One of the best known Tin Pan Alley songwriters at turn of the 20th century
Charter member of ASCAP and major force in music publishing
Composer and legendary publisher, Harry Von Tilzer was born Harry Gumm in Detroit, Michigan on July 8, 1872. When he was a child, his family (including his younger brother Albert Von Tilzer, lyricist of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game") moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where Harry was introduced to show business by the theatrical company that performed above his father’s shoe store.
At the age of 14, Von Tilzer ran away from home and joined the Col Brothers Circus and by 1887, he was playing the piano, composing and acting in a traveling repertory company. For the next five years, Von Tilzer traveled with the company and other burlesque troupes and in 1892, he moved to New York where his first job was as a saloon pianist.
Von Tilzer’s first published song was “My Old New Hampshire Home” (lyric by Andrew B. Sterling) and became a #1 hit recording in 1898. In 1899, he also reached success with “I’d Leave My Happy Home For You” (lyric by Will A. Heelan), “I Wonder If She’s Waiting” (lyric by Sterling) and “Where the Sweet Magnolias Grow.” Also in 1899, he was made a partner in the publishing firm, Shapiro, Bernstein and Von Tilzer.
In 1900, he collaborated with Arthur A. Lamb on “A Bird in a Gilded Cage” and with Howard Graham on “When the Harvest Days are Over”. In 1901, he again teamed with Sterling to produce “Down Where the Cotton Blossoms Grow”.
In 1902, Von Tilzer left Shapiro Bernstein and formed Harry Von Tilzer Music Company. Highlights from the Von Tilzer published-catalog include “Down Where the Wurzburger Flows”, “The Mansion of Aching Hearts”, “On a Sunday Afternoon”, “Down on the Farm”, “Jennie Lee”, “When Katre and I Were Comin’ Thru the Rye”, “Please Go “Way and Let Me Sleep”, “Pardon Me, My Dear Alphonse” and “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.”
In 1914, Von Tilzer was a charter member of the performing rights society, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). He also contributed to a handful or Broadway revues and productions including The Fisher Maiden and The Kissing Girl. Other lyricists Von Tilzer worked with include Arthur Lamb, Will Dillon and WM. Jerome.
Harry Von Tilzer died on January 10, 1946 in New York City.