The Remnants of Tin Pan Alley

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It seems important to remember this time in history. I would like to understand more about the songwriters and lyricists of this era, and how they came to prolifically write these wonderful songs.

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My Great Grandfather was Jerome H Remick, one of the founders of Tin Pan Alley. His was a Sheet Music Publishing outfit that published many of the songs from 1880s-1920s. Music was published on Sheet Books for Piano before Phonograph and, of course, Radio. Tin Pan Alley got it’s name from the noise of composing Pianos from windows heard while walking down 28th St. Little old ladies would claim “It sounds like the clanging of tin pans”.

Remick brought songs to American public by composing them on 28th St., printing them into Books, and he hired a number of “Song Pluggers” who would go town to town playing and selling the Sheet Music at Fairs, Public Spaces, and wherever people gathered. They would also sell the music to Retail Stores who would carry them. This was how Music was distributed before the Phonograph.

One of the “Song Pluggers” was a young George Gershwin (age 15 or 16), who my Great Grandfather found in the slums of Brooklyn and put his talent to work, selling music, town to town.

Remick eventually wanted out. He may have been intimidated by the investment he would need to make in Phonograph Manufacturing, but he sold to Warner Brothers (a competing Sheet Music Co on Tin Pan Alley) who were interested more in his library of music as they had plans to make Silent Movies and needed music to fill the content. He sold to Warner in 1920s and went on to start the Detroit Free Press and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.