Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Most checked out 2018 titles in the Art, Music & Recreation Center

The most popular 2018 books in the Art, Music & Recreation are an eclectic mix that show a diversity of subject matter and reading interests.

The top book of the year is a biography of the Bay Area's own Robin Williams.  A more surprising title is Why Art? by Eleanor Davis, an illustrated exploration of creativity and the creative process.  It's less of a surprise that actress Sally Field's memoir In Pieces has quite a readership, but All The Answers, a graphic memoir about the author, Michael Kupperman's father is not an obvious favorite.

The sheet music from film soundtracks is frequently popular and the songs from The Greatest Showman are currently in demand.  Our borrowers also find photographer Berenice Abbott's life story compelling. Astral Weeks commemorates the 50th anniversary of Van Morrison's legendary album, placing it within the context of its times.

Embroidery seems like the hot craft these days; Fashion Embroidery combines this art with the elegance of high fashion.  All The Pieces Matter is an oral history of The Wire, a powerful television drama from the early 2000s.  There is obviously local interest in Nathan Turner's I Love California, a book that mixes interior decoration, entertaining and recipes covering the length and breadth of the state.

Of course, there are more recent books that have not had time build up a large number of circulations.  (A couple of books from later in the year that are doing well include Mary Beard's new title How Do We Look and Ninth Street Women, a study of five important book overlooked New York artists of the Abstract Expressionism movement). This cross-section of titles is not exactly a best-seller list but it does reflect a range of our public's interests

1. Robin by Dave Itzkoff (Henry Holt and Company, 2018).

2. Why Art? by Eleanor Davis (Fantagraphics Books, 2018).

3. In Pieces: A Memoir by Sally Field (Grand Central Publishing, 2018).

4. All The Answers by Michael Kupperman (Gallery 13, 2018).

5. The Greatest Showman: Music from The Motion Picture Soundtrack / original songs by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2018)

6. Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography by Julia Van Haaften. (W.W. Norton & Company, 2018).

7. Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 by Ryan H. Walsh (Penguin Press, 2018).

8. Fashion Embroidery: Embroidery Techniques and Inspiration for Haute-Couture Clothing by Jessica Jane Pile (Batsford, 2018).

9. All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams (Crown Archetype, 2018).

10. Nathan Turner's I Love California: Live, Eat, and Entertain the West Coast Way with Kerstin Czarra (Abrams, 2018).

Later titles:

How Do We Look?: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization by Mary Beard (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2018).

Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement that Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel (Little, Brown and Company, 2018).

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Ben Black: California's King of Rhythm

Ben Black with his banjo (image source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

Ben Black was a San Francisco musician who achieved national fame during the early twentieth century. Black made his mark as a bandleader, banjo player, pianist and as a songwriter. He was born Bernard Black on December 11, 1889 in Dudley, in the Western Midlands of England. His family were Polish Jews who later emigrated to Johannesburg, South Africa before arriving in San Francisco. His mother's obituary noted that she and her children had crossed "from Capetown to Johannesburg in a prairie schooner" in the 1890s.

According to his 1918 petition for naturalization, he first arrived in the United States in 1907 aboard a vessel named the Carmonia. His first appearance in the Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory in 1917 lists him as a musician under his birth name, Bernard. It's not clear how Black learned to become a musician, but from around this time he was working as a banjoist and dancer for the Orpheum and Pantages circuits in a "brother act" with his brother "Zizz" (Isadore Black).

 In 1918 they were providing entertainment at dance parties in the City's Richmond district. The San Francisco Chronicle's society pages mentioned "formal dansant" at 5527 California Street in May featured the brothers, noting that “Ben Black and “Ziss” Black entertained the dancers with some of their original sketches and songs.”  His 1918 draft card stated that he then worked as a musician at Tait's Restaurant, and that he sought a deferment because he needed to help his sister and her five children. (He also back-dated his birth date one year to 1888).  Ben Black's Band continued to play at Tait's Dancing Palace above Tait's Coffee Shop on the 100 block of O'Farrell Street on and off throughout the 1920s.

Sign for Ben Black's Band - Photo from the Jack Tillmany collection, published on the San Francisco Theatres blog

Some time in 1919, Ben Black took a job as the banjo player in Art Hickman's Jazz Orchestra at the Saint Francis Hotel's Rose Room.  He was part of the ensemble that departed in August to record for Columbia Records and perform at New York's Biltmore Hotel.  From September 15 to 26 they recorded 28 compositions, 22 of which were released by Columbia Records.  Five of these recordings went to the "top of the charts," at least those compiled in Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954.

