The above collage image was created using stereotypical images
of Southern heritage and is not intended to reflect attitudes held in the American
South today. It was created purely for the art and does not represent any political
statement. The image includes the image titled "2nd Confederate Flag"
which is copyrighted material provided courtesy of Sea
Dog Sportswear, maker of T-shirt designs and sportswear.
Songs About Dixie
Dixie; for some that word may bring to mind a little paper cup.
For most of us though it conjures up images of the American South. Those images
can range from the ravages of slavery to the genteel pleasures of mint juleps
at the Kentucky Derby. The gentle hills of Virginia to the Mississippi flatlands
of west Tennessee, the Magnolias of Mississippi to the stately historic homes
of Savannah are only a few of the many images and pleasures of Dixie. For those
of us who live there, Dixie is as much a state of mind as a place. Unfortunately,
history has unfairly branded the people of Dixie as "rednecks," "bigots"
and "hillbillies," but those impressions are purely derived from ignorance
and lack of personal knowledge.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines Dixie rather dryly
as; "A region of the southern and eastern United States, usually comprising
the states that joined the Confederacy during the Civil War. The name Dixie
was popularized in the minstrel song 'Dixie's Land." Dixie is not
defined by the negatives of the past but a way of life and a love of family,
good will and relaxed pleasures that soothe the soul and make for a less harried
life. No, the people of Dixie are not slow and plodding, rather they take pleasure
in many of life's joys and stop to take time to savor them. Dixie is a land
not only of cotton but of supreme hospitality, consideration and respect for
others, stately homes and absolutely beautiful country. As an aside, I should
mention that there is an area in southwestern Utah also known as Dixie, presumably
because of the climate and it's suitability for growing of cotton.
The music of America has had a long running love affair with Dixie.
Songs about Dixie and the south have long fascinated composers and the ears
listeners as well. It all began in in 1859 when Dan Emmett, a member of the
famous Bryant's Minstrels of New York wrote Dixie's
Land. "(MIDI format) As we stated in our feature in January
2000, "Dixie's Land has unfortunately been associated with the
Confederacy and many African Americans find the tune a distasteful reminder
of slavery. Let's hope that we can still retain our focus on the musical greatness
of this song and understand that its origins were as far from the meaning of
slavery as one could get". Be sure to read the full text of our feature
of this song (linked above) to fully understand it's place in America's musical
Despite that current association, after the turn of the 20th century
and the pain of the Civil War had passed, America enjoyed a musical fascination
with songs about Dixie. Popular performers, foremost among them, Al Jolson,
popularized songs about the south and with his blackface act, sang the praises
of "mammy" and the land of cotton." Jolson sang what might be
considered the next most popular "Dixie" song is the 1918 Rock-A-Bye
Your Baby With A Dixie Melody (Scorch version) to read about it see
our December, 2002 feature
about Jolson. However, many excellent Dixie songs emerged long before his
performance of that one as you'll see this month.
We've already published a number of "Dixie" or southern
themed songs on our site over the years but this month we want to present to
you a number of works that refer very specifically to Dixie and demonstrate
that musical love of America's southern heritage. In compiling these songs,
I've found that there were several elements that seem to characterize songs
about Dixie. Said somewhat with tongue in cheek, I've arrived at the conclusion
that in order to be a genuine "Dixie" song, several elements must
be present either in part or all. Those key elements seem to be;
A train, preferably a fast one that is taking a prodigal Southern son back
An uncontrollable urge to be in Dixie if you are not there now.
A mammy waiting for the son's return or at minimum, a mammy's lap to sit
Cotton, as in the land of.
A musical quote from the original Dixie's Land.
A southern sweetie waiting there for the singer's return.
As we look at and listen to this month's songs, keep that in mind
and see if it's not true in most cases
If you are new to us, to enjoy the full musical experience, we
recommend that you get the Scorch plug in from our friends at Sibelius software.
The Scorch player allows you to not only listen to the music but to view the
sheet music as the music plays and see the lyrics as well. Each month we also
allow printing of some of the sheet music featured so for those of you who play
the piano (or other instruments) you'll be able to play some of the music yourself.
It's a complete musical experience! Get the Sibelius
Scorch player now.
