Little Orphan Annie, Again

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers know that Little Orphan Annie has made a few appearances in posts recently and that with Kim reading his way through the strip that Deitch Studio has been immersing itself in many, if not all, things Orphan Annie. (And just between us, I doubt this is the last Annie post – such a marvel of marketing was that strip!)

While making another recent acquisition (see that post of a really splendid oilcloth Annie doll purchased to match a Sandy acquired a ways back here, and a ways back I wrote about an Olvatine mug I purchased – that post can be found here) I ran across this sheet music, however it wasn’t in full color. A few weeks of patience and the color version turned up in time for Kim to buy it for me for Christmas and here we are.

While this sheet music isn’t exactly rare, information about it and the music within does not abound. I have spent the morning down several rabbit holes resulting in a handful of interesting facts and tales to offer. Written and published by Ambrose J. Wyrick in 1925, the year the strip was born and like the strip it came out of Chicago. I could not find a recording of the tune, nor any mention of a record. (A later song, recorded by Coon Sander’s Nighthawks in 1928, with words by Gus Kahn and music by Joe Sanders, is all but a standard of the period still today. It can be heard here on Youtube.)

The sheet music sports a nice photo of Harold Gray. (Creator of Little Orphan Annie and noted that it is a Butler Photo Chicago – no relation, in 1925 my grandfather was just settling in NY as a young man whose name was changed to Butler at Ellis Island, no interest whatsoever in music, photography or Little Orphan Annie.)

In the lower right corner and a small insignia of a pig that proclaims, Oink! Grunts himself in person!) in the upper right, presumably drawn by Gray.

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Grunts the piglet was an early character in the strip. His origin story is found in dailies on March 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14, 1925. He seems to stick around a bit, but as he didn’t ultimately make much of an impression on Kim, I assume the character doesn’t develop beyond a point and wains out of the strip.

Annie and a young Sandy grace the front, banging out said tune (I assume) on the piano, the strange doll character acting as page turner for her. Sandy is singing from his own copy of the music. The back of the music shows Ralph Olson and his Orchestra (A Jack Richardson Unit) plays Little Orphan Annie and other Wyrick Songs. Those other titles (Compositions of Merit) are shown in part there as well.

 

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Any legacy of Ambrose J. Wyrick has been largely purged by time, even on the vast internet of today. Not only could was I unable to find a recording or record of this tune, but barely a tidbit of information on Mr. Wyrick himself. It would seem he was as much performer as musician or publisher and he seemed to have a popular talk (ironically perhaps in retrospect) about music and business which he toured with – the published volume of the talk appears to be available for a sum. Only the poster below could be found, declaring his skill as, Distinguished Composer *Author*Actor*Orator*and Tenor…Attraction Extraordinaire. (This courtesy of the University of Iowa archive.)

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Oddly enough, I was also able to find his autograph for sale with a portrait of him, shown below. On the other side there was an autograph with a photograph reproduction of Preston Bradley, a fellow Chicagoan lecturer and clegyman.

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Today’s tooling around Youtube looking for this I ran into much Annie lore to be considered on its own. There are readings of the poem, Little Orphant Annie, a poem penned in 1885 by James Whitcomb Riley, and thought to be the inspiration on some level for the strip. The poem (which is pretty interesting) and its history can be found on Wikipedia here or one of the Youtube readings of it here – but I suggest the read over the listen myself. Youtube also turns up a truly ancient silent cartoon which is honestly not quite visible – we’ll hope that one day a better print turns up.

Finally, best of all perhaps, Kim turned me onto Chuck McCann (WPIX NY television host) doing Little Orphan Annie, in a dress with white disk eyes and all. An image of that, which speaks for itself, snatched below!

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This sheet music, little gem that it is, will be going up on the wall in a place of honor here at Deitch Studio. I include the music with the somewhat less than memorable lyrics in case anyone is ambitious enough to want to play the tune or is curious about the lyrics. (So keep your grit and fight for your own and soon You’ll find a Home Sweet Home…)

Meanwhile, as above, stay tuned for more Little Orphan Annie to come as I certainly have my eyes peeled.

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Musical Interlude

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a snowy sleety March day here at Deitch Studio and I have been rummaging around in the flat files, looking for some hidden gems in the line of sheet music, which I had a vague memory of tucking away. I was not disappointed as this splendid item jumped out at me. I know I purchased it on eBay,  but I have no memory of when or the specifics around it. I showed it in one of my first posts, Meow! Kitty Sing-a-long three years ago. Hotsy-totsy kitty illustrated here, doing his dance to a rollicking piano rag! I especially like his big tongue lolling out and the little lines of electric energy around him. That cat is taking off!

Strangely, if you search Youtube you pretty much find a pile of videos about cats on hot bricks. I didn’t watch any, despite the descriptions as hilarious. There were also several options for learning English, odd. Lastly there was just this one rendition of what we will assume this piece actually is and it does not really come across as my idea of rollicking, but you can make up your own mind if you wish here – Cat on Hot Bricks. Give a shout out if you can find a publication date and/or a better rendition!

Not surprisingly, the expression cat on hot bricks is akin to like a cat on a hot tin roof, meaning skittish, restless or anxious. Our friend Mr. Google also reveals an even earlier rendition of the expression, like a cat on a hot bake-stone (nope, doesn’t roll off the tongue, I agree) which evidently dates back to John Ray’s proverbs of 1678. Poor kitties! Cat on a hot tin roof is an expression I use frequently, but not without an unpleasant image coming to mind.