Art Hickman and Ben Black were co-songwriters on three of these tracks - "You and I," "Come Back to Georgia," and "Hold Me."  According to Joel Whitburn's book the latter charted on June 19, 1920 and was America's number 1 song for three weeks. That song brought him a $42,000 in royalties in one year (that's equivalent to around $1,000,000 today).

Sherman, Clay & Co. advertisement of "Hold Me" on a player piano roll in the San Francisco Chronicle December 14, 1919

Throughout his career he collaborated (often as the lyricist) with well-known songwriters like Art Hickman, Neil Moret, Harry Owens and Joe Meyer.  Around the same time, Black was also the manager of Sherman, Clay & Company, who published a dozen of his songs that he either wrote or co-wrote between 1918 and 1922.  He later was vice-president and professional manager of the Neil Moret music publishing company who published more than a dozen songs he co-wrote between 1919 and 1927.

His best-known work was "Moonlight and Roses (Bring Mem'ries of You)," which he and Neil Moret adapted from Edwin H. Lemare's classical organ work, Andantino in D flat, opus 83, no. 2 originally composed in 1888.  This song was first made popular by Irish tenor John McCormack as well as by Frank Wright and Frank Bessinger singing with Ray Miller's orchestra in 1925.  The Three Suns made a recording of it in 1954 which rose to 24 on the record charts.  "Moonlight and Roses" has been performed by well-known singers and orchestras like the Ames Brothers, Eddie Arnold, Bert Kaempfert, Guy Lombardo, Dean Martin, Vaughan Monroe, Sons of Pioneers, Jim Reeves, Lawrence Welk and the Mills Brothers.  It was also famously sung by Betty Grable in the 1940 film Tin Pan Alley and by Gloria Jean in the 1943 film Mister Big.

San Francisco Chronicle (December 9, 1922)

During the silent movie era it, many larger movie theaters hired orchestras to entertain between screenings of films. From December 1922 Ben Black led the band at the California Theater at 787 Market Street.  The band made an immediate sensation with its "joyous melodies" that were "irresistible." Their music must have been very lively and jazz-tinged.  An unhappy reviewer in the San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser hoped for a calm, refined sort of music and remarked that "Ben Black's band has a lexicon which contains no such restraint." Another unappreciative member of the audience had to acknowledge the band's popularity:
Ben Black's alliterative orchestra continues to be a popular feature of the California's entertainment, having now reached the stage of excessive popularity where everything they do is greeted with shouts of delight. This will last for a certain length of time and then it will fade away away, and those of us who are not so hilariously enthusiastic about this harmless form of amusement, will do well to sit and polite [sic] bide our time.
from the cover to the sheet music of "Day By Day in Every Way"

During this time Ben Black's Band of "fourteen jazz wizards" was also engaged at Graumann's Metropolitan Theater in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles Times article showed him to already be a master of ceremonies, noting that Black "[had] the distinction of being the first man to speak to an audience across the orchestra pit there." 

In November 1923, he was hired to lead the band that inaugurated the Alexandria Theater at 5400 Geary Boulevard.  He even wrote a piece entitled "Alexandria" for the occasion.  The ensemble made an immediate sensation with an article in the Chronicle describing the band as "very popular with Park-Presidio people."  Jazz trombonist Herb Taylor early in his career performed with this group. On November 8, 1924 his band moved to another theater also owned by George A. Oppenheimer and Alex E. Levin -- the 2400 seat Coliseum Theater, also in the Richmond District at the corner of Clement Street and 9th Avenue.

Ben Black is first mentioned in connection with radio when he appeared on the election night program in 1924 where he played his composition "Nancy" on the banjo on KPO (which changed its call letters to KNBR in the 1960s).  In radio's earliest days all programming had to be performed live.  His band appeared on a program on November 24, 1925 that was sponsored by the Villa Moret music publishing company.  Many of the works performed were Villa Moret releases.

This notice very helpfully lists the names of several band members - Black, himself, on banjo, Saul Seiff on piano, Clyde Baker and Harry Gulman on saxophone, Bob McQuesten on violin, George Douglas on cornet, Chin Moore on trombone and Roy Bancroft on drums. From the summer of 1925 his dance orchestra from Tait's Dancing Palace had a 10 PM to 1 AM program on KGO radio.

