Fred Fisher: Teutonic Tunesmith

Tin Pan Alley songwriter and publisher Fred Fisher (Alfred Breitenbach, 1875-1942) was born on this day. German born Breitenbach moved to the U.S. around the turn of the century, initially changed his name to Fischer and then Anglicized it Fisher during World War One.

Fisher began writing songs sometime before 1907 and was adept at both tunes and lyrics. He wrote or co-wrote some of the best known songs of the vaudeville era including “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)”, “Your Feet’s Too Big”, “Peg O’ My Heart”, “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine” and “Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle”. Like most of the American songwriters of his day he wrote plenty of songs with ethnic themes. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not depicted him as the man who had written the most Irish songs (an amusing accomplishment for a guy who was German). His first hit song (1907) is also his most notorious: the unconscionable “If the Man in the Moon Were a Coon”.

Fisher was played by Cuddles Sakall in the 1949 bio-pic “Oh, You Beautiful Doll”, produced by George Jessel. Curiously, Fisher didn’t write the song the picture is named after — but most of the film is about as accurate as that, anyway

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