Home Songs, Page 2


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

When You're A Long, Long Way From Home


Music by: George W. Meyer
Lyrics by: Sam M. Lewis
Cover artist: De Takacs


On our first page of this month's feature we looked at the idea of "Home Sweet Home" and how that idea was used in many a song over a period of many decades. On our second page, we look at songs that express our feelings about being away from home, returning home and in at least one case, staying at home.


In time, all of us must leave home, sometimes for a long time, sometimes forever. In most cases, when we leave home we long to return. Homesickness (see Heimweh on page 1 of this feature) is a real feeling and of course, one way to express those feelings is through music. Meyer and Lewis have done a masterful job of finding the words and music that express the feelings that you have when away from home and missing those you love, at least during those days (1914).


George W. Meyer (b. 1884 Boston, Mass.- d. 1959 New York, NY) was one of the more prolific composers of the period with many, many hits to his credit that spanned many years. Meyer's biggest hit was probably For Me and My Gal in 1917 but he also wrote many favorites that have lasted such as; My Song Of The Nile, Lonesome, My Mother's Rosary and the great novelty song Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday on Saturday Night?


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 B'way 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.


Listen to this home ballad (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version




Coming Home


Music by: Charles Willeby
Lyrics by: D. Eardley-Wilmot
Cover artist: unknown

Hopefully, for most of us who stray from home, we eventually return. Depending on how far and long we ventured, homecoming can be a meaningful and emotional moment. In this song, Willeby and Wilmot have created one of the most expressive songs possible. Musically it is full of emotion and feeling. Lyrically, it says a lot with few words. Relatively short and through composed rather than strophic, I've picked this song as the song of the month for this month's feature. A strophic work uses a melody over and again for repeats of verses or a chorus. A through composed song simply goes straight through with no repeats of the melodic sections. Coming Home may have been Willeby's most popular work and it was recorded several times including a 1919 Edison Diamond disc.

Charles Willeby (1865 - ??) An Englishman, his songs were popular during the early years of this century; they include titles like Little pilgrim (A child's fancy), published 1907; Crossing the Bar, The Fortune Hunter, Summer Rain, Autumn Days, The Sea Gipsy, Coming Home and Flower Fetters plus the cycles Bow Bells: Five London Silhouettes and the (three) Songs of the Madonna. . Willeby was also a music critic and writer and wrote a biographical work about Gilbert & Sullivan circa 1893. In his notes for that work, he commented about one of their less performed works, The Sorcerer, and said; "the style of the entertainment was so novel, that people did not understand it at first, and the opera was only fairly successful." Willeby also wrote a Chopin biography, Frederic Francois Chopin, published in Edinburgh, 1902. A broadly talented man, Willeby also dabbled in Ragtime, producing at least one Ragtime style work, his 1905 The Silver Lining, using a poem by James Whitcomb Riley.


Hear and see this song(SCORCH format)

listen to MIDI version




I'm Afraid To Come Home In The Dark


Music by: Egbert Van Alstyne
Lyrics by: Harry Williams
Cover artist: Starmer


Not everyone wants to come home, sometimes for good reason, sometimes not. Here we have a hilarious novelty song from 1907 that speaks to a philandering husband who strays from home and comes up with a rather absurd excuse to explain his all night absences. In the best novelty song tradition, he gets his comeuppance from a rather clever wife who turns the tables on him and manages to leave him home alone using the same excuse.

A typically upbeat Van Alstyne song, it is clever and funny. Notice yet another example of a musical quote from Home, Sweet Home near the end of the chorus. Be sure you've got the Sibelius "Scorch" player to both see the lyrics and music as the song plays. For those of you unable to use the player, you can look at the lyrics using the link below. The somewhat dour prima donna on the cover is Bessy Sheer whom I've been unable to find any information about.


Egbert Van Alstyne (b. Chicago, Ill 1882 - d. Chicago, 1951) A musical prodigy, he played the organ at the Methodist Church in Marengo, Illinois when only seven! Schooled in the public school system in Chicago and at Cornell College in Iowa, he won a scholarship to the Chicago Musical College. After graduation, he toured as a pianist and director of stage shows and performed in vaudeville. In 1902 he went to New York and worked as a staff pianist for a publisher in Tin Pan Alley and began to devote himself to writing songs teamed with Harry Williams as his lyricist. The teams first success cam in 1903 with Navajo, one of the earliest commercial songs to exploit Indian themes. They wrote two more "Indian Songs"; Cheyenne in 1906 and San Antonio in 1907. In 1905 they produced one of the greatest songs of that early decade, In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree which sold several million copies. For several years, the team cranked out hit after hit and music for two Broadway musicals, A Broken Doll in 1909 and Girlies in 1910.