In 1926 his band came to the Granada Theater where he worked with producer and stage manager Jack (John Allan) Partington. Partington was a pioneer of stagecraft having having invented the moving pit band.  In 1919 he also introduced the "prologue"  -- stage acts that precede the screening of the film -- when he was the manager of the Imperial Theater at 1077 Market Street.

Paramount Theatre advertisement, New York Times (August 7, 1927)

In April 1927, Black appeared as guest conductor of the Paramount Stage Band at New York City's Paramount Theatre, and was advertised to audiences as "California's King of Rhythm." The Paramount Theatre located in Times Square the flagship of the Paramount-Publix cinema chain.  He shared the bill with "the poet of the organ," the renowned Victor recording artist Jesse Crawford. 

In September he was given a six month contract to be the guest conductor at the theater.  Jack Partington later joined Black at the Paramount.  Among Partington's papers at the New York Public Library is a manuscript written by Black entitled "The Art or Business of Personality Leadership and Master of Ceremonies."  It's easy to imagine his exotic British or South African accent would be part of his charm.

Ben Black and his Orchestra also recorded for Victor records from 1925 to 1927.  Victor 20690 features them performing "Moonlit Waters" backed with "Sailin' On" (with a melody copied from Dvorak's New World Symphony).

Their recording of "Here Comes Emmaline" made at Victor's studios in Oakland April 28, 1926 gives a very clear idea of the band's appeal.  The very lively and danceable music is propelled along by some pretty fancy banjo work by Mr. Black himself.

Six tracks by Ben Black and his Orchestra are available to listen to and download at

The year 1928 found Black working as a master of ceremonies for the New Ideas Publix Revue on the vaudeville curcuit, presenting variety acts before movie screenings for the Paramount-Publix chain of theaters.  He delighted audiences at the New Saenger Theatre in New Orleans in the spring of 1928  A reviewer for the Exhibitors Herald-World wrote in February 1929
Speaking of Ben Black, as a personality leader, the advertising department has struck a happy chord when they term him "Everybody's Buddy," a title which he lives up to.
Famous jazz clarinetist Tony Parenti who played in the band at the Saenger Theatre described getting a big break from Black:
I left New Orleans in the latter part of 1928 accompanied by Ben Black, chief master of ceremonies of the Paramount-Publix Theatres, which whom I had just finished working at the Saenger Theatre. Ben felt that I could do very well in New York and said that he would help me make the right connections.

Ben Black's star shone very brightly throughout the 1920s.  The Great Depression starting with the Stock Market crash in 1929 brought hard times to Black along with everyone else.  Quoted years later, he described his bad fortune: "Just a few weeks before I bought a ton of Paramount Pictures stock." The blow to the economy and sound in moving pictures brought an end to the era of theater bands and floor shows, drying up Black's main livelihood. 

He continued to organize the occasional vaudeville road show for Fanchon and Marco, Inc. and even worked for the Great American Circus. During World War II he organized U.S.O. theatrical production.  When he passed away on December 26, 1940, his in the entertainment world was high enough to have obituaries in Variety, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the local papers. His funeral services were held at Sinai Memorial Chapel.  He is buried in Salem Memorial Park and Garden in Colma.


"Alexandria Opens Doors Tonight With 'Go Up'," San Francisco Chronicle (November 26, 1923).

Baily, Thomas W., "Motion Picture Heads Take Interest in Programming Staged at San Francisco Staged at San Francisco Photoplay Houses," San Francisco Chronicle (January 5, 1920).

"Ben Black's Band Back At The Coliseum," San Francisco Chronicle (August 28, 1926).

“Ben Black’s Mother Dead of Paralysis,” San Francisco Chronicle (Jan. 1, 1929)

"Ben Black's Year's Publix Contract," Variety (September 7, 1927).

"Black's Jazz Band for Metropolitan," Los Angeles Times (May 24, 1923).

Bostick, Nan, “The House of 'Moonlight and Roses': San Francisco's Villa Moret, Inc.” Music Library Association Northern California Chapter Newsletter Vol. 17, no. 2 (Spring 2003)“

"California and Imperial Have New Orchestras," San Francisco Chronicle (December 9, 1922).

"Chat Among the Publishers," Music Trades (February 1, 1919), p. 41.

Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory (H.S. Crocker Co., 1917).
"Crowds Cheer at Opening of Fine Theater," San Francisco Chronicle (November 27, 1923).

"Famous Dog Filmed at New Alexandria," San Francisco Chronicle (December 2, 1923).

