Tin Pan Alley
Before the turn of the century the process of making a song into a hit had always been through the Minstrel Shows.
Song writers published their own songs and sheet music publishing became established.
Every middle class family had a piano in the parlour. And everybody was singing & dancing.
Sheet music sales soared as the infectious music of the negro became mixed into the rage that became American popular song.
But sheet music publishing was a hit and miss affair until some new publishing firms in New York City overhauled the system around 1890 and turned the pleasure of music into a business.
Chas K Harris self published 'After the Ball', the first 'hit' song in 1892. The song sold over 2 million copies within a few years and alerted publishers to the fortunes that could be made.
There were untold riches in selling song sheets but only 1 in 200 made it big time. It was a competitive business, everyone wanted to get in on the act and make their pile.
Around 1900 the impresarios of pop collectively became know as Tin Pan Alley after the clangorous sound of pianos used in the offices to promote the songs poured out by hired composers and lyricists. Creating popular songs was now a business feeding Vaudeville and later Broadway with lifeblood.
Kerry Mills (1869-1948) an academic violinist from Philadelphia, in 1897 published 'At a Georgia Camp Meeting' with F A Mills and Scott Joplin cashed in on 'Maple Leaf Rag in 1899 with John Stark & Son in SEdalia ... but the centre of gravity was New York, West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.
Howley-Haviland (Gussie Davis, Cole and Johnson), F A Mills (Irving Jones), Shapiro-Bernstein, Joseph Stern (coon songs, cakewalks and rags, Williams & Walker, Will Tyers, Chris Smith, Cole & Johnson) and M Witmark (Ernest Hogan) all hired staff to write and promote songs. House pianists were employed to demonstrate the wares. Popular personalities endorsed the songs to boost sales. Topical songs each week to keep punters buying. Song writing contests. Travelling salesmen loading the dime store shelves. Demand creation and endless supply. Flashy enticing coloured drawings replaced the old line engraving. A new industry was born. With supporting artists and pluggers. It cost $1,300 to launch a song properly and writers usually got about $50 outright. Cylinder recordings were seen as competition initially, both to Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley.
Harry von Tilzer published his own songs but he published as a business. He hired young Izzy Berlin as a song plugger. Irving Berlin broke from the pack with 'Alexander's Ragtime Band' and 'Everyone's Doing It' in 1911.
Black songwriters led after the minstrel songs, came the tearjerkers and coon songs and then they offered a profound sound and feel for new forms and fads, the songs and dances of 20th century pop.
An early Tin Pan Alley fad was the 'tearjerker' which was far from jazz and has become so mired in its time it is now forgotten -
Gussie Davis, 1880, a black, wrote some 'refined' songs in 3/4 thinking the black Minstrel songs were too crude for the parlour. Tearjerker songs like 'Cradle's Empty Baby's Gone'* and Paul Dresser's 'The Outcast Unknown'* and 'The Letter that Never Came'* were beginning to sell and Davis cashed in with 'The Fatal Wedding' and 'In the Baggage Coach Ahead'.
After the 'tearjerkers' the 'coon songs' took over Tin Pan Alley. These racist musical jokes were about the black folk but not so much the black music. Although their popularity was such that black song writers penned many of the songs. Songs played in the middle class parlours where everyone had a piano and wanted a bit of naughty fun. They had to write what people wanted to play.
1897 Ernest Hogan, 'All Coons Look Alike to Me', and the coon
songs really took off.
Irving Jones (1874-1932) a black comedian who wrote coon songs exclusively. Every white love song and every lullaby had a coon equivalent. 50 titles to his credit. 'Possumala Dance', 'Take Your Clothes Off and Go', 'Get Your Money's Worth', 'Give Me Back dem Clothes', 'If They'd only Fought with Razors in the War', 'I'm Livin' Easy', 'All Birds Look Like Chickens to Me', 'I Feel Like Sendin' Home for Money', 'Under the Chicken Tree', 'The Ragtime Millionaire', 'One More Drink and I'll Tell It All', 'You Needn't Think I'm a Regular Fool', 'Any Old Way You cook Chicken'.
