Top Broadway composer in early 1900s
ASCAP Charter Member and Director
Harry Carroll, the composer of such enduring standards as “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” and “By the Beautiful Sea,” was born in Rosenhayn, New Jersey on November 28, 1892.
Classically trained on piano and violin as a child, Carroll began his career playing piano in movie houses on the boardwalk in Atlantic City and in Pittsburgh, while still in his teensAt 16, he moved to New York City where he found work as a rehearsal pianist at Jos W Stern music publishing. At night, he entertained at the Beaux Art, and other night clubs. He sold his first two songs to Jos W Stern publishers. Lew Fields (of Weber & Fields) bought “I Never Know How to Behave When I’m With Girls” (lyrics, Ballard MacDonald) to be performed by Vernon Castle in Fields’ production of the musical “The Summer Widowers” in 1910. “Nix on the Glow Worm, Lena” (lyrics, Ballard MacDonald) was sold to Florence Ziegfeld, and performed in the Follies of 1910.
Between 1910-12, Carroll toured the BF Keith vaudeville circuit, and in New York Theaters as Weston, Fields, and Carroll, and later as Fields and Carroll, as “snappy singers of snappy tunes.”
Carroll published five million selling songs between 1912-15 (before turning 23), and composed three of the top 40 hits of 1913 alone. His first million selling hit was “On the Mississippi,” performed by Harry Cooper in “Hanky Panky” at the Broadway Theater. Two or three million copies were sold. In 1913, he composed “The Trail of The Lonesome Pine,” also with Ballard MacDonald. The publisher, Shapiro Bernstein, sold three million copies in three months (The Billboard 27 Sept 1913, “highest mark in sold copies known in music history.”). In 1914, Carroll composed “There’s a Girl in the Heart of Maryland” (performed by Sophie Tucker) and “It Takes A Little Rain with the Sunshine” (introduced by Ethel Green, with Carroll accompanying, at the The Palace Theater in New York, as the act following Sarah Bernhardt, during the actress’ legendary run on the opening bill).
In 1914, with Harold Atteridge contributing the lyrics, Carroll also composed one of his biggest hits, “By the Beautiful Sea”, the ASCAP Song of the Year. The latter song was composed as a one-step for dancers Irene and Vernon Castle, who performed it throughout their careers.
In 1914, Carroll was a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) as well as one of its first directors (1914-1917).
In 1918, in addition to composing four of the songs, Carroll was a producer of Oh, Look!, a musical adaptation of the then popular play, “Ready Money” which ran at the Vanderbilt Theater on Broadway from March 07, 1918 to May 04, 1918, in the midst of World War I. In this show, the hit song “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” appeared. The song was performed twice in the show, by Harry Fox and the Dolly Sisters, with lyrics by Joe McCarthy and a chorus melody arranged from the middle section of Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu op. 66. The song became another million+ selling hit, and another ASCAP Song of the Year.
Other Broadway scores Carroll collaborated on include The Passing Show of 1914 (four songs, performed two of them in the show), Dancing Around (with Al Jolson), Maid in America (with Nora Bayes), Within the Loop, The Little Blue Devil (1919), Ziegfeld Follies (1910, 1916, 1920, 1921 ), and Greenwich Village Follies.
Collaborating with Atteridge, McCarthy, MacDonald, Arthur Fields, Alfred Bryan, Carroll’s catalog includes the hit songs “The Land of My Best Girl”, “Tip Top Tipperary Mary”, “Smother Me With Kisses and Kill Me With Love”, “Down in Bom-Bom Bay”, “She is the Sunshine of Virginia”, “Our Home Town”, “Wherever There’s Music and Beautiful Girls”, “A Kiss for Cinderella” and “Roll on, Missouri”.
Carroll was married to Estelle Carroll (1914-1934), who performed in the Passing Show of 1914 under the stage name Estelle Christie, and Polly Baker (1935-62). In his later career, he operated night clubs in Los Angeles, and toured the US and Canada, performing sketches and hits from his catalog in clubs and cafes with his wife Polly Baker
Harry Carroll died in Santa Barbara, California on December 6, 1962.