Listen to and see this great novelty song (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version




We'll Have A Jubilee In My Old Kentucky Home


Music by: Walter Donaldson
Lyrics by: Coleman Goetz
Cover artist: Barbelle

I suppose one thing that can be done when we arrive home is throw a party, and that is exactly what Walter Donaldson & Coleman Goetz had in mind with this upbeat song. Trading on Foster's My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!, they do quote a musical phrase from Foster's song in the chorus. The pair in the inset photo on the cover are Ward & Howell, a vaudeville team from the period.


A popular song at the time, it was recorded in 1915 by the Peerless Quartet. Originally the Columbia Quartet which became the Peerless Quartet in 1912. For the next 10-15 years, the Quartet and its later offshoot, the Sterling Trio, became one of the most popular recording groups in America, recording hundreds of 78's of popular songs. Some estimates of the number of records made by Henry Burr, the manager of the group and his ensembles (Peerless Quartet and Sterling Trio) reach over 10,000.


Walter Donaldson (1893 - 1947)
Born in Brooklyn, New York. was one of the most prolific American popular song writers of the twentieth century. He wrote more than 600 songs in his long career. He composed most of his best during the years between the two World Wars, when he collaborated with many of the best known lyricists of his day (among them Gus Kahn, Edgar Leslie, Bud de Sylva, and Johnny Mercer), but he also wrote many of his own lyrics, such as for At Sundown, Little White Lies, and You're Driving Me Crazy.


Donaldson inherited a certain amount of musical skill as both of his parents were musically inclined. Though he received no formal training in music, he began by writing songs and music for school productions. After graduation from High School, he went to work in a brokerage house on Wall Street. Soon after, he became a "song plugger" on Tin Pan Alley but was fired for writing songs on company time. His first published song, Back Home In Tennessee, (MIDI) in 1915 was an immediate hit and he published two other hits that same year; You'd Never Know The Old Home-Town of Mine and We'll Have A Jubilee In My Old Kentucky Home.


During the First World War, Donaldson performed as an entertainer at Camp Upton New York and he wrote a number of war related songs including Don't Cry Frenchy (Scorch format) and How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm (Scorch format). After the war Donaldson joined Irving Berlin's firm and stayed with them for a decade. It was this period that Donaldson wrote his biggest and most lasting hits. His Jolson song, My Mammy set the stage for his rise and then his collaboration with Gus Kahn beginning in 1922 established him (and their team) as one of America's greatest songwriters. Some of the hits they generated during this period were; Carolina In The Morning, My Buddy, Yes Sir, That's My Baby, Makin' Whoopee and My Baby Just Cares For Me. Like many songwriters of the period, as soon as movies began incorporating sound, Donaldson went to Hollywood to produce music for the movies and he contributed a number of songs to movies including, Follow The Boys and The Great Ziegfeld.


Donaldson also collaborated with a number of other lyricists, a list of which reads like a who's who of American popular music; Billy Rose, Lew Brown, Howard Johnson, Ballard MacDonald and George Whiting with whom he wrote My Blue Heaven. In 1928 Donaldson resigned from the Berlin organization and formed his own publishing house (Donaldson, Douglas and Gumble). By 1946, Donaldson was plagued with illness and he withdrew from all activities. He died in Santa Monica, California on July 15, 1947.


Donaldson's music lives on today, over a half century since his passing. Many of his songs have been, and still are recorded and the singers who have recorded his songs include the greatest singers of our times including Frank Sinatra, Fats Domino, George Shearing, Django Reinhardt, Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald, Bix Beiderbecke, and Louis Armstrong.

Hear this great old melody (scorch format)

listen to MIDI version



I Love To Stay At Home


Music by: Irving Berlin
Lyrics by: Berlin
Cover artist: Barbelle


Another of our Nest Magazine featured covers. Nest magazine specifically asked for this one as the cover artwork shows a parlor from the period. A great cover, it is one of Barbelle's better works. Barbelle's covers abound and his works seem inconsistent. Often we see covers like this one that are exquisite in detail and others that are almost amateur in their appearance. Much of that may have been due to his success as one of the most prolific cover artists. He was undoubtedly in demand and may have been rushed in his production of covers, thus sometimes compromising quality.


