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All MIDI file contents and Wave/MP3 Audio recordings are Copyright ©1998 through under the 1998 Electronic Copyright Laws by Bill Edwards and Siggnal Sounds. All Sheet Music and Album Cover images here have been restored or enhanced by Bill Edwards, and only the original sources are in the Public Domain (except where noted). Unauthorized duplication or distribution of these proprietary files or associated digital recordings is a violation of copyright and patent law. They are for personal use and enjoyment of individuals only, and may be used on other sites only upon request for permission to do so. This site has been optimized for HTML5/CSS3 browsers released in 2012 or later with a recommended minimum 1024x768 and optimal 1280x900 monitor resolution or better.
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Old-Time Song Instrumentals From 1920 to the 1950s
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mp3 fileThe Dardanella Blues
Johnny S. Black (M) and Fred Fisher (L) - 1920
Dardanella Blues A follow up to the wildly successful Dardanella, this song has more of a jazz feel to it than it does blues, so is really a blues in name only. Johnny Black's innovative bass pattern is used liberally throughout the verse and chorus, linking it to the original song. In spite of this link, the sequel was not even remotely as successful in terms of live or recorded performance. It did, however, sell relatively well in both sheet music and piano roll format. The lyrics actually reference the original composition, rather than continue the storyline of the mystical girl by the Oriental bay, which further dilutes its potential popularity. I was first introduced to this piece by my mentor and Colorado legend, Dick Kroeckel, who made a logical medley out of both pieces. He and Johnny Maddox are virtually the only pianists I've heard play Dardanella Blues other than myself.
mp3 fileSaloon
Ernest R. Ball (M) (as Roland E. Llab) and George Whiting (L) - 1921
Saloon  Triangle Hotel Saloon Booth There actually was a time, that a scant few of you visiting here may remember from childhood, that this country practiced prohibition of public alcohol consumption and production by mandate of a constitutional amendment and the Volstead Act. As performer and historian Max Morath has put it, "A majority of the people voted in prohibition, because a majority of the people in this country drank too much." Go figure. This lovely comic ballad by the writers of many serious Irish ballads is part tongue-in-cheek and part love song. It was written in late 1921 almost two years after the advent of prohibition, a time when those who really wanted alcohol were still able to get it. The quality of Ball's composing is evident in how well the melody holds up without vocals. It was Max who I first heard performing it, and I was able to secure a rare copy of the piece for my own performance on Volume 2 of Perfessor Bill Edwards Sings, that performance also presented here. The original cover, the title with only the names of the composers on the front, indicates that it may have been intended for stage performance only, not for sale. I assembled the more palatable cover shown here from other Witmark pieces used as a template. The booth pictured above next to the cover is one that Ball had sat in on occasion, and may have even composed When Irish Eyes Are Smiling in. The saloon it was in may further be the inspiration for this piece. So sit back, enjoy, and "Cheers!"
mp3 fileSecond Hand Rose
James F. Hanley (M) and Grant Clarke (L) - 1921
Second Hand Rose One of the most popular songs ever associated with the long-running Ziegfeld Follies entertainer Fanny Brice, Ms. Brice herself associated deeply with the song as well for reasons that may not be apparent on the surface. Rose was Fanny in many ways, an immigrant or child born of immigrants and living in one of the many ethnic neighborhoods of greater New York City. While Rose in the song is the daughter of a second hand store owner, Fanny was the daughter of an immigrant saloon keeper who her mother eventually left due to his drinking and absence from the home. Still, the two had much in common. Born Fanny Borach and raised primarily by her mother, Rose Borach, she started singing in her early teens mostly to help raise money to feed her siblings. This led to some stage roles, but mostly typecast as a Yiddish girl, even though she knew no Yiddish herself. Fanny finally changed her last name to Brice in an effort much duplicated among the immigrant population to become more Americanized. Her talent eventually led her to a long-standing role as a comedic star in the famous Follies starting in 1910. She did not, however, as is portrayed in the first of two biopics (Funny Lady), audition for Ziegfeld with this song, as it would not be composed for another 11 years. Like Rose, Fanny had been frustrated by always getting the leftovers, and she remembered this often throughout her life as she rose out of the tenements to become a memorable star, second at that time perhaps only to Al Jolson.
The Rose in the song is a good-natured parody that represents not only Jewish immigrants but those from other parts of Europe and Russia as well, as they struggled to make a good life for their children, even if it meant foregoing anything new and settling for whatever those who were better off had no further use for. Still, Rose is a bit petulant because she has things (coat, piano, a parlor to put it in, pearls, access to the Ritz) that most immigrants could only dream of. The subtle comedy lies in her association with the average New York immigrant not having new things, but complaining about what she does have like a spoiled brat, something that Fanny (and later Barbara Striesand) was able to portray to the hilt. This arrangement is part 1920s jazz and part piano roll, using snippets here and there of previously recorded performances. It's a second hand arrangement of a first-rate tune that I hope you have as much fun with as I do. Miss Kelsey Pederson gives her vocal of it an original semi-dramatic interpretation.