Music by: Irving Berlin
Words by: Ted Snyder
Cover artist: Gene Buck
Before there was an Alexander's Ragtime Band, there was Irving
Berlin wanting to go to Dixie. Talk about a great endorsement. If the
"Dean of American Songwriters" recommends it, how can anyone
deny the attraction of Dixie? For a short while before writing ARTB, Berlin
was teamed up with Ted Snyder in writing a number of songs, most of which
were forgettable but still carried the signature style that Berlin would
later use to write hit after hit over a span of many decades. In the title
of this song, Berlin & Snyder expressed one of the key elements of
a song about Dixie; that strong urge to be there.
The song contains a number of other elements we've mentioned. In the
third measure of the introduction, we get the obligatory salute to the
1859 benchmark with a short snippet of the melody from Dixie's Land.
Guess what, we also have the train taking us to Dixie. In measure 12 we
get the "land of cotton" mention. Regrettably, Berlin had a
chance to include the whole list but left out mention of a mammy's knee
and the sweetheart but this early song surely serves as a good model for
the typical Dixie song. The music is really quite good and of course the
overall lyrics combined with the melody demonstrates just how early in
his career Berlin had talent that was clearly destined for greatness.
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
(Scorch format) 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 1998 we did a feature
on Berlin's music, which we updated early in 2003. In addition, we
have added a more extensive
biography of Berlin for those who want to know more about him.
Ted Snyder (b. 1881, Freeport, Illinois
d. 1965, Hollywood, CA) Ted Snyder is the person who gave Irving Berlin
his start in the music business by hiring him in 1909 as a song plugger
for his publishing company. But Snyder is also recalled as a composer
in his own right who wrote hits such as The Sheik of Araby (1921)
and Who's Sorry Now? (1923).
Little is known of Ted's early life, other than he attended the public
schools in Boscobel, WI., and as a very young man, he posted theater bills
for a living. Later, he was a cafe pianist, and then a staff pianist and
song plugger in Chicago and New York music publishing houses. Like Berlin,
his first publications came in 1907 with his first song There's a Girl
in This World for Every Boy, with lyrics Will D. Cobb. Snyder wrote
a number of other tunes in collaboration with other important lyricists
of the day and in 1909 he began his association with Berlin. Some of their
first tunes included, Sweet Italian Love, Kiss Me, My Honey,
Kiss Me, and Next To Your Mother, Who Do You Love? as well
as 1910's That Beautiful Rag.
In 1913, Irving Berlin was writing his own melodies, as well as his own
lyrics and Snyder's firm is reorganized and is called, Waterson, Berlin
and Snyder. Ted Snyder also continued writing his own melodies, often
with other lyricists such as Bert Kalmar and Edgar Leslie. Among the songs
he wrote with Kalmar and/or Leslie are: Moonlight on the Rhine,
In The Land of Harmony and The Ghost of the Violin. From
the end of the first World War till 1930, Snyder continued writing songs
with other talented lyricists.
In 1930, Ted Snyder retired from the songwriting business, settled in
Hollywood, CA., and went into the restaurant business. He died in Hollywood.
He is a member of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.
(Adapted from kinkle, pp 1784-85)
Words and Music by: Jack Rogers
Cover artist: Starmer
Once we get past the desire to be in Dixie, like Berlin, we board a train
and get on our way. At that point we can sing about how soon we'll get
there. This song, though again rife with the obligatory references to
mammy etc., focuses mostly on the train. As such, it really makes for
a fun novelty style song, especially with the "choo-choo-choo-choo-choo-choo-choo"
(Whew!) lyric line. The cover features nice artwork but is dominated by
an especially good photo of the Dolce Sisters; Rosalie, Gertrude and Regina.
Billed as 'Vaudeville's Daintiest Singers' in a 1913 Orpheum Theater playbill
in Winnipeg, the sisters were an attractive and popular vaudeville act.
Their popularity obviously extended into Canada as well as the US circuit.
The song itself is a delight, the melody is fabulous and is one of the
best of the lot this month, it is my personal favorite and my "discovery
of the month." The use of appogiaturas in the "choo-choo"
part adds liveliness and the later use of triplets to simulate the "clickety
clack" of the rails works quite well to help make the song very interesting
musically. The lyrics include the mammy that was missing from Berlin's
song and of course the train is the central object of interest. We do
get mention of the land of cotton and a sweetheart waiting there (in Dixie)
for us but Rogers somehow managed to leave out the musical quote from
Dixie's Land. This is a real gem from the past!
Jack Rogers is another of our "lost in time" composers.
I'm unable to find any mention of him in our library and this may well
be the only song he ever published. I've been unable to find any other
songs written by him. If so, that is sad because this song shows so much
talent it seems hard to believe he could have been a "one off"
composer. It seems more likely that Jack Rogers was a pseudonym for a
more well known composer but that is just speculation on my part.
Music by: E. Clinton Keithley
Words by: Jack Frost
Cover artist: Unsigned
The attraction of Dixie extended far beyond the borders of America, as
did the popularity of American music. This particular song, originally
published by Frank K. Root in the U.S., came to us by way of Albert &
Son Publishers in Sydney, Australia. With a really quite artistic cover,
this is a great example of the beauty of the artwork that appeared for
so many years on American popular song sheet music. The inset photo is
probably of some well known performer of the period, so well known in
fact that her name is not noted. If anyone recognizes her, let me know.
The full title is shown on the cover, Some One Waits, And That Is Why
I Love The Name Of Dixie.
A wonderfully upbeat song, we can find many of the elements of a good
Dixie song in this one as well. At measure 51 we get the melody snippet
from Dixie's Land and are treated to several other of the lyrical images
we have come to love; magnolias (that's a new one), a sweetheart back
in Dixie waiting for us, traveling to Dixie (though no train is mentioned,
how else would we get there?) and some cotton thrown in for good measure.
The music is really one of those joyful, upbeat songs that were so common
during the Tin Pan Alley days. You gotta love this one, and apparently
they did in "Oz" as well.
Again, we have a songwriter, actually a pair of who have been neglected
by the historians. E. Clinton Keithley did write a number of other
songs including; They Put Our Little Percy in the Brig (1919),
On the Sidewalks of Berlin (1918), I'll Be There, Laddie Boy,
I'll Be There (1918) and One Wonderful Night (You Told Me You Loved
Me) (1914). I've been unable to find any biographical information
about him. Jack Frost also is elusive as far as biographical data
but as with Keithley, we do know of several other songs he wrote. His
credits include the lyrics of I'll Be There Laddie Boy, I'll Be There
with Keithley as well as At the Funny Page Ball (1918), Giddy
Giddap. Go On-Go On. We're on Our Way to War (1917), When It Comes
To A Lovingless Day (1918) and I Didn't Raise My Ford to be a Jitney
Music by: Harry Carroll
Words by: Ballard MacDonald
Cover artist: E. Walton
Though the first decade of the 20th century brought us one surge in Dixie
songs, it was the late teens into the twenties that Dixie seemed to be
on every songwriters mind. A great deal of Dixie material was published
during this time, much of it fueled by the performances of the likes of
Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor who often appeared on the covers of Dixie songs.
Sometimes, the name Dixie was used just as a hook while the music inside
had little or less to do with the basic elements I've laid out. This song
is one that is between the sheets, neither a "true" (by my definition)
Dixie song but not quite out of the realm of Dixie. It's more of a novelty
song that plays upon the names of famous persona from the south with a
little bit of racism thrown in for good measure.
The song is about a military ball and speaks of soldiers preparing to
go to war but the lyrics include a number of made up names such as; Stonewall
Grant, Jackson Lee, Moses Lincoln and Liza Washington. I'll leave it to
you to find the racist element, it's there for sure and you'll see it
in the lyrics. The music is a bit raggy in style and the though pleasant,
is not particularly engaging. Not one of the Dixie song elements are in
place in this song so I have to label this one as a counterfeit Dixie
song, Dixie in title only.
Carroll was born born Nov. 28, 1892, Atlantic
City, New Jersey and died 1962, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. Self taught,
Harry was playing piano in movie houses even while he was still in grade
school. He graduated high school and went to New York City, where, during
the day, he found work as an arranger in Tin Pan Alley, and, during the
night, playing in the Garden Cafe on 7th Avenue and 50th Street. In 1912,
the Schuberts hired him to supply songs for some of their shows. He collaborated
with Arthur Fields on his first hit On the Mississippi, with
lyrics by Ballard MacDonald (for the show The Whirl of Society). Among
Carroll and MacDonald's best known compositions, are 1913's There's
a Girl in the Heart of Maryland (midi), and The
Trail of the Lonesome Pine (midi), and It Takes a Little
Rain With the Sunshine to Make the World Go Round.
In 1914, he wrote By
the Beautiful Sea, (Scorch format) with lyric by Harold Atteridge.
In 1918, Carroll produced his own Broadway musical Oh, Look!,
and the classic I'm
Always Chasing Rainbows, (Scorch format) was written with the
lyric by Joseph McCarthy. Harry married Anna Wheaton, and the
two starred in vaudeville for many years. After the decline of vaudeville,
Harry was a 'single' act in various cafes, where he sang his own songs.
From 1914 through 1917, Harry was the director of ASCAP. Carroll is a
Songwriters' Hall of Fame member.
Ballard MacDonald (1882 - 1935) was born
in Portland Oregon. He was educated at Princeton and became best known
as a lyricist who collaborated with some of the greatest Tin Pan Alley
composers of the period. His best known works are The
Trail Of The Lonesome Pine, (MIDI) written in 1913 with Harry
Carrol and Back Home Again In Indiana with James M. Hanley, 1917.
He also wrote Play that Barber Shop Chord in 1910 which resulted
in an interesting court case. In 1910, publisher/composer Fred Helf published
Play That Barbershop Chord, by Lewis Muir and William Tracey, or
at least that is how Helf published it. Songwriter Ballard Macdonald had
begun work on the song and had written dummy lyrics before leaving the
song behind. The piece was finished by Lewis Muir and William Tracey,
and Macdonald was incensed that Helf left his name off the sheet music.
He sued Helf successfully, and the award of $37,500 forced Helf into bankruptcy
thus ending his foray into publishing. MacDonald died in Forest Hills,
New York in 1935.
Words and Music by: Grant Clarke, Geo. W. Meyer & Milton Ager
Cover artist: "R. S."
With a very nice photo of yet another unidentified performer, this songs
cover would never get past the editors desk today. The stereotypical cover
of a black playing the banjo on the dock as the packet boat chugs away
with it's load of cotton is surely emblematic of the South as many people
see it today. Regardless, it is a well done cover that does depict the
South of 1919. The scene could easily be out of the opening of Kern's
Showboat. The team of songwriters for this song are some of Tin
Pan Alley's best, all being listed in the songwriter's hall of fame.
The song is less a "Dixie" song as it is about the charms of
Dixie and what Dixie brings to the table, so to speak. The chorus amounts
to a list of the good things that Dixie has to offer. We hear of the cotton
of "Alabam," Virginia ham, Louisiana sugar, Tennessee music
and Carolina tobacco. Though the lyrics leave out all the mammy and train
references, it is the melody that really shines in this work. Noted to
be played at a "Jazz tempo," it really is a jazzy number. It
has a happy sound and uses some musical ornaments to present images that
accompany the lyrics such as bird "tweets" and harmonies that
even sound Dixie. Enjoy this one, it is musically one of the best this
month and qualifies as a second discovery.
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? (Scorch format)
Grant Clarke( b. 1891, Akron, OH -
d. 1931, California) who was also a major hit lyricist from the period.
Clarke wrote material for such greats as Bert Williams and Fanny Brice.
He was a publisher and also a staff writer for several NY music publishers.
His hits include a number of classics including Am I Blue? and
Second Hand Rose.
Milton Ager (b. 1893, Chicago - d. 1979, Los Angeles) Ager 's
early career was much like many other Tin Pan Alley greats inasmuch as
he started out as a vaudeville pianist and played piano for (silent) movies
in theaters. He moved to New York in 1913 and became an arranger for the
Waterson, Berlin & Snyder publishing house. He served honorably in
the military during W.W.I and later was an arranger for George M. Cohan.
His very first published song was Everything Is Peaches Down In Georgia
in 1918. He also wrote scores for a number of Broadway musicals including
Rain Or Shine in 1928 which came out as a movie in 1930.
Ager wrote many memorable and lasting hits during his career including;
Between 1922 to 1930 he wrote Mama Goes Where Papa Goes, and a
hit song for Sophie Tucker, The Last of the Red Hot Mamas!. Other
songs in this period include Lovin Sam, Hard-Hearted Hannah,
I Wonder Whats Become of Sally, Aint She Sweet? and the
classic Happy Days Are Here Again which later become the theme
song for President Franklin D. Roosevelts 1932 inauguration and
remained the theme song for the Democratic Party for many years since.
