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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 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  
(Results 101-116 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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