mp3 fileTitina (Je Cherche Après Titine)
Léo Daniderff (M),
Zez Confrey
(M additional theme), Bertal-Maubon and E. Ronn (L) - 1922/1925
Titina (Je Cherche Après Titine) This is an absolutely charming piece that although is not commonly heard today realized some fame in both Europe and the U.S. in the 1920s. Composed by the Frenchman Léo Daniderff in 1922, Titina made its way to the U.S. with English lyrics via the stage revue Puzzles of 1925. Zez Confrey, in his capacity as an Ampico reproducing roll artist took off with the tune in a fabulous arrangement, some of which is quoted here. He started with the very catchy chorus, used the verse as an interlude before a chorus variation, and even arranged a third theme in the manner of a trio, which is paraphrased in this performance. Other artists and bands recorded it throughout the late 1920s as well. However, the chorus of the piece was used to greatest effect in the 1936 Charles Chaplin film Modern Times in a scene where he is called upon as an alleged singing waiter to perform a piece. The tramp character consequently chose Titina with some partly nonsensical French lyrics made up for the occasion and suggestively delivered at points. Lest one dismiss Chaplin's musical tastes or talents, know that he often composed music for his silent and sound films, including the oft-used Smile for this same soundtrack. My take on Titina is a little more laid back and exudes a natural swing inherent in the composition.
mp3 fileThe Original Charleston (Charleston)
James P. Johnson
(M) and
R.C. McPherson as Cecil Mack
(L) - 1923
The Original Charleston Yes, there is a bit of redundancy in the listed title here, but let me explain. Firstly, this is indeed the famous piece that defined, for some, the sound of the 1920s with its distinct syncopated beat and the dance that went with it. The Original Charleston was introduced in the musical Runnin' Wild in 1923, most of which was the product of Johnson and McPherson. While not the first all-black musical on Broadway, it was one of the early successes both in New York and on the road, coming on the heels of Shuffle Along by their friends Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle in 1921. For Johnson, who was still developing his solo career as a stride pianist, it was a big boost of fame. For McPherson, who was better known as Cecil Mack by this time and was more than two decades older than Johnson, it was a renewal of a stalled career, and helped to make him vital again for a while. The song permeated the country, crossing color lines in an instant, and the pervasive Charleston dance, along with the music, became a true rage in this period of exuberant excess in the United States. As for my stating the title twice - since I felt it was somewhat overplayed and cliché, I avoided performing this work for years, favoring instead the challenging Charleston Rag by Blake. So when I finally decided to take up this Charleston, elements of the "other" Charleston just sort of crept in, creating this unique if confusing hybrid of the two pieces. Thus, the Charleston (Charleston). Just enjoy and dance to it, all right?
mp3 fileYou've Got To See Mamma Every Night
C. Con Conrad (M) and Billy Rose (L) - 1923
You've Got To See Mamma Every Night In the same year that they turned out Barney Google (below), the short-lived team of Conrad and Rose came up with this gem. It became a hit for the inimitable Sophie Tucker that same year. Rose's clever lyrics tend to imply that of an illicit affair, a theme that was common in ragtime songs, although a bit better masked in previous years for the sake of propriety. The egotistic but talented Rose obviously went on to better things, including many hit songs and a stormy marriage to Ziegfeld Follies alumni Fanny Brice. Conrad started out as a vaudeville pianist before delving into composition. He started writing for Broadway in 1924, and ended up losing everything in failed productions around 1929. He made a comeback in Hollywood with many film scores and an Oscar to his credit. Tucker was able to make the most of insinuations in her classic recording, in which the interlude (see lyrics) is followed by a bawdy "da da da da" chorus. The structure includes a verse, a repeated chorus, and an interlude, which was common during the 1920s. Somewhere buried in this song is a moral! Or is that immoral?
mp3 fileBarney Google
Con Conrad (M) and Billy Rose (L) - 1923
Barney Google The comic strip hero for ne'er-do-well lovers everywhere, Barney Google, had debuted less than four years before this best-selling musical tribute was released. The strip in which Barney lived (running into the 21st century as Barney Google and Snuffy Smith) debuted June 17, 1919 as Take Barney Google, F'rinstance. Creator Billy DeBeck, who actually started the strip to finance a legitimate art career, soon changed it to Barney Google. The short wisecracking character was a sports enthusiast and gambler who was frequently henpecked by his "wife three times his size" because of these habits. But it wasn't until his sidekick came along in 1922 that Barney warranted a song about his exploits. As it played out in the strip, Barney was in the wrong place at the right time, just standing around outside of the Pastime Jockey Club. As the end result of a physical argument, a man flew out the window right on top of our hero. Feeling that Barney had saved his life he gave him one of his horses, which of course was Spark Plug. That was all the spark that was needed to set the strip on fire. The horse was only meant to remain temporarily in the storyline, until after his one and only race. However, the anticipation of the event became a national sensation (even though Spark Plug lost miserably) and Sparky became a fixture in a continuing love-hate relationship. Years later Snuffy Smith, a hillbilly cousin of Barney's, joined the strip, and eventually became the main character, ending Barney's domain in the 1950s under the pen of a different artist. But it was DeBeck who approved the lyrics of this tune and even contributed the cover artwork. Many people bought the music even though they couldn't read it or had no instrument, just because of that cover. It included the characteristic extra verses, mostly nonsense, a common practice of lyricist Billy Rose. I have tried to infuse some whimsy with the most common verses included in this vocal performance.
