1920 Harry Von Tilzer song contract for WHEN MY BABY SMILES AT ME, signed / autographed by composer Bill Munro.
Offered here is an interesting piece of early jazz history.
This is the original contract selling the rights of the jazz standard WHEN MY BABY SMILES AT ME to the famous Tin Pan Alley publishing company of Harry Von Tilzer. In later years, the song was credited to Bill Munroe, Ted Lewis, Andrew Stereling (Von Tilzer's partner) and Harry Von Tilzer himself, but this document shows that the tune was originally written by Bill Munro alone, who had copyrighted it in January of 1920.
In the year of this document, 1920, clarinetist Ted Lewis recorded this song for the first of many times - it was to become his signature tune. Although he is largely forgotten these days, Ted Lewis was actually one of the best selling recording acts of the 1920s and 1930s, in part due to the popularity of this song.
In later years, the song would be covered by many other jazz and popular luminaries, including Benny Goodman, Louis Prima, Johnny Hodges, Bobby Darin and the Crew Cuts.
The contract is in fair condition, having been repaired at the folds with clear tape (which looks nearly as old at the document). Unfolded, it measures approximately 8.5 x 17 inches. (It is so long that I had to scan it twice to show the entire thing).
The copyright date of the song is noted as January 2, 1920 and this agreement was signed by composer Bill Munro on July 30, 1920.
Below is the outer side of the contract, folded in half. Note that someone has written in pencil on the upper left, "Sale of Baby Smiles at Me by Bill Munro" and in the lower right section, also in pencil, "Shays - 1270 6 Ave, 2nd Floor". Perhaps a meeting place where the document was signed.
From the All Music Guide:
It's difficult to believe, based on a paltry pair of compact discs of Ted Lewis' music that exist, that from the beginning of the '20s until the mid-'30s, he was one of the most popular music acts in the world, cutting million-selling records when those scarcely happened more than once a year. It's even harder to comprehend that Lewis maintained an active recording, radio, movie, television, and concert career for 50 years, 1917 to 1967, and enjoyed respect from members of the jazz community that was unique for a leader of a dance band. Ted Lewis was never considered a great, or even a good jazz player -- though he was a better player than he got credit for being -- and wasn't taken seriously as a singer (even by Ted Lewis), nor was most of the music that he recorded considered good jazz. For most of the '20s, his biggest decade for record sales, he favored dance and novelty numbers that today evoke the zanier side of the era. Even his catch phrase -- "Is everybody happy?" -- seemed by the end of '30s to be a quaint echo of the so-called Roaring Twenties. He was a figure like Paul Whiteman, but more of a musician, and also resembled Al Jolson, as a personality as much as musician. Lewis also employed an extraordinary array of talented musicians and even a few future legends -- the men who passed through the ranks of his band included Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Muggsy Spanier, Jimmy Dorsey, Frank Teschemacher and George Brunies, and even Fats Waller did a turn with the band.
Lewis was signed to Columbia Records, not yet the giant it was to become but still an important label, in 1919, and released his first single, "Wond'ring" b/w "Blues My Naughty Sweety Gives Me," in October of that year. The following year, he introduced and made the first of several recordings of "When My Baby Smiles at Me," which became Lewis' theme song. By the mid '20s, he was one of Columbia's top selling artists and one of the world's top entertainers and band leaders.