Paul Dresser (born Johann Paul Dreiser Jr.; April 22, 1857 – January 30, 1906) was an American singer, songwriter, and comedic actor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dresser performed in traveling minstrel and medicine-wagon shows and as a vaudeville entertainer for decades, before transitioning to music publishing later in life. His biggest hit, "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" (1897), was the best selling song of its time. Although Dresser had no formal training in music composition, he wrote ballads that had wide appeal, including some of the most popular songs of the era. During a career that spanned nearly two decades, from 1886 to 1906, Dresser composed and published more than 150 songs. Following the success of "Wabash", many newspapers compared Dresser to popular composer Stephen Foster. "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" became the official song of Indiana in 1913. The Paul Dresser Birthplace in Terre Haute is designated as a state shrine and memorial. Dresser was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
Dresser grew up in a large family (including his brother, novelist Theodore Dreiser) and lived in Sullivan and Terre Haute, Indiana. He had a troubled childhood and spent time in jail. Dresser left home at age sixteen to join a traveling minstrel act and performed in several regional theaters before joining John Hamlin's Wizard Oil traveling medicine-wagon show in 1878. Dresser composed his first songs while working for Hamlin. He settled in Evansville, Indiana, for several years while continuing to work as a traveling performer and musician. Eventually, he became a nationally known talent and participated in several traveling acts, including The Two Johns, A Tin Soldier, and The Danger Signal. Dresser's songwriting talent developed during his years as a performer; he began by writing songs featured in his shows and later wrote and sold songs to others' acts. Dresser moved to New York City, and in 1893 Dresser joined Tin Pan Alley's Howley, Haviland and Company, a New York City sheet music publisher, as a silent partner. At the height of his success, Dresser was a nationally known entertainer, successful songwriter, and sheet music publisher. He was generous, especially to family and friends, and a lavish spender. The turn of the century brought him financial distress when his music fell out of style. In 1905 his music publishing business declared bankruptcy. He died the following year.
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= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.
Recordings (Results 1-25 of 117 records)
|Company||Matrix No.||Size||First Recording Date||Title||Primary Performer||Description||Role||Audio|
|Berliner||187||7-in.||Before Apr. 1899||Just tell them that you saw me||George J. Gaskin||Male vocal solo||composer, lyricist|
|Berliner||189[a]||7-in.||4/17/1896||Just tell them that you saw me||Artists vary||Male vocal solo||composer, lyricist|
|Berliner||399||7-in.||Before Feb. 1899||On the banks of the Wabash far away||Mabel Casedy||Female vocal solo||composer, lyricist|
|Berliner||577||7-in.||Apr. 1898||On the banks of the Wabash||Annie Carter||Female vocal solo||composer, lyricist|
|Berliner||867||7-in.||11/15/1896||Just tell them that you saw me||George J. Gaskin ; Mozart Quartet||Male vocal solo, with male vocal quartet||composer, lyricist|
|Berliner||1784||7-in.||July 1897-Mar. 1898||On the banks of the Wabash||Artists vary||Male vocal solo||lyricist, composer|
|Berliner||1936||7-in.||11/29/1895-12/14/1898||Sweet Savannah||J. W. Myers||Male vocal solo||lyricist, composer|
|Berliner||3428||7-in.||6/17/1898||On the banks of the Wabash far away||Henry Higgins ; Arthur Pryor||Cornet and trombone duet||composer|
|Berliner||4255||7-in.||Mar. 1898||On the banks of the Wabash, far away||Diamond Four||Male vocal quartet||lyricist, composer|
|Berliner||055||7-in.||3/28/1899||On the banks of the Wabash far away||George J. Gaskin||Male vocal solo||composer, lyricist|
|Berliner||0109||7-in.||Before June 1899||Sweet Savannah||George J. Gaskin||Male vocal solo||lyricist, composer|
|Berliner||01061||7-in.||3/10/1900||The blue and the gray||Arthur Collins||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist, composer|
|Berliner||01143||7-in.||3/23/1900||The blue and the gray||Harry Macdonough||Male vocal solo||composer, lyricist|
|Berliner||01215||7-in.||4/17/1900||The blue and the gray||Joseph Natus||Male vocal solo||composer, lyricist|
|Berliner||01218||7-in.||4/17/1900||In good old New York town||Joseph Natus||Male vocal solo||lyricist, composer|
|Berliner||01222||7-in.||4/17/1900||Sweet Savannah||Joseph Natus||Male vocal solo||lyricist, composer|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix A-]83||7-in.||6/11/1900||The blue and the gray||Harry Macdonough||Male vocal solo||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix A-]164||7-in.||7/21/1900||The blue and the gray||Arthur Collins ; Metropolitan Orchestra||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist, composer|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix A-]204||7-in.||9/14/1900||The blue and the gray||Street piano||"Street" (barrel) piano||lyricist, composer|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix A-]515||7-in.||11/15/1900||When the moon comes up behind de hill||S. H. Dudley||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist, composer|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix B-]677||10-in.||2/16/1901||There is no North or South to-day||Joseph Natus||Male vocal solo, with piano||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix A-]677||7-in.||2/16/1901||There is no North or South to-day||Joseph Natus||Male vocal solo, with piano||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix B-]678||10-in.||4/29/1903||I'd still believe you true||Joseph Natus||Male vocal solo, with piano||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix A-]678||7-in.||2/16/1901||I'd still believe you true||Joseph Natus||Male vocal solo, with piano||composer, lyricist|
|Victor||[Pre-matrix A-]680||7-in.||2/16/1901||Calling to her boy just once again||Joseph Natus||Male vocal solo, with piano||composer, lyricist|
Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Dresser, Paul," accessed December 9, 2023, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108958.
Dresser, Paul. (2023). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108958.
"Dresser, Paul." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2023. Web. 9 December 2023.
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