Copyright ©1923/1949 Whitney Warner
mp3 fileHard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)
Jack Yellen, Milton Ager, Bob Bigelow and Charles Bates - 1924
Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)  Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah) (Alternate) One might guess that either one or more of the composers of this famous piece had actually met Hannah (or one of her sisters). The tone of the lyrics suggests Hannah as a real man-hater just short of a Black Widow in regards to her treatment of men. This is one of those crossover songs that has roots in both ragtime and blues style songs, but clearly has a swing to it as well, a harbinger of a musical style that was just starting to grow legs at that time. Two of the tricks that draw attention to songs like this are the break in the middle of the chorus, which accentuates the melodic and lyrical content at that point, and the extended chorus ending. Such endings, nothing more than a four or eight measure insert, were seen as early as 1918 in songs like Somebody Stole My Gal, and presented a musical method to insert more lyrics without breaking up the overall flow of the chorus. Both tricks also gave some wiggle room for instrumentalists who wanted to improvise a bit, making songs like Hannah popular with jazz bands as well. As for how Georgian's feel about such songs as this and Sweet Georgia Brown which accentuate the less seemly women in their population... well both songs are mentioned on historical web sites for the state, proving that notorious publicity is still publicity.
mp3 fileI'll See You In My Dreams
Isham Jones (M) and Gus Kahn (L) - 1924
I'll See You In My Dreams This was a song born from instant inspiration, albeit from a talented tunemaker of some note. Jones was trained as a saxophonist and by the time the jazz age came forth in the 1920s he was recording regularly with his band on Brunswick records and doing quite well. His earlier compositions with a variety of lyricists were only average, but in 1924 he burst forth with some great tunes, including Swinging Down the Lane, Spain and It Had to Be You. However this piece, with lyrics by the prolific Gus Kahn who gave voice to several 1920s hits, was purportedly a spur of the moment surprise. It seems that Jones wife gave him a baby grand piano for his 30th birthday in 1924, and that within an hour (if you believe the legend) he had finished I'll See You In My Dreams short of a full lyric. It is billed as a Fox Trot song, but that is open for wide interpretation since Jones often recorded such Fox Trots at casual tempos that invited slow dancing. This dreamy melody works at a variety of tempos, but I have chosen a relaxed tempo to allow for some improvisation in the repeat choruses.
Copyright ©1924/1950 MPL Communications
mp3 fileEverybody Loves My Baby
Spencer Williams and Jack Palmer - 1924
Everybody Loves My Baby This was the first of a pair of "baby" songs by Williams that culminated in I Found a New Baby two years later. Williams was doing very well in the 1920s with consistent hits, some in league with Clarence Williams (no known relation), and succeeding as a publisher as well, something a black person was less likely to have done prior to 1900 due to cultural restraints. This piece is cleverly worded by Palmer, allowing for any race to sing it effectively (another fine selling point), and it includes contemporary slang like "sweet patootie" It is clearly intended to be sung by a male. The minor verse, done here in more of a blues style in the beginning, leads into a chorus that spends equal time in the minor and major modes. After the bluesy chorus the tempo picks up for a rollicking stride rendition of the tune. There are nods in here to ragtime friends Jeff Barnhart (who does a fine rendition of the piece) and Brian Holland (from his arrangement of the follow-up song). Comparisons of Everybody Loves My Baby and I Found a New Baby (the price of everybody wanting one's baby) will show that the chorus of each is mostly the same save for the 8 bar bridge. If it ain't broke, why fix it. This was a decent recorded hit for sultry singer
Blossom Seeley
, who is pictured on the cover included here.
Copyright ©1924/1952 by Warner Music.
mp3 fileYes Sir, That's My Baby
Walter Donaldson (M) and Gus Kahn (L) - 1925
Yes Sir, That's My Baby (Original cover)  Yes Sir, That's My Baby (Alternate cover) This memorable tune from the Charleston era was actually inspired by a pig! Not a real one, however. The composers were visiting their friend, stage entertainer Eddie Cantor, one afternoon when Cantor's daughter Marjorie brought out one of her favorite toys, a walking mechanical pig. She wound it up and it started walking in rhythm while two notes kept coming from the little creature. Kahn was inspired and started working lyrics to these notes in rhythm with the pig, coming up with the title and opening line of the chorus in short order. The pair immediately turned it into a song, and Cantor turned it into a lasting hit. Among my favorite renditions, and the ones I first learned the piece from, are the inspired Firehouse Five Plus Two recording of 1950, as well as a lesser known recording by the late Milton Berle on a minstrel revival record from the early 1960s. The rhythm quickly becomes infectious in both the verse and chorus. As with the FHF+2 version, I have added a Charleston chorus, and a few other cutesy tricks. Years later, Kahn commented that his take from the song constituted the largest amount of money a Jewish songwriter had ever made from a pig.