Black Vaudeville with coon songs and ragged melodies was beginning to be labelled degenerate by the turn of the century. All the jokes had been made. By 1905 everyone had had enough.
1910-20 - after the Waltz and the Twostep came the Boston Dip, Bunny Hug, Buzzard Lope, Cabbage Clutch, Camel Walk, Chicken Scratch, Dizzy Drag, Gaby Glide, Grizzly Bear, Hesitation Waltz, Hippo Hop, Honey Bug, Hooche Cooche, Kangaroo Canter, Kitchen Sink, Lemon Squeeze, Love Dance, Monkey Glide, Ostrich Stretch, Pickaninny Dangle, Pollywog Wiggle, Puppy Snuggle, Salome Dance, Shadow Dance, Shim Sham Shimie, Shiver Shake, Texas Tommy, Turkey Trot, then the Fox Trot and the Black Bottom and the Charleston ... but nomatter what the name it was all huggin' to music ... the Negroes were dancing themselves to death and much to Gran's grief, the youngsters were following ... with their girls ...
Of course the Castles were doing it, respectable ...
Chris Smith (1879-1949) worked with Cecil Mack but was a powerhouse on his own,
a master of the rag song to dance song to blues song to jazz song. He started in
1901 with 'Good Morning Carrie'. He moved to rag songs, 'Monkey Rag', 'That Puzzlin' Rag' and his
pop songs got raggier, 'Bean, Beans, Beans'. 'I Want a Little Lovin' Sometimes'
and a real blues, 'I've got the Blues but I'm Too Blamed Mean to Cry'. New
dances allowed actual physical contact, social dancing had arrived, Chris Smith
produced, 'Ballin' the Jack', very savvy. 1914 with Jim Berris 'At the Fox Trot
Ball'. 'Down in Honky Tonky Town', 'San Francisco Blues', 'He's Goy My Goat', 'Coolin'
the Coffee Pot'*, 'I've got My Habits On', 'Cakewalking Babies from Home'.
With W C Handy, 'The White Man Said 'twas So'*. With Clarence Williams, 'Shootin' the Pistol'. With Fats Waller, 'Come On and Stomp Stomp Stomp'.
Chris Smith wrote 200 songs Shelton only 40. 'All Night Long' (a moderate hit in 1912), 'I Wonder where My Easy Rider's Gone' (provoked a response from W C Handy with 'Yellow Dog Blues'), 'Walkin' the Dog' (for the dance craze), 'I want to Shimmie' (provoked Mae West's breast wiggle).
Cecil Mack (1883-1944) Gotham-Attucks Music Company bought out Shep Edmonds (1876-1957) who was a vaudevillian, the first black publisher in
1904, he founded Attuchs Music the first of many attempts. He published
'Nobody', a big one for Bert Williams.
Mack was a lyricist himself with a hit, 'Good Morning Carrie'. He absorbed John H Cook Publishing (Will Marion's brother), which had a lot of the Williams and Walker book and had rewarding partnerships - from 'the Sons of Ham' with Tom Lemonier he wrote, 'Miss Hannah from Savannah' and 'The Little Gypsy Maid' with Will Marion Cook, 'Josephine My Jo', 'Please Let Me Sleep', 'Port Rico' and 'Come After Breakfast' with Tim Brymn, 'Teasing' with Albert von Tilzer, 'All In Down and Out', 'Let it Alone', 'You're in the Right Church but the Wrong Pew', 'Down Among the Sugar Cane' with Chris Smith, 'Shine' with Ford Dabney. But in the end they couldn't compete with the white houses and closed in 1911.
With Smith he continued with 'My Country Right or Wrong'* for the Follies 1915 and 'The Camel Walk'. With James P Johnson, 'The Charleston' and 'Old Fashioned Love'.
