Grace Kahn: Oh How That Woman Could Write!

I first became aware of Grace Leboy Kahn (1890-1983) from Charlotte Chandler’s wonderful book Hello, I Must Be Going: Groucho and His Friends.

Grace Kahn was actually Groucho’s in-law: her daughter Irene married Groucho’s son Arthur Marx; the well-known Andy Marx is their grandchild. Grace had met Groucho prior to her husband and songwriting partner Gus Kahn when she was a song plugger in the Chicago area. Born in Brooklyn, she worked playing piano in vaudeville and nickelodeons, and plugging sheet music to vaudeville performers like Groucho. She began to pen tunes for Tin Pan Alley, and for a time was partnered with the man who became her husband.

“I Wish I Had a Girl” (1907) was one of their more successful collaborations. “Oh, How That Woman Could Cook” (1914) was one of Groucho’s favorites and he kept it in his repertoire all his life. Scores of Tin Pan Alley songs bore her name through the early 30s. She also wrote the theme music to The Ed Sullivan Show, on which she appeared numerous times. Doris Day played her in the 1951 bio-pic about her husband I’ll See You in My Dreams.

For more on show business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.