Saturday, March 20, 2010

Notes on the Music 7 - Local Color

[The seventh in a series of postings on the music in my show Just a Song at Twilight: The Golden Age of Vaudeville.  Performances are March 26 and 27 at the Kranzberg Center in St. Louis; tickets at]

Andrew B. Sterling / Harry von Tilzer: Under the Anheuser Bush (1903) – This glorified advertising jingle was a hit not only in the USA but – under the title "Down at the Old Bull and Bush" – in the UK as well, where it became a regular part of Florrie Forde's act. The Old Bull and Bush was (and still is) an historic pub near Hampstead Heath, so it probably seemed a logical substitute for the name of a St. Louis brewery that was unknown in Britain at the time. The similarity to the 1902 von Tilzer song "Down Where the Wurzburger Flows" is, I expect, far from coincidental. The two German folks songs quoted in the refrain - "Du, du liegst mir im Herzen" and "Oh du lieber Augustin" – were still in the air when I was a kid, but are probably fading now.

Andrew B. Sterling / Kerry Mills: Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis (1904) – Until I actually started learning this song, I had no idea that the verses (but not the chorus) are all in limerick form. I also had no idea there were so many. The song was immensely popular; the sheet music cover features a picture of Gus Williams (who introduced it) along with the words "also sung with great success by" followed by a list of nearly twenty vaudeville stars including Nora Bayes. Billy Murray is absent from the list even though he did record it, along with nearly everything else from the period.

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