Today is the birthday of Tin Pan Alley songwriter L. Wolfe Gilbert (1886-1970). Born in Odessa, he moved to the U.S. in his youth and broke into vaudeville in the first decade of the twentieth century as part of a singing quartet. While performing in Coney Island he was spotted by English producer Albert Decourville and brought over to Britain to tour music halls as part of the Ragtime Octet. In 1912, he co-authored (with Lewis Muir) one of my favorite vaudeville era songs “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee”. This song was recorded and performed by nearly every singer of the era, and but Gilbert on top. In 1917 he played a week at the Palace with his then-partner Anatole Friedland. Other songs from Gilbert’s catalog include “Down Yonder”, “Ramona”, and “Jeannine, I Dream of Lillac Time”. His later decades were spent working in film, radio and television and he was a director of ASCAP from 1941 through 1944.
For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.