Mammy songs - darktown strutters and hot chocolates were all to come.
Music Publishers held the aces, the songsters struggled.
Remick, Feist, Fisher, Harris who would take their songs? Rossiter in Chicago? Setchell in Boston? Presser in Philadelphia? ASCAP in 1914 offered some protection.
Shelton Brooks (1886-1975) - A vaudeville performer who wrote his own songs and published them with Will Rossiter. Two instant 'standards', 1910 'Some of These Days' with Sophie Tucker (2 million copies), 1917 'Darktown Strutters Ball' (3 million copies).
Brooks produced 'The Plantation Review' in 1922. He starred with Florence Mills in 'Blackbirds of 1926'.
Maceo Pinkard (1897-1962) - Pinkard
had his own publishing business. 'Those Draftin' Blues', 'Stockyard Blues' then
his first hit 'Mammy o' Mine'. A raggy jazzy song and the ODJB recorded it in
1919. Big songs were, 'Does My Sweetie Do and How?', 'Sweet Man', 'Desdemona'
and 'Sweet Georgia Brown'.
'I Wonder what's become of Joe', 'Gimme a Little Kiss will Ya', 'Sugar', 'I'll be a Friend with Pleasure', 'Them Their Eyes'.
Jo Trent (1892-1954) - mysterious lyricist with Clarence Williams and Fats Waller and Ellington and J Russel Robinson and Peter de Rose. 'Outside of That He's All Right with Me', 'Georgia Bo Bo', 'Blind Man's Buff', 'Rhythm King', 'Muddy Water'.
Early pop songs -
The song of the century was composed by Henry Bishop with the poem by John Howard Payne - 'Home Sweet Home'
1866 J A Butterfield - 'When You & I were Young Maggie'
1898 Harry Von Tilzer - 'A Bird in a Gilded Cage' - Albert Von Tilzer wrote 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'
1900 Will D Cobb - 'Good bye Dolly Gray'
1905 Paul Dresser - 'My Gal Sal'
1909 Shelton Brooks, ABCD, a rhythm ballad, Sophie’s theme song - 'Some of These Days'
1909 Henry Creamer with Bert Williams - 'That's a Plenty'
1910 Ford Dabney with words by Cecil Mack, made famous by Louis - 'That’s Why they Call Me Shine';
1911 Lewis F Muir, new rhythms & it swings - 'Waiting for the Robert E Lee'
1911 Irving Berlin - 'Alexander's Ragtime Band'
1913 James P Johnson with words by Cecil Mack, but who remembers the words ... from ‘Runnin’ Wild’ - 'Charleston'
1913 Chris Smith's dance instruction song, a true early swinger - 'Ballin' the Jack'
1915 Abe Olman - 'Down Among the Sheltering Palms'
1916 Tony Jackson, a jaunty little rhythm song - 'Pretty Baby'
1917 Shelton Brooks, massive pop. ODJB's first record - 'Darktown Strutters Ball'
1917 Art Hickman the 1st big section band leader - 'Rose Room'
1917 James Hanley & Ballard MacDonald - 'Indiana'
1918 Lee Roberts & Will Callahan. From ‘The Passing Show of 1918’ – Sigmund Romberg - 'Smiles'
1918 Henry Creamer and Turner Layton, outstanding negro vaudeville duo , fast changes, jazz standard, ABAC, Bessie, Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, Louis - 'After You've Gone'