mp3 fileI Wish't I Was In Peoria
Harry Woods (M), Billy Rose and Mort Dixon (L) - 1925
I Wish't I Was In Peoria Poking fun at a particular city is hardly a new sport for entertainers. Toledo had it's ignominious fifteen minutes through the Randy Sparks tune Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio. The Marx Brothers found a new portal of comedy while hurling insults at the town of Nagadoches, Texas (Nagadoches is full of roaches, etc.). Then there is this shining example of backhanded recognition which may have little to do with the reputation of Peoria, Illinois and more with how primary lyricist Billy Rose with help from Mort Dixon believed they could create silly rhymes to go with it. In some sense it is a mix and match piece that allows the performer to create whatever version of the song he deems suitable, as there are no less than seven verses and ten choruses (I promise I did not sing all of them for this recording). Doubtless many performers made up their own additional lyrics as well. The tone of this sardonic musical roast somewhat fits the acerbic personality of Rose who certainly thought more of himself than many around him. They viewed him as unattractive, vain and callous, but admired his talents. Evidently so did former Ziegfeld star Fannie Brice who married him around this time. In spite of, or perhaps because of Rose, the song Peoria became a staple of stage comedians of the late 1920s, and one of the last great hits of vaudeville, a format that was on its way out. The city of Peoria remains intact and dignified to this day, and the annual World Championship of Old-Time Piano Playing moved to this hospitable location in 2002. In fact, I wish't I was there right now, and all of you too.
Copyright ©1925/1951 MPL Communications
mp3 fileSweet Georgia Brown
Maceo Pinkard (M) and Ken Casey (L) - 1925
Sweet Georgia Brown Most people who know the music of the twenties or earlier are very familiar with Sweet Georgia Brown, but few have heard the verse, particularly with the original words. They are often shocked to learn that this otherwise innocuous advertisement for a great southern state is actually a song about a black prostitute. "She just got here yesterday, things are hot here now they say..." It was nonetheless a very big Charleston hit originally popularized by bandleader Ben Bernie, who received co-composer credit in exchange for recording the piece in spite of not having written any of it. This was a common arrangement with songwriters during the era, which allowed them better distribution of their work, albeit with diminished royalties. The very capable Pinkard was also responsible for one of the first Charleston tunes ever written, in advance of James P. Johnson's monster hit about the dance. This is my championship version used on at least two occasions at the annual World Championship of Old-Time Piano Playing held in Decatur (now East Peoria), Illinois. I add contrast by starting the song in a slow and sultry mood through the second verse, then pick it up into a Charleston tempo, closing out full steam ahead.
mp3 fileI Never See Maggie Alone
Everett Lynton (M) and Harry Tilsley (L) - 1926
I Never See Maggie Alone This is a cute novelty song that borders on risqué, albeit in a polite and proper fashion, as the composers were both British. It runs pretty much like a musical farce, where the guy going after the romance has trouble engaging in it since Maggie's extra-large family always appears to be lurking somewhere close by. One of the first artists to have a hit with this in the United States was no less than Broadway star Eddie Cantor. I Never See Maggie Alone saw some revived success as barbershop quartet arrangements in the late 1940s and 1970s. In a time when morals were being tested to the extreme in this country, the issue of an unmarried couple alone was titillating at best, but comically diffused when constantly foiled by the presence of her kin. Yet it was pieces like this that helped the 1920's to "roar" as much as they did. This arrangement is loosely based on the original, with some additional lyrics from one of the barbershop versions. The vocal also takes one of the verses from a barbershop arrangement for variety, as also heard on Volume 1 of Perfessor Bill Edwards Sings.
mp3 fileBaby Face
Benny Davis and Harry Akst - 1926
Baby Face pepe le pewFresh off the success of Dinah in 1925, Harry Akst teamed with Benny Davis to turn out what would be the biggest hit of his career. Although Eddie Cantor was the first to run with Baby Face, some 20 years later Al Jolson would try to have the last word when he recorded it for his second biopic, Jolson Sings Again. It has a wonderful jaunty feel right from the start of the interestingly constructed verse, and a beautiful legato melody that was picked up on very quickly by composer Carl Stalling. He used it in several Warner Brothers cartoon shorts in the 1940s and 1950s. One that is memorable to all who have seen it is Scent-imental Romeo from 1951, in which the man of a thousand voices, Mel Blanc, provides a truly Maurice Chevalier inspired Franglais performance of Baby Face via skunkmeister Pepé Le Pew (pictured). The suave stinker even wore a straw hat and danced with a cane. While this performance evokes more of the 1920s in America than it does of Gay Paree, it certainly doesn't stink up the joint! "I deedn't need a shoove, 'cus I jus fell een loove, with your preety bebé face!"
