Tag Archive | Alexander’s Ragtime Band

Alexander’s Ragtime Band

This hit was written by Irving Berlin in 1911. The belief is the song refers to the then “new ideas” of standard music that was popping up, from ragtime to the blues and jazz.

Vaudeville singer Emma Carus introduced the song and helped make it popular.

By the time the Titanic sailed in April 1912, the song was very popular and passengers recalled hearing it played many times on that fateful voyage. The song is known to be in the White Star Line Songbook and heard to be played in the early moments of the ship’s sinking.

Numerous performers have recorded this song, which kept it on the charts for five straight decades.

In 1938 the musical Alexander’s Ragtime Band was made, which was loosely based on this song.


Songs Heard on the Titanic

The White Star Line Songbook Had More than 150 Songs for the musicians to learn. The songs were mainly upbeat and consisted of ragtime and waltzes. Hymns would have been appropriate for Sunday services. The musicians were expected to know all of these songs by memory and play any of them upon request from a passenger.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart” is a very popular song. I have sung it numerous times while dancing with the residents. It was written by Leo Friedman and Beth Slater Whitson. The song was published in 1910.

An der schönen blauen Donau, Op. 314” (German for On the Beautiful Blue Danube) is better known as “The Blue Danube”. The waltz was written by Austrian composer, Johann Strauss II. Strauss composed the song in 1866. Strauss later made some changes. The words were added by Joseph Weyl, of the Vienna Men’s Choral Association’s poet at the time.

Alexander’s Ragtime Band” was written by Irving Berlin the year before in 1911. The song quickly became a hit.

Oh, You Beautiful Doll” was written by Seymore Brown and Nat D. Ayer in 1911. The 1911 composition is one of the first songs with a twelve bar opening.

Shine On, Harvest Moon” was written in the early-1900s by the vaudeville team Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth. The due debuted the song in the 1908 Ziegfeld Follies. This is just one of many Moon songs by the Tin Pan Alley composers.

Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair
Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair” was written by Stephen Foster and published in 1854. He wrote the parlor song with his wife in mind.

Londonderry Air” is a melody that originated in Ireland. The tune became popular around the world, and lyrics such as Danny Boy are set to the melody. The melody appeared in the 1855 book The Ancient Music of Ireland. The tune was contributed by Jane Ross, who heard the tune being played in the sreets and wrote it down. Other songs with this tune include Irish Love Song {words by Katherine Tynan Kinkson} in 1894, the hymn “I cannot tell” by William Young Fullerton, and “In Derry Vale.” Composer Dottie Rambo married the tune with her lyrics for “He Looked Beyond My Fault.”

To A Wild Rose” Was written by American composer Edward Alexander MacDowell. This short piece was very popular.

I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad)” was written by Harry Von Tilzer. He was considered one of the best Tin Pan Alley songwriters in the early 20th Century. Some of his other hits were “A Bird in a Gilded Cage”,”Wait ‘Til The Sun Shines Nellie”, “And The Green Grass Grew All Around”, and “The Ragtime Goblin Man”.

Come Josephine, In My Flying Machine” written in 1910 by Alfred Bryan and Fred Fischer.

The Man on the Flying Trapeze”, was a popular song from the early English music hall days. George Leybourne and Alfred Lee published the song in 1868.

Many of these songs can be found on Titanic compilation music CDs. How many of these songs do you know?

What is Tin Pan Alley?

Have you heard the term Tin Pan Alley but had no idea what it was?

The term Tin Pan Alley refers to the songwriters and publishers of the late 19th and early 20th Century. These men were all based in New York City and were originally located at West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. A plaque is now on the sidewalk in the area to commemorate it. Before their move to New York City, the publishers were scattered throughout the country.

Tin Pan Alley in the late 19th Century

Monroe Rosenfeld is believed to coin the phrase in his articles as a derogatory reference. He wrote a series of articles for the New York Herald around 1885 and referred to the constant playing of the pianos which sounded like “tin pans being beaten in the alleyway.” During this time vaudeville was replacing the minstrel show.

Over time the phrase was embraced and described the music industry in general.

Copyright was not monitored as strongly in the late 19th Century as it is today. Publishers often print their own versions of songs that were popular at that time. On June 11, 1895 a group of publishers formed the Music Publishers Association. ASCAP {American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers} was founded in 1914 and helped push it towards becoming a “mega force in popular music.”

Pin Pan Alley

Vaudeville players often visited Tin Pan Alley in search of new songs for their acts. Composers and performers kept up with the times moving from the slow moving ballads to incorporating the cakewalk music, ragtime, blues and jazz tunes.

Many of the lyrics of the day showed a happy, innocent time in small town settings.

Irving Berlin published “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” in 1911 which gave Tin Pan Alley and Berlin their “crowning achievement.” It also changed the way America listened to music.

Wikipedia says it best, “Tin Pan Alley became a melting pot for culture and musical tastes, despite racial lines, and although limitations still existed, the art of the music was still able to emerge!”

Other large name composers with Irving Berlin were Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser, Richard Rodgers and Lorenzo Hart, Noel Coward, Gus Lahn and Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Some popular songs of the day include: “After the Ball”, “Give My Regards to Broadway”, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”, “God Bless America”, “The Band Played On” and “Shine On Harvest Moon.”

The end of Tin Pan Alley is not very clear. Some believe it was in the 1930s with the Great Depression. During this time the phonograph and radio crushed the sale of sheet music. Other sources believe the decline happened in the 1950s as Rock n Roll became popular and supplanted earlier styles of popular music. Truth be told it was probably a combination of both of these and the changing times.

In 1959-1960 a short lived TV series was aired that took place in Tin Pan Alley.