“Ferguson Films Draws Crowds to California” San Francisco Chronicle (January 4, 1923.

“Formal Dansant” San Francisco Chronicle (May 18, 1918).

Gillis, Frank and Roy Morser, “Tony Parenti’s Story: The Years in New York,” Record Research (May/June 1960).

Hickman, Art and Ben Black, "Day by Day in Every Way (I Love You More and More)" (Florentine Publishing Co., 1923).

"Key City Reports," Motion Picture News (January 21, 1928).

"KGO Actors to Present Crook Play," San Francisco Chronicle (November 2, 1924).

Landon, John W., Jesse Crawford: Poet of the Organ; Wizard of the Mighty Wurlitzer (The Vestal Press, 1974).

Lyon, Douglas, "History and Reflections of The Great American Circus 1939," Bandwagon, Vol. 11, No. 6 (Nov-Dec 1967).

"'Mr. and Mrs. T's" Well Seasoned Jazz History," Jazz Lives [blog] (January 8, 2015).

"New Orleans Saenger," Exhibitors Herald World (February 5, 1929).

"New Portola To Throw Open Doors Today," San Francisco Chronicle (December 16, 1922).

"Pleasure's Wand," San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser (January 26, 1923; January 27, 1923; March 17, 1923).

Popular Music, 1920-1979: A Revised Cumulation / Nat Shapiro and Bruce Pollock, editors (Gale Research Co., 1985).

"Portrait of a Band Leader-Composer," San Francisco News (August 23, 1949).

Radio Doings: The San Francisco Radio Show Edition (August 23-29, 1925).

Rust, Brian, The American Dance Band Discography 1917-1942 (Arlington House Publishers, 1975).

Sies, Luther F., Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960 (McFarland & Company, 2000).

“Soldier Made Guest of Honor At Party That Gathers Large Group of Friends” San Francisco Chronicle (March 31, 1918).

"South-Enders to Honor A. Hickman," San Francisco Chronicle (August 17, 1919).

"Tait to Revive S.F. Night Life," San Francisco Chronicle (April 28, 1925).

Variety Obituaries (Garland Pub., 1988).

Vermazen, Bruce. The San Francisco Sound, Volume 1 (Archeophone Records, 2004).

"Yes, Ben Black's Back," Los Angeles Times (December 2, 1926).

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Sheet Music of World War I

"Over There," words and music by George M. Cohan, 
cover illustration by Norman Rockwell

World War I has recently returned as the subject of books and news reports largely owing to the commemoration of the centennial of the war's end (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).  One hundred years ago, sentiment about the war was documented in popular culture, in particular through popular song.  Sheet music later collected by librarians of the San Francisco Public Library's Music Department were bound into volumes that present a vast range of these songs.

World War I began without American involvement in 1914.  The earliest songs about the war in our bound sheet music collections came from England.  The famous tune "Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag And Smile, Smile, Smile!" dates from 1915.  But most of the earliest songs are directed to the home front (where the majority of sheet music consumers would reside).  Representative titles include "Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts for Soldiers," "Keep the Home-fires Burning: ('Till the Boys Come Home)," "Laddie In Khaki: (The Girl Who Waits At Home) ," and "God Be With Our Boys To-night."

At the war's outset, many Americans saw the conflict as solely a European affair.  This is represented in the 1915 song "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier."  Ambivalence to fighting the war is seen even in 19118 with the comic song "Uncle Sam, Don't Take My Man Away."  But more bellicose sentiments ultimately prevailed in the song market with the new "war edition" (1915) of "Yankee Doodle Boy" (1915) and "Over There" (1917) by George Cohan.  Some songs appealed to the romance of a foreign land like "Come Across, Yankee Boy, Come Across," "Joan of Arc They Are Calling You" and "When Yankee Doodle Learns To Parlez Vous Francais."  This could even turn to romance in songs like "Jerry Mon Cheri," "And He'd Say Oo-la la! Wee-wee," and "Wee wee Marie: Will You Do Zis For Me."

"You Keep Sending 'Em Over And We'll Keep Knocking Them Down," 
words by Sidney D. Mitchell, music by Harry Ruby

Many songs were recruiting posters in sound.  Some songs present American pep and braggadocio like "You Keep Sending 'Em Over And We'll Keep Knocking 'Em Down," "Tell That To The Marines," "We'll Lick The Kaiser If It Takes Us Twenty Years," "We Don't Want The Bacon: What We Want Is A Piece Of The Rhine," "Just Like Washington Crossed The Delaware (General Pershing Will Cross The Rhine)," "The Ragtime Volunteers Are Off to War" and "When Alexander Takes His Ragtime Band To France."