Pepe Le Pew name and image are copyright © Warner Brothers Pictures.
mp3 fileDoctor Jazz
Joseph "King" Oliver
(M) and Walter Melrose (L) - 1926
Doctor Jazz Although white publisher Melrose had his name on the cover, it does not mean that he contributed much more than support for King Oliver and his famous jazz band, all black. Melrose had done the same with Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton as well, having little or nothing to do with either music or lyrics, but working more as a promoter, and publishing numbers in print form that might have otherwise remain on record for years, thus providing a valuable service. Having lost his second trumpet and pianist, Louis Armstrong and Lil Hardin, after achieving a measure of respect and fame in the early and mid-1920s, Oliver regrouped with new musicians and new tunes, of which Doctor Jazz was one of his most memorable. Even at that, Morton and his Red Hot Peppers managed to record it in 1926 before Oliver laid down the track in April of 1927. Some have analyzed the lyrics as containing veiled references to either sex or drugs, but it is most likely that they should be taken at face value, and that the song is about hot music and nothing more. The tune is still frequently performed today by a variety of jazz artists and traditional jazz bands.
mp3 fileI'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover
Harry Woods (M) and Mort Dixon (L) - 1927
I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover - Original Cover  I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover - Later Cover A great optimistic tome that appeared just two years before our country's financial system came crashing down around us, this is a simple, by the numbers song that was easily memorized. Woods, still fairly new to songwriting, had a big hit the prior year with When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along). Four Leaf Clover was also a major hit song almost as soon as it appeared on the scene, thanks to both radios and records, and a couple of piano rolls. A common later edition trimmed most of the first verse out and eliminated the second one. This song was liberally used by arranger and composer Carl Stalling in several Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1930s to the 1950s, keeping it in the public's ear into the 21st century. My favorite versions of it include Bugs Bunny in Operation Rabbit singing "I'm looking over a three leaf clover that I overlooked bethree," and the horrible but popular "I'm Looking Over My Dead Dog Rover (who I killed with my power mower)." Lucky for you I ain't singin' either of those, but enjoying a honky-tonk style performance with my drummer son Alex Edwards.
mp3 fileCrazy Rhythm
Joseph Meyer, Roger Wolfe Kahn (M) and Irving Caesar (L) - 1928
Crazy Rhythm The official definition of crazy suggests a virtual thesaurus of terms such as mad, insane, erratic, unsound, askew and obsessed, reflective of the era from which it sprang. The mid to late 1920s were indeed somewhat crazy and even excessive as the U.S. accelerated out of control in some regards towards the impending financial collapse, and the word crazy was used in a number of tunes. It is included here partially due to its reference to National Prohibition which was still a hot-button topic at the time. While this piece, originally interpreted into the Broadway show Here's Howe in 1928 where it became a hit, came late in the jazz age, it still has stylistic tendencies that tie it to song conventions of the decade before. A response of sorts to the earlier and more sophisticated Fascinatin' Rhythm by George Gershwin, this song had a hook that was easier for the general public to hum, important for sales of music and records. Still, I could not help but to infuse not only some crazy rhythms of my own, but a little bit of Gershwin as well. Crazy Rhythm is simple and to the point, so just have fun with it and forget your cares and responsibilities. Worked for our ancestors, right? Hmmmm...
mp3 fileSt. James Infirmary Blues
Traditional - Transcribed by Joe Primrose - 1928
St. James Infirmary Blues This tragically-themed piece was hanging out in New Orleans and the American South in general many years before Primrose transcribed his published version in the late 1920s. However, the original St. James Infirmary referred to in the song actually existed in London centuries ago, not in Storyville where some had thought. The song also was a derivation of an old English folk song called The Unfortunate Rake. The verses included for this performance of the somber piece are among the most common, although some have also found their way into others blues pieces of the 1900s to 1920s and vice-versa. Note that in the funereal verses that the early traditions of jazz players as part of the procession are quite apparent, including being buried in a manner that suggests a solid standing, and having the second line, usually made up of the extended family and the hired band, first mourning, then celebrating the life just ended. St. James Infirmary is rarely played in a funeral line, as most bands to this day tend to favor the more appropriate Just a Closer Walk with Thee or Didn't He Ramble.
mp3 fileI'm Wild About Horns on Automobiles (That Go "Ta Ta Ta Ta")
Clarence Gaskill - 1928
I'm Wild About Horns on Automobiles (That Go 'Ta Ta Ta Ta') In the mid-1920s the Gabriel Trumpet horn appeared on cars as an extra. There were many configurations from two to seven or more tones in an array, the most common at that time being the three tone four note bugle. Before the sleek lines of the mid-1930s took hold, it was common to mount these beasts clearly in view as well, a blatant display of decibel dominance. While it wasn't Dixie or La Cucaracha, tunes more commonly found on car horns in later decades, it was enough to both irritate and fascinate people, the latter being the topic of this clever hit song. That it makes fun of certain car brands is more about popularity and rhyming than anything else. The reference to vehicular deaths of pedestrians is a little disturbing, but it underscores just how far (hopefully) we have advanced in traffic awareness, and safety. And perhaps even in horn sounds, except for, perhaps, Yellow Rose of Texas (just sayin').
mp3 fileTain't No Sin (To Dance Around in Your Bones)
Walter Donaldson (M) and Edgar Leslie (L) - 1929
Tain't No Sin (To Dance Around in Your Bones) The 1920s were roaring and dance tunes were always in demand. Even tunes about dancing that you could also dance to. This one, put together by two experienced and very talented writers, took the craze to a new somewhat indecent extreme. Actually, a glance at the lyrics will expose (no pun intended) what many considered to be somewhat risqué phrases in spots. But consider that the lyricist also contributed to the double entendre laced He'd Have to Get Under composed more than a decade and a half prior. There is plenty of that here, with blatant references to flapper girls and their undergarments (or lack thereof), as well as other titillating scenarios. This is a fine jazz song melodically, and very much in the genre of a traditional jazz band piece, which is how it is presented here in addition to the vocal. The clever dancing skeleton cover by artist Pud Lane is also one of the better examples of comic art at a time when sheet music covers were becoming definitively more generic, and it evokes the apex of a time that would soon be over due to the Great Depression.
mp3 filePutting on the Ritz
Irving Berlin
- 1929
Putting on the Ritz Talk about a popular song, this one has had at least four lives in the 20th century alone, and has never really been out of vogue. Referring to the posh hotel chain built up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Cesar Ritz, a man who had earlier been dismissed by some of his employers in the hotel business as unmanageable and inept, it clearly embraces the new use of "Ritz" as a descriptive noun referring to the upper echelon of society. In this case, the subjects are society wannabes trying to appear better off than they actually are. By some accounts written as early as 1927, this piece showed up in 1930 in a film by the same name that featured some other lesser Berlin compositions. Clark Gable in one of his rare singing performances revived it in 1938 in a scene later included in 1973 as part of the film That's Entertainment. It was given new life and new lyrics in the 1940s by way of a couple of musicals and films, and in the 1970s once more by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder in the unforgettable Young Frankenstein. A pop version was charted by Indonesian Dutch singer Taco Ockerse in 1982 and became a top 40 single worldwide. As previously noted, one thing that has changed since the song's inception are Berlin's lyrics, the most prominent and lasting rewrite to them is in a performance by Fred Astaire in 1946 in the film Blue Skies. Why Berlin altered the song is unclear, but it may have been to update a piece mired in 1920s lingo. What has not changed is that great forward motion of the chorus, which is essentially a syncopated arpeggio over a steady bass. Simplicity does sell. Why is it here amidst all this ragtime? It retains the snappy feel and construction of a ragtime melody, making its ancestry very clear. But it also has that late 1920s attitude, which was concurrently reflected in stride and blues compositions of the time. This interpretation reflects a combination of the jazz feel of 1930 with some stride piano stylings, Gershwinesque chord progressions, and just plain old fun, the primary reason that you found it here to begin with!
mp3 fileAm I Blue?
Harry Akst (M), Grant Clarke (L) - 1929
Am I Blue Introduced in 1929 in the first "All Talking, All Natural Color" [as best as two-color Technicolor™ could provide] feature length film, On with the Show, a Warner Brothers release, Am I Blue became nearly an instant classic, and while not an actual blues song, remains one of the most recorded ballads, even more than eight decades after it was issued. From the time that both Ethel Waters and Annette Hanshaw recorded it in 1929, it has been covered by artists of both sexes and many races, ranging from Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday (with a truncated verse) to Cher and Sue Keller. Clarke managed to capture a sense of pain and despair, bordering on suicide, in the sung narration of a relationship gone wrong, further bolstered by Akst's poignant and well-paced melody. In fact, the suicidal aspect was a bit strong for audiences at the beginning of the Great Depression, so the second verse, when sung at all, was soon supplanted with something more benign, even for the earliest recordings. Originally written from the standpoint of a woman, it has been modified for either gender over the years. As for the talented lyricist, Grant Clarke died at age 40 less than two years after this song was introduced. Akst continued in a mildly successful career writing for movies and radio. This more recent entry into the Am I Blue universe, featuring a rather blue and somewhat exasperated Kelsey Pederson (before she found true love and happiness in marriage), includes the original dark and angry second verse, rarely heard among all of the renditions captured through the years.
mp3 fileMemories of You
J. Hubert "Eubie" Blake (M) and Andy Razaf (L) - 1930
Memories of You
Memories of You was composed for inclusion in Lew Leslie's revue Blackbirds of 1930, and it was not long before it became a hit. According to Blake, "I wrote that song in an octave and a fifth, to show off a girl's voice, [actress] Minto Cato. You never heard anyone sing it the way she did, because it takes someone with real range to do it." Although there were other fine Blake and Razaf songs in the show, and despite the beauty of this tune, Blackbirds of 1930 did not do well with receipts, in part because of the growing financial crisis of the Great Depression. Still, on radio and records, both trumpeter/vocalist Louis Armstrong and blues singer Ethel Waters made a memorable lasting impression with this lovely tune, as did Theloniuos Monk in 1956. Eubie made his own frequently-referenced recording of it in 1962 for the Golden Reunion in Ragtime project championed by ragtime performer and entrepreneur Bob Darch. It even became a persistent theme in The Benny Goodman Story (Universal - 1956), although its inclusion in Goodman's landmark 1938 jazz concert at Carnegie Hall was a falsehood.