1918 Bob Carleton, 16 bars of cute innocence - 'Ja Da'
1918 Bert Leighton & Boyd Bunch traditional 12 bar blues - 'Frankie and Johnny'.
1919 Kendis and Brockman - 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles'
1919 Spike brothers, Benjamin & John, written by the brothers who recorded Ory's Sunshine orchestra in 1923, King Oliver's Savannah Syncopators hit in 1926 - 'Someday Sweetheart'
1919 Arthur Swanstone - 'Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me'
1920 Felix Barnard, Johhny Black, with a boogie bass line, did Jerome Kern steal it? - 'Dardanella'
1920 Vincent Rose plus friends, phenomenal success, 'Avalon' by Whiteman - 'Whispering'
1920 Vincent Rose & Al Jolson, adapted from Tosca - 'Avalon'
1920 Henry Busse, Whiteman's trumpeter - 'Wang Wang Blues'
1920's rent parties skiffle - 'Puttin on the Style'
1920's Brown & von Tilzer - 'Dapper Dan'
1921 'Careless Love' came from everywhere but was 'bagged' by W. C. Handy
1921 Benton Overstreet and Billy Higgins, unpretentious brilliance, the last of the 'simple' songs - 'There'll be some Changes Made'
1921 Creamer & Layton again, from 'Deep River' - 'Dear Old Southland'
1922 Zez Confrey, a pentatonic tune - 'Stumbling'
1922 the melody stops for the lyrics, Creamer & Layton again - 'Way Down Yonder in New Orleans'