There were also plenty of American songs written for families and loved ones of soldiers far from home and in harm's way.  Some reflected domestic support like "Ev'ry Girl Is Doing Her Bit To-day," "We'll Do Our Share: (While You're Over There)," and "Women Of The Homeland: (God Bless You, Every One!)."  Other songs expressed worry and concern for the young soldiers across the ocean, for instance "The Little Grey Mother: Who Waits All Alone," "Just A Baby's Prayer At Twilight: (For Her Daddy Over There)," "Hello Central, Give Me No Man's Land" (the latter being a child's wish for a telephone operator to connect to their father at the front line).

Other songs acknowledged the loss of life of warfare. "If I'm Not At The Roll Call: Kiss Mother Good-bye For Me" expresses this from the soldier's perspective.  But at the war's end many songs acknowledge the loss of life like "A Star Of Gold: A Hero's Gift," "In Flanders' Fields" and "Miserere: In Memory Of The American Soldiers Who Fell On The Battlefields Of The Great Way."

War's end was also a source of joy in songs like "Oh! What A Time For The Girlies When The Boys Come Marching Home." "How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm?: (After They've Seen Paree)" reflects the awakening that many young men from the country had after experiencing the big city, a foreign country, and the wider world.

For those interested in listening to some of these songs, we offer the album The Great War: An American Musical Fantasy (Archeophone, 2006) through the Alexander Street Press American Music streaming audio database.

"Hello Central! Give Me No Man's Land," 
words by Sam M. Lewis & Joe Young, music by Jean Schwartz

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Björk's 34 Scores

Copies of Björk's 34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste have just arrived at the San Francisco Public Library.  Properly speaking these are not arrangements of her songs for solo instruments, but for voice accompanied by one of these instruments.  (In one case there is an arrangement for voice and two pianos).

The Biography In Context database entry on Björk describes her as "an Icelandic singer and musician known for her experimental sound and unusual look."  She is difficult to pin down by genre, having performed in diverse styles like pop, rock, electronica and classical music.  34 Scores spans 22 years of her career, including songs from the Debut, Post, Homogenic, Selmasongs, Vespertine, Medúlla, Drawing Restraint 9, Volta and Vulnicura albums.

Björk has always performed her songs with in a variety of settings and with a variety of ensembles, so the some of the unconventionality of this collection is not surprising.  How often do you hear music for the celeste (also called celesta)?

from Music and Musicians by Albert Lavignac (Henry Holt and Company, 1907).

This keyboard instrument is best known from Tchaikovsky's use of it in the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from the Nutcracker

Already, there are online celeste versions of Björk's "All Is Full Of Love."

She has written that this collection came about through a self-examination of the meaning of "music documentation."

When cds were slowly becoming obsolete, i was curious about the difference of midi (digital notation) and classical notation and enthusiastic in blurring the lines and at which occasions and how one would share music in these new times.
Popular music songbooks and sheet music long preceded recorded sound.  They have always only provided an incomplete representation of songs.  They especially miss a singers' unique style and inflection.  Naturally Björk's florid vocalizing cannot be adequately captured in musical notation.  Nevertheless these arrangements give us the essential elements of the songs and capture her music in a novel way.

34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste by Björk (Wise Publications, 2017).

Further reading on Björk and her music:

Björk: There's More to Life Than This: The Stories Behind Every Song by Ian Gittins (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002).

Björk by Nicola Dibben (Indiana University Press,|2009).

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Queen of Boogie Woogie: Wendy DeWitt Sings at SFPL

Born in San Francisco, Wendy DeWitt is a Santa Rosa High School graduate. She was only 10 when she caught the attention of Western Swing Hall of Famer, Tommy Thomsen’s attention. Since then she has gone on to win regional competitions and been a finalist at the International Blues Challenge. Her album, Gateway, made the top of the charts in Italy. She has had the distinction of playing with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Charlie Musselwhite, Otis Rush and Jimmy Thackery. She produces the annual Queens of Boogie Woogie and San Francisco International Boogie Woogie Festival. Chris Spector of Midwest Record once said about her, “All the cool kids already know DeWitt is one smoking boogie woogie piano/organ gal and it’s time the word to spread beyond her regional awards.”

