Gave us “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.”
Became ASCAP president in 1948.
Fred E. Ahlert is the Composer behind some of the most performed standards recorded by such diverse artists as Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Louis Armstrong, The Mama’s and The Papa’s and Dinah Shore. His catalog boasts the popular songs “Mean To Me”, “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You), “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “Love, You Funny Thing!”, while the 28-measure melodic structure he popularized through these tunes has provided a Jazz framework for artists such as Johnny Hodges, John Coltrane and Earl Hines.
Born within New York, New York on September 19, 1892, Fred Ahlert spent his life and career in Manhattan. After graduating from CCNY (City College of New York) and Fordham Law School, he got a job with Waterson, Berlin and Snyder Publishers creating arrangements for Irving Aaronson and His Commanders Orchestra and then for the Fred Waring Glee Club. His reputation as a composer grew with the special material he contributed to Vaudeville acts and soon he was selling his compositions to Tin Pan Alley publishers. In 1920 he had his first hit song “I’d Love To Fall Asleep and Wake Up In My Mammy’s Arms”, co-written with Sam Lewis and Joe Young. In 1922, his second success came with Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby in “I Gave You Up Before You Threw Me Down”.
Ahlert’s collaboration with lyricist Joe Young created top ten hits such as “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”, immortalized in the 1935 Fats Waller recording and then re-popularized in 1957 with a Billy Williams recording, which reached # 3 on the Billboard Pop charts. Other Young/Ahlert compositions include “It Can Happen to You”, “Life is a Song” and “Whippoorwill in a Willow Tree”. Ahlert also collaborated with Edgar Leslie (“After a While”, “Blue Roses”) and Sam Lewis (“Goodnight, Captain Curly Head”, “I Wake Up Smiling” and “The Moon Was Yellow”).
In 1928, Ahlert met lyricist Roy Turk and together the songwriting team would find their most successful chemistry. In 1928 they published “I’ll Get By (as Long As I Have You)”, a # 3 hit for Ruth Etting in 1929 and a # 1 hit for Harry James in 1944. “Mean To Me” was published in 1929 and again a top ten hit for Ruth Etting in 1929. “Mean To Me” continues to be one of the most performed standards in every genre. 1930 produced “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home”, a top ten hit in 1931 for Nick Lucas and Ted Weems and a top ten hit in 1952 for Nat King Cole and Johnnie Ray. 1931 produced the classics “Where The Blue Of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day)”, a top five hit for Bing Crosby in 1932. Also during 1931, “I Don’t Know Why (I Just Do)”, the 1931 # 2 hit by Wayne King and 1946 # 16 hit by Tommy Dorsey, as well as “Love, You Funny Thing!”, top five recording in 1932 by Louis Armstrong.
In 1933, Ahlert became a Director of ASCAP, a position he would hold for 20 years (except for the 1948-’50 when he was elected to the position of President). He also contributed songs for inclusion in the first Hollywood Musicals including “Marianne”, “Puttin’ On The Ritz”, “Free and Easy” and “In Gay Madrid”.
On October 20, 1953, Fred E. Ahlert died in New York City at the age 61.