of songs as well that were successful After his family emigrated to America, Murphy became a US citizen and started a successful career as a songwriter. His most famous work is Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet (Scorch format) from 1909 with music by Percy Wenrich. Among his other hits are; Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee (1912) , Malinda (1912) and Sugar Moon (1910), also with Wenrich.


Listen to and see this old song (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version




If I Knock The "L" Out of Kelly


Music by: Bert Grant
Lyrics by: Sam M. Lewis & Joe Young
Cover artist: Barbelle


Of course the Irish are known for their sense of humor among their many other talents and no survey of Irish music would be complete without a novelty song that speaks to that humor. This song originated in a stage musical show, Step This Way. Little has survived from that musical except perhaps random copies of this song.

Step This Way opened at the Shubert Theater in New York, May 29, 1916 and at the Astor Theater, on July 10th that same year. It had a rather short run of only 88 performances. It's production staff and cast were Broadway powerhouses of the time. Produced by the Brothers Shubert (Lee and J. J.) with music by E. Ray Goetz and Bert Grant and lyrics (book) by Edgar Smith and E. Ray Goetz, you would think it would have been more successful. But, music and Broadway can be fickle and even the best have their "flops" to deal with. This song is a wonderfully humorous song both lyrically and musically. The music has dynamics and melodic turns that add greatly to the story line which together make it a delightfully fun experience.


Sam M. Lewis (b. 1885, New York, NY, d. 1959, New York, NY )As with many songwriters, Lewis was a performer first and he sang gigs in nightclubs in New York before songwriting took over his life. Lewis was actively writing from 1912 through the 1930's. From 1916 into the 1930's, his principal collaborator was Joe Young, but he did write with some other well known composers including Walter Donaldson, Ted Fiorito and Harry Warren. Sam Lewis and Joe Young were a powerhouse Tin Pan Alley combination. They collaborated only on lyrics but the list of lasting hits for them is astounding. Among their many hits are; Rockabye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody 1918 , music by Jean Schwartz sung by Al Jolson in Broadway play 'Sinbad'; Dinah, with music by Harry Akst, from the Broadway show Sinbad starring Al Jolson later, also in Plantation Revue starring Ethel Waters; Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue, music by Ray Henderson and I'm Sitting on Top of the World, again with Ray Henderson's music (1926). Sam Lewis is a deserved inductee into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.


Joe Young (b. 1889, New York, N. Y., d. 1939, New York, N. Y. )
Joe Young was most active from 1911 through the late 1930's. Joe began his career working as a singer-songplugger for various music publishers. During WW1, he entertained the U.S. Troops. Starting in 1916, he and co-lyricist Sam M. Lewis worked as a team up until 1930. Among his earliest lyrics (without Lewis) were:
Don't Blame It All On Broadway; When The Angelus Was Ringing; Yaaka Hula, Hickey Dula, written with Pete Wendling & Ray Goetz and the great novelty song
Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday on Saturday Night? an Al Jolson favorite. In 1930, Young and Lewis collaborated with composer Harry Warren on
an early talking motion picture Spring is Here. It was one of the Young and Lewis team's last projects together. From 1930 on, Young mostly wrote lyrics by himself and continued writing nearly to his death with his last known songs published around 1935. Joe Young is a member of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.


Hear this great old melody (scorch format)

listen to MIDI version



Macnamara's Band


Music by: Shamus O'Connor
Lyrics by: John J. Stamford
Cover artist: unknown


Another wonderfully humorous and fun Irish song is Macnamara's Band. I think many kids from my generation sang this song and like many popular novelty songs, we added our own lyrics. Not that we needed to because the original lyrics are both perfectly matched to the music and sufficiently nonsensical in spots to satisfy anyone's musical funny bone. First introduced and recorded in England, it did not take long for this song to jump across the pond and become an American favorite. Often recorded, often by major stars such as Crosby, it has remained a staple of the Irish song genre ever since.


Bing Crosby recorded this song in 1945, Backed by the Jesters and the Bob Haggart Orchestra, the recording sold more than a million copies and spent 10 weeks in the pop charts, reaching as high as No. 10. Our copy, though published in London states it is an "American Version" with lyrics by Red Latham, Wamp Carlson and Guy Bonham. Other performers have recorded it, including the musically murderous Spike Jones. A colossal hit, it appears to be the only song from the pen of both O'Connor and Stamford. I've been unable to find any information about either of them and all references point to just this one song.


