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 101-116 of 116 records)
|Company||Matrix No.||Size||First Recording Date||Title||Primary Performer||Description||Role||Audio|
|OKeh||W81413||10-in.||9/1/1927||My gal Sal||Little Molers ; Miff Mole||Jazz/dance band||composer|
|OKeh||W400804||10-in.||6/19/1928||Just tell them that you saw me||Andrew Jenkins ; Carson Robison||Male vocal duet, with instrumental trio||lyricist, composer|
|Brunswick||E16255-E16256||10-in.||8/27/1925||On the banks of the Wabash, far away||Criterion Quartet||Male vocal quartet, with orchestra||lyricist, composer|
|Brunswick||C2467||10-in.||10/22/1928||My gal Sal (They called her frivolous Sal)||Danny Altier Orchestra||Jazz/dance band||composer|
|Brunswick||LAE254||10-in.||8/28/1928||My gal Sal||Tom Gerunovich Roof Garden Orchestra||Jazz/dance band||composer|
|Brunswick||E33126||10-in.||6/16/1930||On the banks of the Wabash||Robert A. Gardner ; Lester McFarland||Male vocal duet, with guitar, mandolin, and harmonica||lyricist, composer|
|Brunswick||E37342||10-in.||10/30/1931||Just tell them that you saw me||McCravy Brothers||Male vocal duet, with instrumental quartet||composer, lyricist|
|Brunswick||E2778-E2779||10-in.||4/16/1926||Just tell them that you saw me||Uncle Dave Macon ; Sam McGee||Male vocal solo, with banjo and guitar||composer, lyricist|
|Brunswick||E7170-E7171||10-in.||2/25/1928||My gal Sal (They called her frivolous Sal)||Five Pennies ; Red Nichols||Jazz/dance band||composer|
|Brunswick||E22556-E22557||10-in.||4/21/1927||Just tell them that you saw me||Buell Kazee||Male vocal solo and whistling, with violin, guitar, and piano||lyricist, composer|
|Brunswick||E26004-E26005||10-in.||1/13/1928||On the banks of the Wabash far away||Kanawha Singers||Male vocal quartet, with 2 violins, banjo, and piano||lyricist, composer|
|Edison||9533||10-in.||5/26/1924||On the banks of the Wabash, far away||James Doherty||Male vocal solo, with orchestra||lyricist, composer|
|Edison||18469||10-in.||5/4/1928||My gal Sal||Winegar’s Penn Boys||Jazz/dance band||composer|
|Edison||19310||10-in.||7/20/1929||On the banks of the Wabash far away||American Singers||Male vocal quartet||lyricist, composer|
|Edison||N-235||10-in.||5/4/1928||My gal Sal||Winegar’s Penn Boys||Jazz/dance band||composer|
|Edison||N-1033||12-in.||7/20/1929||On the banks of the Wabash far away||American Singers||Male vocal quartet||lyricist, composer|
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.
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