Perhaps his best known song was Ain't She Sweet (1927) which has
often been used as a song that most represents the roaring twenties. In
1930, Ager moved to Hollywood and contributed to the film scores of Honky
Tonk, King of Jazz and Chasing Rainbows. Songs in these
pictures include Happy Feet, A Bench in the
Park and If I Didnt Care. Ager was inducted into
the songwriter's hall of fame in 1972. (essential facts
from Kinkle, p. 482 and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame biography of Ager
Music by: Rubey Cowan & Will Donaldson
Words by: Bobby Jones
Cover artist: E. E. Waron
Surely there is nothing like a southern belle to make one happy, I should
know, I married one. The land of cotton is not the only item named Dixie,
many wonderful women from all compass points are blessed with the name
Dixie. Though this song is about such a belle, it is also about Dixie,
the land. It also is similar to "Anything Is Nice" as it extolls
the virtues of both Dixies. Once again we hear about Georgia peaches,
but also about the blue grass of Kentucky and sugar cane of the south.
The music has a fox-trot lilt to it and is a bit jazzy (we're about to
enter the jazz age of American music). The verse is not particularly attention
grabbing but as in a lot of songs, it's the chorus where the song really
shines. I think you'll enjoy it.
The songwriting trio for this song elude me somewhat. I presume that
Will Donaldson is a brother or other relative of the great Walter Donaldson
but cannot confirm it. As for Jones and Cowan, I'm afraid my research
skills let me down for I can find very little information about either
of them. I have determined that Cowan wrote a number of songs during this
period and was also a partner in the publishing firm Stark & Cowan.
Among his songs are: It Was Just A Song At Twilight (Not the one
you think it is) (1915), My Mind's Made Up to Marry Carolina (1917),
There's Just A Little Touch Of Dixie In Your Eyes (1920) and Living
a Life of Dreams (1930). Cowan's son, Stanley Earl went on to become
a composer as well.
Music by: Harold Dixon
Words by: David Portnoy
Cover artist: Unsigned
This work was written by an Army Bandleader and in that regard is a little
unusual. Most of the "bandleader" songs from this period were
related to either the war (W.W.I) or patriotism. The song is a bit unusual
in that it only has one verse and then repeats the chorus three times
and an interlude between the second and third repeat. However, bandleader
Dixon did manage to bring us back to some of the basic elements of the
Dixie song. We have a mammy, fields of cotton, a sweetheart and a plantation
home thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, there is no train and
no musical quote from Dixie's Land. Regardless, it is a very pleasant
and dreamy song (good for a lullaby) and very enjoyable up to a point.
The point being that three repeats of the chorus tends to bring on a little
weariness. Hmm, I guess that is good for a lullaby too.
Harold Dixon did write several other songs, most of which were war or
military oriented. He also owned his own publishing house, Dixon - Lane
who published this work. Among his other songs are; Louisiana Waltz
(1919), Davy of the Navy. Your [sic] a Wonderful Boy (1918), You
Great Big Handsome Marine (1918), There'll Be A Hot-time (1918)
and perhaps his most well known work, Gunga Din. From the Barrack
Room Ballads (1927).
Music by: W. C. Polla
Words by: Jack Gartland
Cover artist: The Knapp Co.
The beautiful cover on this song is a photo/painting of a real person,
Margurite Clark, captioned as "starring in Paramount Pictures."
Clark, an Ohio native was indeed a very popular star from 1914 to 1921.
During that period she starred in 40 films all of which are mostly forgotten
save one famous performance. In 1918, Clark starred in the production
of Uncle Tom's Cabin as Little Eva/Topsy. She also starred in several
other groundbreaking films such as Of Mice and Men in 1916 and
The Crucible in 1914. Her last film in 1921 was Scrambled Wives.
An interesting fact about her that is stated in the Internet Movie Database's
biographical notes on Clark is that she was the model for Snow White in
Walt Disney's Masterpiece Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937.
What all that or she might have to do with a Dixie Sweetheart only the
publisher knows (knew). She was not from Dixie nor did she star in any
movies with a southern theme around this time other than Uncle Tom's cabin.
Perhaps that was the motivation, UTC was about the south and she played
the beautiful waif who was so abused.
