Gene Buck: Knew Songwriting Inside and Out

August 7 is the birthday of that great Jazz Age figure Gene Buck (Edward Eugene Buck, 1885-1957). Detroit-born Buck originally gained fame as a cover illustrator for Tin Pan Alley sheet music, distinguishing himself with a personal style that mixed elements of art deco and art nouveau:

By the mid-teens, Buck’s eyesight had begun to fail, ending his career as an visual artist. Fortunately, by that time he had already establishing himself in a new line of work — creating content for the inside of the sheet music covers. Circa 1910, he began writing lyrics for songs with composer Dave Stamper. Buck wrote or co-wrote 500 songs including “Hello, Frisco”, “No Foolin”, and “Garden of My Dreams”.

Starting in 1913, he became a key part of Flo Ziegfeld’s creative team, writing songs, sketches and books for Ziegfeld shows until the Great Depression. He wrote for nearly every Ziegfeld Follies between 1913 and 1931. He also helped launched the Midnight Frolic, writing for the editions of 1915, 1918, 1919, 1920 and 1921, and Ziegfeld’s Nine O’Clock Revue (1919). Other shows he was involved in including Ed Wynn’s Carnival (1920), and No Foolin’ (1926). In the mid ’20s he became a producer and theatre owner: the shows he created in this period included Human Nature (1925), Yours Truly (1927,1928), Take the Air (1927-28), and Ringside (1928).

Gene Buck was a neighbor of F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s in Great Neck, and part of the social scene that inspired The Great Gatsby.

The latter phase of his life and career was largely administrative. He became president of ASCAP in 1925, serving in the post until 1943. He was also president of the Catholic Actors Guild