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Battles, Balderdash & Beauty: American Popular Sheet Music from the Howard W. Wildin Collection: Humor

Sheet music covers

Case 5: Humor: Introduction

 Case 5: Humor: Introduction

 

Humor can be found throughout the history of the American sheet music industry.  From the lyrics to the sheet covers, Americans have poked fun of their culture.

Berlin, Irving. “Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning”. Illus. Barbelle. New York: Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co. 1918. (HW-02451)

Berlin, Irving. “Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning”. Illus. Barbelle. New York: Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co. 1918. (HW-02451)

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This song is a protest against the Army routine after Irving Berlin was drafted into the United States Army in 1918.  It soon became popular, due in part to the hatred of reveille. 

Chorus: “Oh! how I hate to get up in the morning, / Oh! How I'd love to remain in bed; / For the hardest blow of all / is to hear the bugler call: / 'You've got to get up, you've got to get up, You've got to get up this morning!' ”

 

Denni, Lucien. “Safety First”. Lyricist: Theodore B. White. St. Louis: Buck & Lowney. 1914. (HW-02721)

Denni, Lucien. “Safety First”. Lyricist: Theodore B. White. St. Louis: Buck & Lowney. 1914. (HW-02721)

 

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As written on the cover: “Items and Advice by Theodore B. White; Noisy Notes by Lucien Denni.” Cover art shows a man about to walk into a manhole while following a woman through a dangerous safety zone.

The lyrics are about a young woman “Mary quite contrary” who came to New York and was wooed by men.  Her response appears in the chorus: “I like your racing motor car / I like to speed with you / I like your lovely big steam yacht that sails the ocean blue / I like to go with you each night out to some Cabaret / I like to dine with you and dance until the break of day. / But I can’t let you kiss me dear unless we have a preacher near, / the best of men are like the worst / stop look, and listen / Safety First.”

Grant, Bert. “I’m the Guy: Comic Song”. Lyricist: Rube Goldberg. New York: Jerome H. Remick & Co. 1912. (HW-02473)

Grant, Bert. “I’m the Guy: Comic Song”. Lyricist: Rube Goldberg. New York: Jerome H. Remick & Co. 1912. (HW-02473)

 

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The cover says: “Ravings by Rube Goldberg” and “Noise by Bert Grant.”  Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, inventor, and author.  He is a founding member and first President of the National Cartoonist Society.  He is famous for his “inventions” which take a simple task and make it extraordinarily complicated.  In 1931 Merriam-Webster dictionary adopted his name as an adjective defined as “accomplishing something simple through complex means.”

Lyrics describe the singer as being recognized and honored wherever he goes because he is “the guy.”  As one chorus states: “I’m the guy that put the salt in the ocean / I’m the guy that put bones in fish, / I’m the guy can’t tell a lie, / I’ll always live, / I’ll never die. / What’s that? / Who am I? / Don’t you know? / I’m the guy, / I’m the guy that bites the holes in sweitzer cheese.”

Newton, Eddie. "Casey Jones: the Brave Engineer". Lyricist: T. Lawrence Seibert. Los Angeles: Newton & Seibert; Southern California Music Co. 1909. (HW-02464)

Newton, Eddie. "Casey Jones: the Brave Engineer". Lyricist: T. Lawrence Seibert. Los Angeles: Newton & Seibert; Southern California Music Co. 1909. (HW-02464)

 

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The lyrics were based upon the heroics of a train engineer John Luther “Casey” Jones. He was killed in his passenger train, the Cannonball Express, in 1900 when it collided with a freight train in Mississippi on a foggy, rainy night. He tried to slow the train by staying on board although knowing that the trains would crash.  Because of his action, he saved lives.  His death was the only fatality.  Various versions of the song were sung by railroad men and others for the years following his death.  This is the first published version of the song.  Although the story is based upon a sad event, the lyrics and music were made to entertain.  As written on the cover: “Greatest Comedy Hit in Years” and “The Only Comedy Railroad Song”.

