Today is the birthday of the great Tin Pan Alley songwiter Ray Henderson (b. Raymond Brost, 1896-1970). He is best known as the “Henderson” in “Henderson/ Brown/ DeSylva“, the great songwriting team that gave us “Bye Bye Blackbird”, “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue”, “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” (all 1925), “The Birth of the Blues” (1926), “The Varsity Drag” (1927), “You’re The Cream In My Coffee” (1928), “Button Up Your Overcoat”, “You Are My Lucky Star” “I’m A Dreamer, Aren’t We All”, and “Keep Your Sunny Side Up” (1929). When I was 19 or 20, I found a record in the library that contained most of these tunes, and I played it and played it and played it. It taught me a lot about songwriting.
Henderson started out as an accompanist in vaudeville. As composer he was associated with several editions of George White’s Scandals and numerous book shows, including several starring Bert Lahr (Hold Everything, Flying High and Hot-Cha!) . After 1936 Broadway work started to cool off too although he did write the music for the extremely successful Ziegfeld Follies of 1943, which ran almost a year.
Now, here’s Jolie singing one of Henderson, Brown & DeSylva’s best numbers. If you play it this morning, I guarantee the rest of your day will be a happy one:
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.