There are four verses to the song and each one is a bit funnier than the last. For those of you who cannot access the scorch version, pull up the lyrics from the link below and sing along with the midi (also below.)


Hear this rousing Irish song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version



Pull The Cork Out Of Erin


Music by: Fred Fisher
Lyrics by: Addison Burkhardt
Cover artist: Photo by Hartsook

In 1916, the Easter uprising signaled the beginning of a revolution for Ireland's independence. In the General Election of December, 1918, the Irish electorate declared by an overwhelming majority its firm allegiance to the Irish Republic.
On January 21, 1919 the First Parliament of the Republic of Ireland issued a declaration of independence from England and asked for the removal of all British troops.

'We solemnly declare foreign government in Ireland to be an invasion of our national right which we will never tolerate, and we demand the evacuation of our country by the English Garrison:

'We claim for our national independence the recognition and support of every free nation in the world, and we proclaim that independence to be a condition precedent to international peace hereafter:

Of course there's much more more to the story.


This song was written in 1917 in anticipation of Ireland's independence and was no doubt very politically controversial at the time. In 1923 the first government of the Irish Free State was led by William T. Cosgrave of Cumann Na nGael. Their chief aim was to establish infrastructure and administration of the new state. Regardless of your political feelings on the subject, song has a nice melody and the lyrics are truly upbeat. The lady on the cover is the famed vaudevillian singer and comedienne, Nora Bayes. For information on Bayes, see the NYU history about her.


Fred Fischer (1875- 1942) was born in Cologne, Germany of American parents. Fisher ran away from home at age 13 and enlisted in the German Navy and later, the French Foreign Legion before coming to the US in 1900. He began composing in 1904 and also wrote the words to many of this songs. His first hit was If The Man In The Moon Were A Coon (1905). In 1907, he started his own publishing company with the lyricist of the song Norway , Joe Mc Carthy as a partner for a short time. In the 20's Fisher moved to Hollywood and wrote music for silent movies and early sound musicals.


Though early in his career he made his name through ethnic songs, later he made something out of geographic topics such as Norway, Siam (1915)and Chicago (1922). Fisher's music endured well into the forties and one of his songs, Peg O'My Heart (midi, 1913) has become a continuing classic. Fischer wrote it after seeing Laurette Taylor in the Broadway play of the same name and he dedicated it to Taylor. Though a very successful song when published, it was even more successful when it was recorded in 1947 by the Harmonicats and also by Peggy Lee. Sometime around the First World War, Fischer dropped the "c" from his name and used "Fisher" from then on to avoid the stigma of a Germanic name. Known as a contentious, eccentric and excitable person, one of his songs was involved in copyright litigation that continued from 1919 to the 1960's, more than 20 years after his death in NY in 1942. His music is best known for his musical comedic gifts and his ability to make quirky rhythms to highlight creative lyrics.


Enjoy this rare song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version



I Love To Hear A Good Old Irish Song


Music by: Walter Scanlon
Lyrics by: George A. Kershaw
Cover artist: unknown


Our final work for this month summarizes perhaps what many of us feel when it comes to hearing an Irish song. In the world of music, there are few ethnic songs that can be as beautiful, emotional and as uplifting as the songs about Ireland and the Irish. Irish songs seem to be some of the most loved songs in America and as such have had a major influence on American composers and lyricists. As you read through this month's feature, you may have noticed that few of the composers and lyricists were of Irish extraction and fewer still, in fact only two, Stanley Murphy and Shamus O'Connor, were actually born in Ireland. It is somewhat odd that one of the most revered composers of Irish songs was born in Cleveland, Ohio! Perhaps that is a testament to the attraction of Irish styled songs and their popularity in America, no matter what their source or veracity. All I know is that most of us love to hear a good old Irish song, and we'll all be celebrating the National Day of Ireland is St. Patrick's Day, celebrated by Irish communities all over the world on 17th March.


Sadly, though Scanlon and Kershaw's sentiments agree with me and probably many of you as well, next to nothing can be found about them or their careers in any of the references available to us. Perhaps someone can come forward and fill in the blanks for us. In the meanwhile, thanks for visiting us and reading this month's issue.


Listen to this Irish song(scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version




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