The song has a few more of the required elements of a Dixie song, we
have of course the title sweetheart but Polla & Gartland have also
included a train, magnolias and the Swanee river. And, as a bonus rather
than a quote from Dixie's Land, Polla gives us snippets of Way
Down Upon The Swanee River, another of Dixie's greatest songs. Not
bad for such a relatively short song. At only 44 measures and slightly
over two minutes with the repeat it is the shortest song in this months
William C. Polla(dates unknown) Composer,
lyricist and arranger. Arranged a number of W.C. Handy tunes for band
and orchestra. Polla was a prolific composer writing a large number of
popular songs and several ragtime works as well as some orchestral works.
Most of his rags were written under the pseudonym "W.C. Powell."
One wonders why, unless he somehow felt that he did not want to mix his
classical and heart songs side with a rather racy and wild ragtime persona.
Many of his works were graced with beautiful woman covers, several by
the now famous "pinup" artist, Rolf Armstrong whose early 20th
century portraits are among the best female portraits ever. As with many
successful composers, Polla also owned his own publishing house, the W.C.
Polla Company, for a few years. Among his works are; Gondolier, The
(1903), Missouri Rag (as W.C. Powell 1907), Johnny Jump Up
(as W.C. Powell 1910), Dope Rag (as W. C. Powell 1909), Dancing
Tambourine (1927), Night In June (1927), You Know (1919),
Mama's Gone Goodbye (1924), Funny Folks (as W. C. Powell),
Dear Heart (Scorch format)
(1919 ), Drifting (1920), My Castles in the Air are Tumbling
Down (1919), My Sunshine Rose (1920)
Words and Music by: Roy Turk and J. Russel Robinson
Cover artist: Barbelle
We're moving back a little closer to the formula for Dixie songs with
this one. I love the cover on this one. Even though it is sepia toned,
the central image of the man on the train steps is great. As you might
guess, we have a song about someone far from Dixie who's headed home..on
a train..to be back on his mammy's knee..to be with his sweetheart and,
there is a very cleverly disguised four note quote from Dixie's Land at
measure 50. At last we're back in Dixieland! Actually, there's a chance
this guy may have bypassed the train in favor of an "aer-o-plane"
if his prediction in the lyrics is any indication.
The music is quite jazzy and the tune for the chorus is downright fun
to listen to. The song has the flavor of both jazz and ragtime and that
is surely due to the talents of Robinson who wrote a number of popular
rags in the early 20th century.
J. Russel Robinson (1892 - 1963) was a United States ragtime and
jazz pianist and a composer of popular tunes. Robinson was born in Indianapolis,
Indiana. He started publishing ragtime compositions in his teens; his
early hits included Sappho Rag and Eccentric (Rag). With
his drummer brother he toured the US South in the early 1910s, including
an extended stay in New Orleans. He was known for his heavily blues and
jazz influenced playing style; advertisements billed him as "The
White Boy with the Colored Fingers".
In 1919 Robinson joined the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. He then went
to work with W.C. Handy's publishing company, supplying new arrangements
and lyrics for popular editions of tunes like Memphis Blues and
Ole Miss in the 1920s. He also played piano with various popular
and blues singers in phonograph recording sessions, accompanying singers
such as Annette Hanshaw, Lucille Hegamin, Marion Harris, and Lizzie Miles.
(From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia in accordance with
the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)
Among his works are The Sappho Rag (1909), Dynamite
Rag (Midi) (1910), The Minstrel Man (1911), Whirlwind
Rag (1911), That Eccentric Rag (1912), Te-na-na (1912),
Margie (1920), Aggravatin' Papa (1933) and St. Louis
Roy Turk was born in New York City on September 20, 1892. He attended
City College, and during World War I he served in the United States Navy.
After the war, be began writing song lyrics, including special material
for such successful vaudeville performers as Rock & White, Nora Bayes
and Sophie Tucker. He then became a staff writer for music publishers
on Tin Pan Alley, and later went to Hollywood where he wrote song lyrics
Among his collaborators were Harry Akst, George Meyer, Charles Tobias,
Arthur Johnston, Maceo Pinkard, and J. Russel Robinson. From 1928 through
1933, he worked especially closely with Fred Ahlert, with whom he had
many popular successes. Probably his best known song is Mean To Me,
written in 1928 to music by Ahlert, which has become a jazz standard,
memorably recorded by Billie Holiday and others.
Other successes include I'll Get By (1928), Walkin' My Baby
Back Home (1931), I Don't Know Why (I Love You Like Do) (1931),
Love, You Funny Thing (1932), Beale Street Mama (1932) and
Aggravatin' Poppa (1933) which was a 1933 hit for Sophie Tucker.