Perkins, Cy. "They Gotta Quit Kickin’ My Dawg Aroun’". Lyricist: Webb M. Oungst. New York: M. Witmark & Sons. 1912. (HW-02757)

Perkins, Cy. "They Gotta Quit Kickin’ My Dawg Aroun’". Lyricist: Webb M. Oungst. New York: M. Witmark & Sons. 1912. (HW-02757)

 

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This folksong is about a man and his hound dog Jim, who is bothered by boys whenever they come to town.

Chorus: “Ev'ry time I come to town, / The boys keep kickin' my dawg aroun'; / Makes no diff'rence if he is a houn', / They gotta quit kickin' my dawg aroun'.”

Von Tilzer, Albert. “The Alcoholic Blues (Some Blues)”. Lyricist: Edward Laska. New York: Broadway Music Corporation. 1919. (HW-00219R)

Von Tilzer, Albert. “The Alcoholic Blues (Some Blues)”. Lyricist: Edward Laska. New York: Broadway Music Corporation. 1919. (HW-00219R)

 

 

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Starting in 1919 through 1933, the United States had a national ban on the sale, production and transportation of alcohol.  Many opposed this Prohibition, which led to songs being written against the ban.

This anti-prohibition piece describes a person who handled World War One rations such as sugar and coal, but cutting out his alcohol was too much: “I’ve got the blues/ I’ve got the blues, / I’ve got the alcoholic blues. / No more beer my heart to cheer / Goodbye whiskey, you used to make me frisky. / So long high ball, so long gin/ Oh, tell me when you comin’ back agin? / Blues / I’ve got the blues / Since they amputated my booze / Lordy Lordy, war is well, / you know, I don’t have to tell / Oh, I’ve got the alcoholic blues / some blues.”

Von Tilzer, Albert. “Eve Wasn’t Modest Till She Ate that Apple (We’ll Have to Pass the Apples Again”. Lyricist: Charles R. McCarron. Illus. Andre C. DeTakacs. New York: Broadway Music Corporation. 1917. (HW-02547)

Von Tilzer, Albert. “Eve Wasn’t Modest Till She Ate that Apple (We’ll Have to Pass the Apples Again”. Lyricist: Charles R. McCarron. Illus. Andre C. DeTakacs. New York: Broadway Music Corporation. 1917. (HW-02547)

 

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Albert Tilzer was the younger brother of Harry Tilzer, both being songwriters.  Albert’s most famous piece was “Take Me out to the Ball Game” in 1908.

The lyricist bemoans the fact that women were dressing and acting too immodest.  He believed shy and modest young women would make better spouses.  Chorus: “Eve wasn't modest till she ate that apple, / That old apple was to blame / The minute that she ate it, / she felt humiliated / and hid behind the apple tree till darkness came / If one little apple made the first girl modest, / It ought to work now as well as then / Once they only wore a leaf / Clothes are getting just as brief / If ev’ry mother's daughter, wears dresses any shorter / We'll have to pass the apples again.”

Von Tilzer, Harry. “Under the Anheuser Bush”. Lyricist Andrew B. Sterling. Illus. H. Carter. New York: Harry Von Tilzer Music Pub. Co. 1903. (HW-02767)

Von Tilzer, Harry. “Under the Anheuser Bush”. Lyricist Andrew B. Sterling. Illus. H. Carter. New York: Harry Von Tilzer Music Pub. Co. 1903. (HW-02767)

 

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Commissioned by the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, the song title’s name is a pun on the company name. The "A" in the title is the Anheuser Busch logo.

Chorus:  “Come, / come, / come and make eyes with me, / Under the Anheuser bush. / Come, / come / drink some ‘Budwise’ with me / Under the Anheuser bush, Hear the old German band, / Just let me hold your hand / Yah! / Do, / Do, / Come and have a stein or two, / Under the Anheuser Bush.