Today is the birthday of Milton Ager (1883-1979).
Chicago native Ager began his career as an accompanist in nickelodeons and then vaudeville. His songs began to get performed and published around the time of the First World War, although his first big hit was “I’m Nobody’s Baby” in 1920.
His many hit songs (with various lyricists) included: “Hard Hearted Hannah” (1924), “Ain’t She Sweet?” (1927), “Vo-Do-De-Oh” (1927) and “Happy Days Are Here Again” (1929), which become the theme song for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 inauguration, and Sophie Tucker’s theme song “Last of the Red Hot Mamas”.
His Broadway shows included the Joe Cook vehicle Rain or Shine (1928, later a Hollywood movie) and the revues Padlocks of 1927 and Murray Anderson’s Almanac. In 1930 he moved to Hollywood, where he wrote scores for Sophie Tucker’s one and only film Honky Tonk, and several other pictures. Ager’s wife was columnist Cecelia Ager, the first female reporter for Variety. Their daughter was journalist Shana Alexander, a former regular on 60 Minutes.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.