This song has become intensely personal to me, and sharing it with the world is both therapy and conversely a personal breach of my own privacy. However, it does open up a two way window that allows me to communicate things with you through music that I cannot through mere speech or writing. My beautiful daughter Amber was taken in January of 2016 by oral cancer, with no predisposition or family history. She was less than a month from her 32nd birthday. I had to play a concert the next weekend, but needed to work through my grief by tribute. The piece I chose was the now-revered Planxty written by Glenn Jenks for his friend Jim Stewart. It is a beautiful Irish tribute tune and dirge intended for a memorial (Jim asked Glenn to write it so he could hear it while still alive) which is commonly used by musicians in my field now for such events and in concert.Amber Louise Bowden However, that same week, Glenn also died quite unexpectedly. So now being one of the first ragtime artist to perform just three days following his death, his own piece became a fitting tribute. I needed something for Amber, so I called on one I had not done for a while, the breathtakingly poignant and more difficult to interpret properly Memories of You by Eubie Blake. By the first time I worked through it after having not played it for a couple of years, it was instantly "her" piece from that moment on, and even now more than a year later I have trouble getting through it without welling up or just gushing tears, so the attachment is palpable.
I had prepared it for the World Championship of Old Time Piano Playing five months later, but did not get a chance to perform it in the finals, which in hindsight may have been a blessing. However, a week later at the 35th Annual Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, I did bring the piece to a full house at the final concert that Saturday night. What I did not know just increased the emotional factor that evening. At the end of intermission, the Scott Joplin Foundation presented, as they do each year, an award for lifetime achievement in the field of ragtime and related music. When no less than long time ragtime pianist and proponent Max Morath started describing the achievements of this individual, I was stunned to realize it was me. I was a total mess when I walked out to accept this highly valued honor, joining a truly elite group of recipients, and gave a halting speech to the audience, having already been in a heightened state of emotion even before this transpired. Then they got mean. I got no respot, and it was instantly my turn to play. After THAT! I don't remember much except that I felt so strongly about that piece and the memory of my daughter. Our relationship had never been what it should have been, and was starting to become, so my regret came through as well as my love. I am still informed it was the performance of the evening, to which I am honored, but also mystified, because I was feeling it, not listening to it so much.
For the 2017 43rd edition of the World Championship of Old Time Piano Playing, I did have the chance to perform the piece once again, having only played it once for an audience in the year prior. This time I clearly had more control over the performance, but not my emotions. The process of sharing my grief, regret, joy, loss, gains, etc. with a group of friends and strangers is draining and therapeutic. This was the performance I remember, and even though I don't know when I will revisit this piece because it takes so much out of me, I will stand by this as a fitting tribute to my lost daughter who was cheated out of a full life by cancer, leaving many of us cheated in the process by not growing older with her. Amber Louise Quiring Bowden, while I have regrets about not having had as much a role in your life as I should have or wanted, I knew we were on the right track, and those are the Memories of You that I shall long cherish. Presented here is the audio from that May 28, 2017 live performance, which can also be found on YouTube at the contest's own page.
Copyright ©1930/1958 Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. Recorded Live at Ole Miss University, Nutt Auditorium May 28, 2017.
mp3 fileEgyptian Ella
Walter Doyle - 1931
Egyptian Ella Quite the opposite of the exotic middle eastern themes of previous years featuring the likes of seductive dancers such as Aphrodite and Little Egypt, this piece goes to the opposite extreme introducing a comically weight-challenged belly dancer. Mildly offensive to some, although unintentionally given the era it was born in, Egyptian Ella appeared at a time when laughs were in short supply (the Great Depression and National Prohibition), and were therefore a profitable business. In 1945 a toned-down version of the piece was included in a Paramount film called Bring On The Girls. Otherwise, it has been rarely recorded. In the elaborately (under-)orchestrated recorded version presented here, which is also available on Volume 3 of Perfessor Bill Edwards Sings, I included a "bump bump bump" before the heroine's(?) name in the chorus. I derived this from the artist who introduced me to Ella, Colorado's finest ragtimer, Dick Kroeckel. So put on your best snake charmer face and enjoy this very "sheik" song!
mp3 fileAt the Codfish Ball
Lew Pollack (M) and Sidney Mitchell (L) - 1936
At the Codfish Ball I don't know why I recorded this! I just like this tune. It's a ragtime type of jazzy song that's as cute as the person who introduced it in the movie Captain January, Shirley Temple (the late Shirley Temple-Black). Child performers were hardly a novelty in 1936. They were all over musical theatre or graduated from vaudeville. Famous child stars included George M. Cohan, Georgie Jessel, Eddie Cantor, Milton Berle, Rose Marie and Mickey Rooney. But miss Temple quickly became a national phenomenon, because she was the first famous child actress who was consistently getting parts in the movies. It took some of Hollywood's best songwriters to create a tune simple enough for an eight-year-old to sing well, yet simultaneously be appealing to adults. Shirley performed this pun-laden song with the equally talented (and somewhat older) Buddy Ebsen. Ironically enough there may have been a chance two and half years later for them to both work together again in The Wizard of Oz, but Fox asked MGM for too much money for their young star, and Ebsen only lasted three days as the tin man before he was hospitalized for aluminum dust poisoning. Still, it would have been a MUCH different film. As for this number, see how many nautical similes you can catch, including the musical hooks amidst my scale patterns!
