Today is the birthday of the great Tin Pan Alley songwriter Paul Dresser (1857-1906). The brother of novelist Theodore Dreiser, he famously gave his name to singer Louise Dresser so a little of the family fame might rub off on her (she was a family friend). Dresser himself had started out singing and playing music for medicine shows, minstrel shows**, and variety saloons before working his way up to vaudeville. Of his compositions, “On the Banks of the Wabash” is now the state song of Indiana. And “My Gal Sal” is probably his best known. Here’s America’s favorite family the Nelsons, singing the latter. Wait for the bald guy, he’s priceless! And then because Ricky’s involved, they rock up the middle break!
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.