1922 Harrington Gibbs - 'Runnin' Wild'
1922 Gus Kahn, from ‘bombo’ - 'Toot Too Tootsie'
1923 Ted Snyder, with Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby (1957 Connie Francis) - 'Who's Sorry Now'
1924 George Meyer, a rhythm ballad - 'Mandy Make Up Your Mind'
1925 Harry Akst, Al Jolson's accompanist, a relaxed natural - 'Dinah'
1925 Ben Bernie, dixieland changes - 'Sweet Georgia Brown'
1925 Walter Donaldson - 'Yes Sir that's My Baby'
1926 Sam Theard, Louis hit - 'You Rascal You'
1926 Boyd Atkins - 'Heebie Jeebies'
1926 De Sylva, Brown & Henderson, what a team!, from George White's scandals of 1926 - 'Birth of the Blues'
1926 De Sylva, Brown & Henderson, from George White's scandals of 1926 - 'Black Bottom'
1927 Bob King, a one fingered prolific - 'Ice Cream'
1927 Walter Melrose & Marty Bloom - 'Willie the Weeper'
1927 Walter Donaldson, Gene Austin sings, biggest hit until Crosby's 'White Christmas' - 'My Blue Heaven'
1927 Walter Donaldson - 'At Sundown'
1927 Donald Heywood, lively rhythm continuous motion song - 'I'm coming Virginia'
1927 Milton Ager & Jack Yellen - 'Ain't She Sweet'
1927 Jimmy McHugh &, this time, Clarence Gaskill - 'I Can't Believe that You're in Love with Me'
1928 Thomas A Dorsey (Georgia Tom), a blues singer who moved to Chicago and took Gospel big - 'It's Tight Like That'
1928 Walter Donaldson again - 'Making Whoopee'
1928 Walter Donaldson again - 'Love Me or Leave Me'
1928 Harry Barris, 'the rhythm boys' - 'Mississippi Mud'
1928 Victor Young, the simplest of simple songs but it works! Ref Mrs Alan Ladd - 'Sweet Sue Just You'
1929 Harry Akst, Ethel Waters' song - 'Am I Blue?'
1929 De Sylva, Brown & Henderson - 'Button Up your Overcoat'
1929 Milton Ager & Jack Yellen - 'Happy Days are Here Again'
1929 Walter Donaldson & Edgar Leslie - 'Tain’t No Sin to Take Off your Skin & Dance around in your Bones'1930 Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields - 'On the Sunny Side of the Street'
1930 Johnny Green - 'Body & Soul', 'Out of Nowhere', 'I Cover the Waterfront'
1930 Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields - 'Exactly Like You'
1931 Gerald Marks & Seymore Simons - 'All of Me'
1931 Leon & Otis Rene & Clarence Muse, C major with the release in E - 'When it's Sleepy Time Down South'
1934 Felix Barnard - 'Winter Wonderland'
1936 Gerald Marks (also 'all of me') - 'Is it True what they Say about Dixie'
1938 Harry Warren - 'Jeepers Creepers'
1941 Benny Moten - 'South'
1941 Gene Autry movie. Vincent Rose, Al Lewis, Larry Stock. A hit with Glen Miller and Ray Eberle. Then Louis, Fats Domino and Elvis - 'Blueberry Hill'
1942 Victor Schertzinger & Jonny Mercer for the film ‘The Fleets In’ - 'Tangerine'James Dempsey & George Mitchell - 'Ace in the Hole'
1947 L Alter & E DeLange - 'Do you Know what it Means to miss New Orleans'
Singing the 20th Century -
Some fun from a mate ... just a list of songs, year by year, from 1900 through to the late 60's, ending with the great song wasteland, from which the world has yet to emerge. It was not easy to narrow this down, even to this many songs, there were hundreds of candidates! This was a very select, and subjective, list. I'm sure yours would be different. It was primarily based, not on how popular the songs were then, but how well they were remembered, and whether my mates, mostly born by 1940, can successfully sing them and play them ... it was just a list.
1901 Just a-Wearyin' for You
1902 Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home, In the Good Old Summer Time
1903 Sweet Adeline
1904 Meet Me in St Louis, Louis, Goodbye, My Lady Love, Yankee Doodle Boy, Give My Regards to Broadway
1905 In My Merry Oldsmobile, Wait 'Till the Sun Shines, Nellie
1906 You're a Grand Old Flag
1907 School Days, On the Road to Mandalay
1908 Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Shine on, Harvest Moon
1909 Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet, Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland, By the Light of the Silvery Moon
1910 Let Me Call You Sweetheart, Down by the Old Mill Stream
1911 Alexander's Ragtime Band, I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl, Oh, You Beautiful Doll
1912 Moonlight Bay, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
1913 You Made Me Love You
1914 Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, It's a Long Way to Tipperary, When You Wore a Tulip, Play a Simple Melody
1915 There's a Long, Long Trail a-Winding
1916 Pretty Baby, I Ain't Got Nobody
1917 Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag, For Me and My Gal, Oh, Johnny, Oh, Over There, Darktown Strutters' Ball
1918 Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, I'm Always Chasing Rainbows, Till We Meet Again, Beautiful Ohio
1919 How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm, I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles, A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody, Swanee
1920 I'll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time, Avalon, Margie
1921 Ain't We Got Fun, Peggy O'Neil, I'm Nobody's Baby, April Showers
1922 Chicago, Carolina in the Morning
1923 Swingin' Down the Lane, Yes We Have No Bananas, Who's Sorry Now
1924 California, Here I Come, What'll I Do, Serenade (Student Prince), Tea for Two
1925 Sweet Georgia Brown, If You Knew Susie, Yes Sir, That's My Baby, Sleepy Time Gal, Five Foot Two
1926 Bye Bye Blackbird, The Desert Song
