Sunday, February 18, 2018

WWI Sheet Music

By Nancy Farrier

Toward the end of 2017, I received a box of sheet music that belonged to my grandmother, music from the early 1900’s. Some of the pages are very fragile, but I thought during the coming year I would share some of these songs with you and we could learn a little about the history of the song and the composer. For this month, I chose to look at the songs from WWI.

The first song is called, Cheer Up, Mother by Mary Earl. I had trouble finding out anything about Mary Earl until I discovered her name is a pseudonym for Robert A. “Bobo” King. I have no idea why he chose to use a female name for some of his songs, but I did read that it has been hard to track all the songs he wrote due to his use of pseudonyms.

Robert began taking music lessons when he was six-years-old. He worked in a music store at an early age. In 1903, he published his first hit song, Anona. He later went to work for Shapiro-Bernstein Music Publisher writing four songs per month. He produced some hits under his pseudonym, Mary Earl, but Cheer Up, Mother is one of the lesser known songs.

When the Yanks Come Home, with lyrics by William Jerome was again not one of his most popular. Seymour Furth wrote the music to his song, but I didn’t find out anything about him. William Jerome had a good career composing music and some hit songs. The man’s picture on the cover is the singer who performed the song, William J. Reilly, USN.

Jerome began singing and dancing in vaudeville at seventeen. He worked with many other musicians, but his time paired with Jean Swartz is the most memorable. They wrote many songs and were recognized as some of the best songwriters of the early 20th century. In 1917, Jerome composed the very popular Over There with George M. Cohen. He later sold the song rights for $25,000, the highest amount paid for a song at that time.

It’s a Long, Long Way to the U.S.A. (And the Girl I Left Behind Me), lyrics by Val Trainor and music It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. Trainor and Tilzer’s song was popular in 1917 and tells the story of dying soldier longing for one more chance to see his little girl and mother.  The following chorus shows how he longed to be home again.
by Harry Von Tilzer. The title mimicked the very popular

“It’s a long, long way to U.S.A.
And the girl I left behind;
And if you get back some day,
Give my love to her and say
That her boy was true;
Tell dear mother, too,
Just to always treat her kind.
It’s a long, long way to the U.S.A.
And the girl I left behind.”

Till We Meet Again, music by Richard A. Whiting, lyrics by Raymond B. Egan sold millions of copies. According to one story, the song was slated for a contest in 1918, but Whiting decided he didn’t like the song. He threw the music in the trash, but his secretary retrieved it and submitted theTill We Meet Again went on to win top honors and became a huge hit when released. The song was a Canadian hit too.

The story is that of a soldier parting with his sweetheart as he goes off to war. The lyrics tell of the hope they share for his return.

Smile the while you kiss me sad adieu,
When the clouds roll by I’ll come to you,
Then the skies will seem more blue,
Down in lovers land my dearie,
Wedding bells will ring so merrily,
Every tear will be a memory,
So wait and pray each night for me,
Till we meet again.

I love the lyrics and history behind these old songs. I didn’t remember hearing any of these songs I’ve highlighted but their story is fascinating. Do you remember these songs? What is a favorite from the early 1900’s that you’ve heard?

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:


  1. I don't think I've heard of any of those songs either, but I'd have to hear the music to be sure. I wonder if he wrote under a female pen name because there were so many women left behind while the men fought in the war, and at the same time, the soldiers far away from home might be more interested in a song penned by a woman. Just a thought. I can't think of any songs from the early 1900s that I love. That was way before my time.

  2. I do not remember any of these songs. I have some old sheet music but none this old. Thank you for sharing.

    1. The music is very fragile. Too fragile to use so I have to be careful. Thank you for commenting.

  3. That is quite possible, Vickie, that he published as a woman for those reasons. Thanks for the idea.

  4. I have not heard of the songs but I love hearing about them and find your post very interesting. Thank you for sharing, Nancy.

    1. Thank you, Melanie. I always appreciate your comments.

  5. Not sure if I've heard of songs from the 1900s. But thanks for highlighting some of what you've found!

    1. Thank you, Connie. I’m so glad you stopped by and commented.

  6. Those old pieces of sheet music often have covers that IMHO are frame-worthy. Thanks for the stories!

    1. Yes, I love the covers. Thank you, Stephanie.

  7. You have a treasure trove there! I have not heard of any of these songs, but the stories behind them are very cool!

    1. Thank you, Linda. I agree these pieces of music are a treasure.

  8. What a treasure, Nancy! Great post.

    I'm not familiar with much of the music from that time, but this post caught my attention because I recently searched for the 1919 song "You're Still an Old Sweetheart of Mine." In my novel research, I ran across a newspaper advertisement for Edison Gramaphones and new music releases, and I found a recording of the song on YouTube. I wouldn't put it in the "favorite" category, but it was enjoyable to hear music recorded almost one hundred years ago and to think of my characters being as moved by it as I am by the music I do love.