Copyright ©1936, 1971 by Fox Movietone Publications
mp3 fileThe Beer Barrel Polka (Skoda Lasky)

Jaromir Vejvoda (M) and Wladimir A. Timm and Vasek Zeman (Czechoslovakian lyrics), and Lew Brown (English Lyrics) - 1934/1939
The Beer Barrel Polka (Skoda Lasky) This is one of the greatest beer sing-alongs of all time, and yet many people believe it to have been composed sometime during the ragtime era. Actually, it started out as a true Czechoslovakian polka, composed by Vejvoda, possibly in the late 1920s, but not published until 1934. The original title was Skoda Lasky (Unrequited Love), and had more to do with crying in one's beer than it did with drinking it. Lew Brown, with many other hits of the 1920s and 1930s to his credit, heard and liked the melody enough to write an American set of lyrics to it that dovetailed with a current polka craze. The Andrews Sisters were among the first to record it and create another Brown hit, which was followed up by a spectacular J. Lawrence Cooke piano roll arrangement. There is yet another set of lyrics for the tune in German, which is titled Rosamunde. I present it here in a shortened version from my normal stage routine, which requires a great deal of audience participation. Just know that it works better with the audience stomping and clapping to the beat, drinking a toast, AND singing the chorus! (But don't try all four at once by yourself!)
Skoda Lasky International Copyright ©1934/1971. Beer Barrel Polka Copyright ©1939/1976 Shapiro Bernstein/MPL Communications
mp3 fileThe Old Piano Roll Blues
Cy Coben - 1949
The Old Piano Roll Blues Do you want to hear it again? OK. This is one of those pieces that looks and sounds much older than it really is. Information is sketchy on whether the song was commissioned by the QRS roll company, or player manufacturers Wurlitzer or Aeolian. However, it was coincidentally just a short time after this song was released in late 1949 that all three companies, in an effort to reintroduce the player piano to the American public, created a post-war media blitz featuring this tune. A combination of key-top devices, streamlined pump models and electrified spinets helped boost previously lagging piano sales, piano roll sales and, somewhat surprisingly, sheet music consumption. The Old Piano Roll Blues is actually a song about the bygone days of piano rolls, rather than one from those days. It contains elements of both Charlotte Blake's That Poker Rag (the B and D sections) and James Scott's Dixie Dimples (the B section). Coben's song became a big hit throughout the 1950s and 1960s, covered by Hoagy Carmichael, Eddie Cantor, Frankie Carle, the flamboyant Liberace, and appropriately on piano roll by the inimitable (although he could imitate anybody) J. Lawrence Cooke. And now, ironically, it has been reproduced on the player piano format of the 21st century - MIDI - by yours truly (including a rarely heard verse interlude). The Old Musical Instrument Digital Interface iTunes Blues?
Copyright ©1949/1977 Leeds Music Corporation/MCA Music.
mp3 fileMusic! Music! Music!
Stephen Weiss and Bernie Baum - 1950
Music! Music! Music! Following the rapid success of The Old Piano Roll Blues and the Capitol Records ragtime LPs in 1950, the nostalgia bandwagon was in motion and new pieces were added to the already expanded repertoire of revived old-time songs. This simple ditty, consistently popular with honky-tonk pianists for at least its first two decades, waxed on the memories of orchestrions and other automated musical instruments that were at one time the jukeboxes of American society. While the term "nickelodeon" itself actually applies to hand-cranked movie viewers or small theaters with an admission of 5 cents, by the time of this composition it was being applied to any form of old-time entertainment that ran on coins. Unlike songs in the ragtime era, this one had the medium of radio to help make it an instant hit with nostalgia buffs, and even interest others in this genre of music. Written in the A A B A style of a 1920s standard, and in spite of the lack of a verse, it has certainly become a classic based on its own strengths.
Copyright ©1950/1978 Cromwell Music Corporation/Warner Music.

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Max Morath Dick Hyman Dick Zimmerman
Paul Lingle Wally Rose Lu Watters
James P. Johnson Tony Caramia Squirrel Nut Zippers
Marcus Roberts Butch Thompson Jelly Roll Morton
Glenn Jenks Sue Keller Fats Waller
The Good Time Jazz Catalog and Bill's personal favorites, The Firehouse Five+2!

And don't miss these movies which include some ragtime music:
The Jazz Singer The Sting
Alexander's Ragtime Band Scott Joplin
The Legend of 1900 Ragtime
For Me and My Gal Meet Me In St. Louis
In the Good Old Summertime Take Me Out to the Ball Game
The Jolson Story Jolson Sings Again
Cheaper by the Dozen San Francisco
Somewhere in Time Titanic (1953)
The Other Pretty Baby
42nd Street Reds
The Son of Kong Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
Cheyenne Social Club The Shootist
How To Dance Through Time - Dances of the Ragtime Era

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