1927 Blue Skies, Ain't She Sweet, I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, Side by Side, My Blue Heaven, Ol' Man River
1928 I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Marie, Button Up Your Overcoat, Stout Hearted Men, Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise
1929 Wedding Bells (Are Breaking up That Old Gang), Louise, Singin' in the Rain, Star Dust
1930 On the Sunny Side of the Street, Walkin' My Baby Back Home, Georgia on My Mind
1931 Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, I Found a Million Dollar Baby, When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain, Love Letters in the Sand, Goodnight Sweetheart, All of Me, Lazy River
1932 Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee, In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town, We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye, The Song Is You
1933 Stormy Weather, It's Only a Paper Moon, Easter Parade, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
1934 Moonglow, I Only Have Eyes for You, Winter Wonderland
1935 Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Blue Moon, When I Grow Too Old to Dream, I'm in the Mood for Love, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, Cheek to Cheek, Red Sails in the Sunset, Summertime
1936 The Glory of Love, These Foolish Things, The Way You Look Tonight, Pennies from Heaven, Whiffenpoof Song
1937 I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, They Can't Take That Away from Me, -Where or When, Harbor Lights, That Old Feeling, Once in a While, Nice Work If You Can Get It
1938 Thanks for the Memory, Our Love Is Here to Stay, Love Walked In, Begin the Beguine, Mexicali Rose, Two Sleepy People
1939 September Song, Deep Purple, God Bless America, Beer Barrel Polka, Over the Rainbow, South of the Border, All the Things You Are
1940 Indian Summer, When You Wish Upon a Star, Imagination, Fools Rush In, I'm Back in the Saddle Again, When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano
1941 The Last Time I Saw Paris, We'll Meet Again, San Antonio Rose, Amapola, You Are My Sunshine, I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire, Chattanooga Choo-choo, White Cliffs of Dover
1942 Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, I Left My Heart at the Stagedoor Canteen, Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, White Christmas
1943 I've Heard That Song Before, As Time Goes By, Oh What a Beautiful Morning, I'll Be Home for Christmas
1944 I'll Be Seeing You, Swinging on a Star, I'll Walk Alone, Don't Fence Me In
1945 Rum and Coca Cola, Candy, Laura, Sentimental Journey, There I've Said It Again, If I Loved You, On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe, It's Been a Long Long Time, Let It Snow
1946 Seems Like Old Times, There's No Business Like Show Business, To Each His Own, Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)
1947 Anniversary Song, How Are Things in Glocca Morra, My Adobe Hacienda, Almost Like Being in Love
1948 Now Is the Hour, Buttons and Bows, On a Slow Boat to China, Lavender Blue
1949 Far Away Places, Cruising Down the River, Forever and Ever, Ghost Riders in the Sky, Some Enchanted Evening, Sleigh Ride
1950 I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts, Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In), Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think), My Foolish Heart, Dearie, Goodnight Irene, The Tennessee Waltz
1951 So Long, It's Been Good to Know You, Mockin' Bird Hill, On Top of Old Smoky, Hello Young Lovers, Cold Cold Heart, Slow Poke
1952 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Smokey the Bear, High Noon, Glow Worm, Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes, Silver Bells
1953 Hi-Lili Hi-Lo, Vaya con Dios, I Love Paris, Istanbul, That's Amore, Stranger in Paradise, Heart of My Heart
1954 Oh My Papa, Young at Heart, Three Coins in the Fountain, The Happy Wanderer, Hernando's Hideaway, This Ole House, Mister Sandman, Home for the Holidays
1955 Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sun Shine In), Ballad of Davy Crockett, The Yellow Rose of Texas, Moments to Remember, Sixteen Tons
1956 The Wayward Wind, Wouldn't It Be Loverly, I Walk the Line, Que sera sera, Tonight You Belong to Me, Blueberry Hill
1957 Marianne, A White Sport Coat, It's Not for Me to Say, Tammy, Jamaica Farewell
1958 Seventy-six Trombones, Twenty-six Miles, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, All I Have to Do Is Dream, Purple People Eater, Tom Dooley, Tonight (/Maria)
1959 Battle of New Orleans, Waterloo, The M.T.A, Misty, The Sound of Music
1960 El Paso, Everybody's Somebody's Fool, Save the Last Dance for Me, Try To Remember, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
1961 Love Makes the World Go 'Round, Moon River
1962 Where Have All the Flowers Gone, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, This Land Is Your Land
1963 Puff the Magic Dragon, Detroit City, Blowin' in the Wind
1964 Sunrise Sunset, The Last Thing on My Mind
1965 Downtown, King of the Road, Chim-Chim Cheree, Yesterday, England Swings, Sound of Silence
1966 Spanish Eyes, California Dreamin', Strangers in the Night, Somewhere My Love
1967 Green, Green Grass of Home, Tiny Bubbles
1968 The Unicorn, Little Green Apples, Both Sides Now, Those Were the Days
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