With additional lyrics by Bing Crosby and music by Fred Ahlert, Where
The Blue Of The Night Meets The Gold Of The Day (1931) became famous
as Bing Crosby's theme song.
Roy Turk died in Hollywood, California on November 30, 1934, However,
his songs have proven to be timeless. In 1960, Colonel Parker convinced
Elvis Presley to record a song written in 1927 by Roy Turk and Lou Handman.
The song was Are You Lonesome Tonight and became one of Presley's
greatest hits. ( From the songwriter's Hall
of Fame biography of Roy Turk)
Music by: Harry Ruby
Words by: Bert Kalmar
Cover artist: Barbelle
The title of this song is so expressive in that it does say what many
people from Dixie feel about our southern home. With a cover adorned by
cotton bolls and a river paddle wheeler (it has to be on the Mississippi!)
we can see the Dixie theme just waiting for us with the music inside.
The song opens with a lively verse that has a happy feel to it and seamlessly
moves into the chorus that is just as upbeat. We have to take the cotton
from the cover as one of the Dixie elements here for inside we find a
wonderful melody but a sparse inventory of other Dixie song requirements.
We do enjoy a mammy here and then a new element thrown in "darkies
singings," and a new musical quote in measure 35. The lyric line
there is "carry me back to.." and the five note motif with the
lyric is from Carry Me Back To Old Virginny.
Ruby(1895 - 1959) was born in New York in 1895.
He began his career as a pianist in cafes and vaudeville and worked as
a song plugger for several publishers, including Von Tilzer and Gus Edwards.
He performed as a part of a vaudeville act called Edwards & Ruby.
His primary lyricist partner throughout his career was Burt Kalmar (1884
-1947) however he also often teamed with Edgar Leslie. In addition to
writing hundreds of popular songs with Kalmar, they also collaborated
on several stage works and film scores. Their most notable film scores
included the Marx Brother's hit Duck Soup in 1933. They also
wrote the music for the Marx brothers' stage production of Animal
Crackers in 1928.
Music by: Sir Harry Lauder
Words by: Sir Harry Lauder & W. Mathews
Cover artist: Unknown, photographer credit unreadable.
I think this song will take us fairly far afield from a true Dixie melody
but it is another illustration of the attraction of Dixie around the world.
This one comes from none other than the great comedic character performer
Harry Lauder of Scotland. Lauder was quite popular around the world but
perhaps nowhere else as much as in America. He toured here extensively
and wrote a number of songs related to American ideals, among them this
song about Dixie girls. For more about Lauder, be sure to read our biography
and feature about his music.
The music is pretty much standard for Lauder whose music was often no
more than a backdrop for the lyrics and patter that he sang and spoke
on stage while strutting around in one of his character roles (see the
sheet music cover). It's a jaunty melody, a bit like a march and though
pleasant, is somewhat innocuous as many of his songs are. The lyrics are
fun, as all Lauder songs are and I don't believe we have a single Dixie
element other than the word Dixie in the lyrics. There are three verses
plus the chorus so Lauder had plenty of time to fit them in. That may
be because after all, how could a Scotsman ever understand about mammys,
cotton fields and the like? The lyrics do portray the charms of women
around the world and compares them to the Dixie girl's attributes. The
lyrics tell of a tryst behind the chicken coop so there's no question
that he was well aware of southern hospitality and the charms of southern
Music by: Percy Wenrich
Words by: none, piano solo work
Cover artist: Bertha Young
Our final work for this issue has only one of the Dixie elements, the
name. This is a piano solo work by one of America's best ragtime and song
composers. The cover is a wonderful painting of a southern belle complete
with magnolia blossoms. The cover artist is one I've never heard of before.
I'm sure that she must have done many more covers for her work is well
above the average.
The melody and construction of this work is very much "ragtime"
and a reflection of Wenrich's musical origins and early career in Joplin,
Missouri. There he was known as the Joplin Kid and was a main attraction
there at the time. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you've enjoyed our presentation
of Dixie melodies.
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 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 as well
as our feature on his music published in September
Thanks for visiting us and be sure to come back again next month to see our
new feature or to read some or all of our over 120 articles about America's
music. See our resources
page for a complete bibliography of our own library resources used to research
this and other articles in our series.
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