As for the music, it is a typical Berlin piece, his style is almost unmistakable. The lyrics bring clear images of home and combine with the melody to give us a fun and musically enjoyable experience. This could be my theme song, I'm a home body and I too, Love to stay at home.


Irving Berlin. Born Isidore Baline in Temun, Russia, in 1888, Berlin moved to New York City with his family in 1893. He published his first work, Marie of Sunny Italy in 1907 at age 19 and immediately had his first hit on his hands. It was at that time he changed his name to Irving Berlin. His total royalties for this first song amounted to 37 cents. In 1911 the publication of Alexander's Ragtime Band (MIDI) established his reputation as a songwriter. He formed his own music-publishing business in 1919, and in 1921 he became a partner in the construction of the Music Box Theater in New York, staging his own popular revues at the theater for several years. Berlin wrote about 1500 songs. One unique fact about Berlin is that he was not able to read or write music or play the piano except in one key (F sharp). He picked out melodies or dictated them and had assistants fill in the harmonies and accompaniment for him. Berlin never seemed to give credit for these very talented people. In his later years, he had a special device attached to his piano that allowed him to transpose any song into his "favorite" key. His initial start in the music industry was as a singer and then as a lyricist. It was only after great success in writing lyrics that Berlin turned to melodies.


Whether for Broadway musicals or films, for humorous songs or romantic ballads, his compositions are celebrated for their appealing melodies and memorable lyrics. Among the numerous musical comedies and revues for which Berlin wrote music and lyrics were Annie Get Your Gun (1946), and Mr. President (1962). His many popular songs include There's No Business Like Show Business, God Bless America, and White Christmas. In 1968 Berlin received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. On September 22nd 1989, at the age of 101, Berlin died in his sleep in New York City.


It is almost impossible to provide a meaningful biographical sketch of Berlin in only a few words, he is perhaps the most celebrated and successful composer of American song from the Tin Pan Alley era. Way back in November of 1988 we did a feature on Berlin's music, sometime in the future we will post a more comprehensive biography and more of his songs. Of course many of his songs have been published by us over the years.


Hear this great Berlin song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version



Feather Your Nest


Music by: James Kendis, James Brockman, Howard Johnson
Lyrics by: Kendis, Brockman, Johnson
Cover artist: Rose Symbol

Now that we have traveled far and wide and from home and back, it's time to settle in and make our house a home. This 1920 hit by a trio of great songwriters speaks to the need for settling in and making your Home, Sweet Home comfortable and a place of love. The cover of this sheet is lovely and comes from an enigmatic source, the "Rose Symbol.' Under this symbol, hundreds of sheet music covers were produced yet today, the artist(s) who produced them are virtually unknown. Careful analysis of the styles indicate several artists involved yet none have been identified (as of yet) and even the true source of the consortium or studio they were produced under is in doubt.


The song and lyrics are about as near perfect an example of American popular music from the period one will find. A happy and musically upbeat song, this is one of my many, many favorites from the period.


James Brockman (1886 - 1967) studied music at the Cleveland conservatory and early in his career was a comedian in stage musicals. His most lasting hit, I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles (MIDI) was introduced by June Caprice in the Passing Show of 1918. Among his other hits were, Down Among The Sheltering Palms, Feather Your Nest (Scorch Format) and the great novelty song, I Faw Down An' Go Boom. Brockman had a long and successful career, turning to film scores later in his life. His partner, James Kendis (b. 1883, St. Paul, MN, d. 1946, Jamaica, NY) had some of his greatest success in his collaborations with Brockman. Kendis formed his own publishing company, Kendis Music Company. Some of his other hits not collaborated with Brockman include, If I Had My Way, Angel Eyes, and Come Out Of The Kitchen, Mary Ann.

Howard Johnson (b. 1887, Waterbury, CT, d. 1941, New York,NY) (not the restaurant man) was also one of the greatest lyricists of the period, also with many hits to his credit. His name appears over and over in our collection in such famous works as M-O-T-H-E-R, When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain, Where Do We Go From Here ( Scorch format, featured in the first installment of our three part essay about World War I music) and Freckles.


Enjoy this rare old song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version



That completes another of our features. As always, be sure to come back next month for a new feature or just come back anytime to browse our extensive archive of issues and special articles.

See our resources page for a complete bibliography of all resources used to research this and other articles in our series.

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