San Francisco Public Library’s Art and Music and Recreation Department is delighted to have her come back and conduct an interactive presentation on boogie woogie and blues as she takes us on a journey through America’s most grooving roots music, how it all started, and how it went to influence the world. DeWitt sprinkles her performance with stories, fascinating information, photos, and examples.

San Francisco Public Library has a wonderful collection of musical scores, CDs, DVDs, and books about boogie woogie music. Curious patrons can do a Subject Searches (Piano music (Boogie woogie)) or a Keyword Search (boogie woogie).

Here’s a list of suggested titles:

Beginning Boogie & Rags for Piano (Boston Music Co., 2006) 

The Story of Boogie-Woogie: A Left Hand like God by Peter J. Silvester (Scarecrow Press, 2009.)

Boogie Woogie Piano [DVD] / featuring Mitch Woods (Hal Leonard, 2006)

Boogie Woogie Rareties, 1927-1932 [33 rpm LP record]. (Milestone, 1969)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Designing San Francisco

 (from the Art, Music and Recreation Center's Newspaper Clipping file)

Since the book's arrival a year ago, all of our copies of Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay have been checked out nearly continuously.  Alison Isenberg's account of how our City was shaped by new visions of landscape, architecture and urban planning resonates in current San Francisco because of the massive changes taking place today.

For the most part Designing San Francisco does not discuss actual architectural and landscape features at length and instead focuses on creative, political and financial forces that shaped each project.  The book looks at specific projects like Ghirardelli Square, Sea Ranch, the Golden Gateway, the Embarcadero Center and the un-built San Francisco International Market Center.  Isenberg also explores issues like historic preservation, adaptive reuse and renovation, public versus private space and ownership, urban renewal, and height limits within the collective effort to design the City.

(from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

Isenberg also hones in on particular figures who helped to guide and shape the City's built landscape like Karl and Jean Kortum, Lawrence Halprin, Ruth Asawa, Stuart and Caree Rose, Marion Conrad, Barbara Stauffacher and Virginia Green.

Those who have read and enjoyed this book can delve further into that time and place by using the Newspaper Clipping files in the Art, Music and Recreation Center.  We have contemporaneous files of newspaper clippings, flyers, and brochures for the following topics:

Bank of America
Buildings - Highrises
Embarcadero Center
Embarcadero Plaza
Ghirardelli Square
Golden Gate
Maritime Museum
Hyatt Regency
San Francisco Maritime National Historical ParkSan Francisco Urban Design Plan
Transamerica Spire

We also files for the following people on our Artists File:

Asawa, Ruth (artist)
Esherick, Joseph (architect)Halprin, Lawrence
Temko, Allan
Wurster, William Wilson (architect)

Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay by Alison Isenberg (Princeton University Press, 2017).

 (from the Art, Music and Recreation Center's Newspaper Clipping file)

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Gee but ...

A fun game to play while using the Dorothy Starr Collection database is to enter the first couple words of a title and see the alphabetized list of completed song titles.  The opening "Gee! but" (or "Gee, but") is a nice example.  The word "gee" is not as common an exclamation as it once was.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "An exclamation of surprise or enthusiasm; also used simply for emphasis."  It's a milder, less irreverent way of exclaiming of "Jesus!" 

In "Gee! But there's class to a girl like you" (1908), the "gee" is almost an expression of wonder. There are song titles of opposing sentiments - "Gee! but I'm blue" (1927) and "Gee! but I'm happy" (1936 - lyrics by the famous "Ukulele Lady" May Singhi Breen).  "Gee, but it's good to be here" (1922) contrasts strongly with "Gee! but I hate to go home alone" (1922).  There are also two lovelorn country songs -- "Gee, but it's lonely" (1958) by Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers and "Gee, but it's lonesome out tonight" (1950) by Fred Rose.

The OED dates the earliest usage of "gee" from 1895.  In our older collection of HP "hit parade" sheet music collection there are three early "Gee, but" songs: "Gee! But this is a lonesome town" (1906), "Gee, but it's great meet a friend from your home town" (1910), and "Gee, but I'd like to furnish a flat for you, dear" (1910).  The latter song was from the show The Summer Widowers is an indirect marriage proposal (change your "Miss to Missus" and I'll let you wear my name), and the syllable "Gee" adds a little emphasis.

The latest songs of this batch date from 1958, indicating that "gee" as an exclamation was on the wane.  "Gee, Officer Krupke" (1957) from West Side Story signals this with the mock innocence of the Jets sang.  But a cross section of songs gives a sense of the popular language of the first half of the twentieth century.