The publication of folio-size sheets of American popular music dates to the late 18th century, but the practice didn't pick up steam until the 1830s, '40s, and '50s. That's when upright pianos first began to find their way into the parlors and salons of U.S. homes. Artists who produced sheet music covers early in their careers before going on to acclaim for their oil paintings include Fitz Henry Lane, Winslow Homer, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
The Civil War was a productive period for popular music compositions and also for beautifully lithographed title pages, most of them published in the North. There are also many Confederate music publications to collect—the war-based and illustrated pieces are generally of most interest. Though paper quality in the South was generally poor, all Southern sheet music is hard to find and desirable.
But the truly widespread popularity of sheet music in the United States in the late-19th and early-20th centuries coincided with the proliferation of domestically produced pianos...
The hub of sheet-music publishing was in New York City on West 28th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway, a stretch that became known as Tin Pan Alley. For a while, the publishers grouped there were essentially printing money—one 1892 hit, “After the Ball” sold two-million copies in its first year alone. “Sidewalks of New York” was published in 1894, “The Band Played on” in 1895, and “Hello! Ma Baby” in 1899.
Vintage sheet music is fascinating to collectors not only for its range of subjects, but for its entertaining cover graphics, featuring everything from pastoral landscapes to city street scenes. As such, they are snapshots, albeit romanticized ones, of life at the turn of the 20th century.
Other people collect sheet music less for the imagery on their covers as the songwriters associated with a particular tune. Scott Joplin compositions such as “Maple Leaf Rag” are popular, as are those by George M. Cohan (“Give My Regards To Broadway”), Irving Berlin (“Alexander’s Ragtime Band”), and George Gershwin (“Swanee”).
Then, just as the piano had created a demand for sheet music, two inventions, followed by the Depression, brought the glory years of the medium to an end. The first was the introduction of the phonograph, especially the Victrola, which was all the rage in the early 1920s. By the end of that decade, though, radios meant people could get their entertainment without lifting a finger, let alone having to gather around the family piano to sing along to sheet music.
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Yard sale treasures in ClearmontMaryville Daily Forum, May 20th
There was also a sampling of vintage music paraphernalia, such as a bound collection of sheet music from 1948 featuring early hits by legendary country and western singer Ernest Tubb. Faye Smith said the couple's collecting days have largely come to an...Read more
39th Annual Jazz Record Collectors Bash Set for Iselin, NJ, 6/21-22Broadway World, May 18th
Rare vintage videos each day: Admission free with Bash admission or $5 each for film show only. Friday, June 21st 7PM: BOSWELL SISTERS SPECIAL PRESENTATION This year a special Kyla and David will also host a vendor table all day Friday which will...Read more
Lavish nightclubs in Las Vegas lure well-off party crowd as gambling revenue slipsVictoria Times Colonist, May 18th
Waves of electronic dance music grow louder with each downward step toward a pulsating, football field-sized club where lasers cut the air above thousands of dancers. The revellers take their cues from the famous DJs onstage who are known to surf the...Read more
Review: 'Frances Ha' a charming portrait of youth and spiritLos Angeles Times, May 16th
With a soundtrack that makes liberal use of music from Georges Delerue, a frequent Francois Truffaut collaborator, it's got the energy and verve of the French New Wave but remains unmistakably itself. PHOTOS: Summer CHEAT SHEET: Cannes Film...Read more
Ray Bradbury's Favorite BookshopHuffington Post (blog), May 16th
Upstair in the loft -- where author events and writing classes take place -- are children's books; books on the West and California; biographies both recent and classic; the Civil War; Shakespeare; plays and playwrights, and even antique sheet music...Read more
Singing in the rainThe Age, May 16th
Let Them Talk was a collection of blues standards such as St James Infirmary and John Henry, with Laurie applying a careworn voice, decent piano-playing skills and a lifelong passion for the genre to a set of vintage songs, many of them originating in...Read more
Beck to the FutureGood Times, May 15th
At first blush, the idea of a contemporary artist presenting his newest works exclusively in sheet music form—originally a medium for songwriters who had no other means of distributing their music to the masses—might come off as gimmicky, or as an...Read more
A Day in the Life of 'American Idol' Musical Director Ray ChewHollywood Reporter, May 14th
There is no stand for sheet music; instead, Chew has a touch-screen computer monitor that displays all of the sheet music he needs. Thanks to a system designed by Completing Chew's area is a vintage Hammond B3. “There's only one Hammond Organ,”...Read more