Ezra Read, the person who is credited with penning this ditty, lived from 1862 until 1922. He was born into “humble circumstances” to a master lock maker who had him and his brothers apprenticed to a blacksmith, which evidently was considered a step up. Ezra and his brothers, James, John Colley and Eber, also worked in the lock shop. However, their father found the money for piano lessons for John who in turn taught Ezra to play. John became an organist of note. Ezra married Beatrice Ida Hampton (known as Ida) who played piano and violin, and together they composed over 4000 pieces under a pile of pen names. Their biggest hit seems to be something called Cinderella Waltz (1910). How popular is questionable as I cannot find a recording of it despite the sheet music having sold millions of copies. (Although, in all fairness, this may be due to the popularity of Cinderella theme music in general.) Ezra and Ida led a somewhat itinerant life until Ida’s death in 1912 at age 45. He eventually settled in Derbyshire where he played for silent films at a local theater. At his death it is said that barrow loads of music were taken from his house. (We collectors all have visions that are a variation on this in our future!)

This fine piece is officially getting dusted off and, along with a few other gems, such as this one below featured in Felix – Here He is Again, will be framed up and brought to my new office at Jazz at Lincoln Center!

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Felix sheet music, my collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

 

Felix – Here He Is Again

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I had completely forgotten that I owned this when it found its way to the top of the pile earlier today. Evidently the successor to Felix Kept on Walking (1923) in Great Britain, and cooked up by Ed. E. Bryant and Hubert W. David in 1924 to capitalize on the success of the previous year. The full title, the grammatically curious, Here He is Again Being More Adventures of Felix. He seems to be popping out of a stage door with a rather apologetic look on his face. I gather that these songs were never used in the cartoons, but creating dance songs was a way of opening promotion on a separate front. As I mentioned recently in Musical Meow we know that a few years later in 1928 Felix was making big bucks with Fred Waring introducing a Felix the Cat Fox Trot in France.

The Felix Kept on Walking sheet music entered my collection very early on after a trip to London years ago, and I had it in my early post, Me-ow Kitty Sing A-Long. Kim is not a fan of the art of either of these pieces of sheet music, but I like having them around. (In my possession is a third which he likes more – future post.)  While I cannot offer you the tune of Here He Is Again I have two jolly Youtube versions of Felix Kept on Walking. (Full disclosure – there are several more on Youtube if you love it!) This was such a hit that the title spawned other products and further promotion, and ultimately it became something of a catch phrase. Shown here is the single Felix Keep on Walking plate from my collection. Yes, full services do exist and one of my fantasies is to replace all of our dishes with period Felix plates, bowls and mugs!

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Musical Meow!

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: Welcome to my second installment of cat related sheet music.  As some of you know, early on I shared some of my sheet music collection in Meow Kitty Sing-a-Long, but I uncovered some great pieces when searching for the art to our wedding invitation recently. The Black Cat Dance is just a great image and sort of fun. I am afraid that the names of that and Au Chat! are not distinctive enough to find them on the internet – or much information about them.

I am fortunate to own two copies of the Me-ow music, one is on the wall. The second, the one pictured here, may have been a gift – or I found it some place and it was too inexpensive to resist. Always good to have a spare. It is the only one I was able to find a link to on Youtube and I have included it below.

I had hoped I would find a way to play the Felix the Cat fox trot by Sam Fox; sadly to date I cannot.  However, I did find an interesting 1928 snippet from the Music Trade Review on the International Arcade Museum website. This brief article says that Fred Waring introduced the song in Paris and that he cabled Sam Fox that he believed it would be a hit for him. It also refers to the speed with which Europe gets American dance numbers today, scarcely a month after their initial release. Felix was excellent at selling sheet music and therefore some wonderful images have proliferated on especially British sheet music. I have at least one more example I plan to share in a future cat music post.

Hope this put some spring in your step!

Here is the link to the pdf article from the Music Trade Journal should you be curious: mtr.arcade-museum.com/MTR-1928-86-22/MTR-1928-86-22-18.pdf

 

 

Me-ow! Kitty Sing-a-long

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Pam’s Pictorama Cat Sheet Music Post:  When I first branched out of collecting beyond toys, cat sheet music was one of the first things I started to acquire.  Shown above is a sampling from my collection.  I especially liked that the Leo Feist company liked the cat art work so much, or was so cheap, that he used it in ’24 and again in ’29.  The Cat on Hot Bricks has not made it up onto the wall which is a pity – however The Black Cat Rag, which I adore and came to me via Chris Ware years ago is up, as is the Cat’s Whiskers and the Felix sheet music.  Kim is not a fan of the Felix image – says it is lousy art and he’s right. Nonetheless, it was the first Felix music I ever saw and purchased so I have a soft spot for it.  Felix sheet music really could (and will) be its own post, but I offer this as a placeholder for now.

My collecting in this area has slowed – we don’t have the room to hang all of it – but occasionally I find something I must have and tuck it away for future display.  Part of the point of this blog is to help me sort through some of my collection and have a look at everything I have so I hope you enjoy the trip!

Along those lines, a special thanks and a tip of the hat to those of you who have withstood and/or helped me through the early technical challenges of set-up.  (Seth and Eileen – this means you!)  The Contact page now seems to function and I hope to have lots of comments in the future. Hopefully we have all pistons more or less firing.