Today is the birthday of one of the first female tin pan alley songwriters Blanche Merill (Blanche Howard, 1895-1966). Sometimes working with collaborators, Howard wrote special material and songs for numerous vaudeville stars, including Eva Tanguay, Mae West, Belle Baker, Fanny Brice (whose career she is credited with reviving), Nora Bayes, Willie Howard and others. For Tanguay, she wrote “The Tanguay Rag”, “Egotistical Eva”and “Tanguay Tangle”. For Brice she wrote “I’m an Indian”, and “Becky is Back at the Ballet”. Other songs included “Jazz Baby”, “I’m Looking for a Bluebird”, and “I Can’t Do This and I Can’t Do That”. From 1912 through 1925 she wrote for Broadway shows, usually revues such as the Ziegfeld Follies, the Passing Show, and Earl Carroll’s Vanities.
She is commonly confused with another Blanche Merill, a musician who married Willie “the Lion” Smith. Most biographies tend to merge them into one person, but recent research has succeeded in sorting out the mess.
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.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc