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Paul Dresser

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. He sold his songs through sheet music publishers in New York City's Tin Pan Alley, and became a partner in the music publishing business.

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 several weeks 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 traveled with a number of different acts, including The Two Johns, A Tin Soldier, and The Danger Signal, among others. Dresser wrote songs featured in these shows, sold his songs to others acts, and published his music. In 1893 Dresser joined "Howley, Haviland and Company", a New York City sheet music publisher, as a silent partner. He later became an active partner in other music publishing companies. At the height of his success, Dresser lived in New York City as a wealthy entertainer, successful songwriter, and sheet music publisher. He was generous, especially to family and friends, and lavish spending. The turn of the century brought him financial distress when his music fell out of style. In 1905 his music publishing business declared bankruptcy and Dresser's health declined. He died penniless in New York City a year later.

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. His biggest hit, "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" (1897), became the second best-selling sheet music of the nineteenth century. 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.

Birth and Death Data: Born April 21st, 1857 (Terre Haute), Died January 30th, 1906 (New York City)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1896 - 1942

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer, lyricist

Recordings (Results 51-75 of 116 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor C-617 12-in. 10/31/1903 When I'm away from you, dear Richard Jose Counter-tenor vocal solo, with orchestra composer, lyricist  
Victor B-643 10-in. 11/6/1903 The blue and the gray Harry Macdonough Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor B-898 10-in. 1/12/1904 Your mother wants you home, boy, and she wants you mighty bad Richard Jose Counter-tenor vocal solo, with piano composer  
Victor C-930 12-in. 1/18/1904 Glory to God Richard Jose Counter-tenor vocal solo, with organ composer  
Victor A-946 7-in. 1/19/1904 The voice of the Hudson Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer  
Victor B-946 10-in. 1/19/1904 The voice of the Hudson Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer  
Victor A-948 7-in. 1/19/1904 There is no North or South today Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer, lyricist  
Victor B-948 10-in. 1/19/1904 There is no North or South today Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer, lyricist  
Victor C-2024 12-in. 12/8/1904 When I'm away from you, dear Richard Jose Counter-tenor vocal solo, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor B-2024 10-in. 12/9/1904 When I'm away from you, dear Richard Jose Counter-tenor vocal solo, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor C-2026 12-in. 12/8/1904 She fought on by his side Richard Jose Counter-tenor vocal solo, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor B-2026 10-in. 12/9/1904 She fought on by his side Richard Jose Counter-tenor vocal solo, with orchestra composer, lyricist  
Victor C-2027 12-in. 12/8/1904 The day that you grew colder Richard Jose Counter-tenor vocal solo, with orchestra composer, lyricist  
Victor B-2538 10-in. 5/9/1905 My gal Sal Byron G. Harlan Male vocal solo, with orchestra composer, lyricist  
Victor B-2869 10-in. 11/7/1905 Nigger loves his 'possum Collins and Harlan Male vocal duet, with orchestra composer  
Victor B-12676 10-in. 12/5/1912 On the banks of the Wabash American Quartet Male vocal quartet, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor B-14096 10-in. 11/19/1913 Evalyne Billy Murray ; Will Oakland Male vocal duet, with orchestra composer  
Victor C-16216 12-in. 7/20/1915 Songs of the past, no. 4 Victor Mixed Chorus Vocal chorus and soloists, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor CVE-16216 12-in. 5/11/1927 Songs of the past, no. 4 Victor Mixed Chorus Vocal chorus and soloists, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor C-16218 12-in. 7/21/1915 Songs of the past, no. 6 Victor Mixed Chorus Vocal chorus and soloists, with orchestra composer, lyricist  
Victor B-25764 10-in. 11/16/1921 My gal Sal Criterion Quartet Male vocal quartet, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor B-25865 10-in. 12/12/1921 Barndomshemmet Grace Eklund Carlson ; Florence Eklund Reims Female vocal duet, with orchestra composer  
Victor B-26587 10-in. 7/7/1922 Barndomshjemmet August Werner Male vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Victor B-29016 10-in. 11/20/1923 Barndomshemmet Joseph Lycell Male vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Victor B-29498 10-in. 2/22/1924 My gal Sal Ted Weems Orchestra Jazz/dance band composer  
(Results 51-75 of 116 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Dresser, Paul," accessed October 26, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108958.

Dresser, Paul. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108958.

"Dresser, Paul." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 26 October 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108958

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