Blanche Ring (Boston, April 24, 1871 – Hollywood, January 13, 1961) was an early star of vaudeville and one of the most important early stars of Broadway musicals. When her superstar career dimmed in the 1920s she took on character roles in Hollywood movies.
She came from a long line of theatrical people including her great great grandfather Charles Fisher, a British immigrant to America who performed in traveling theater troupes and her grandfather James H. Ring, a comedian for the Boston Museum Company. The family was Scotch-Irish-English. Beginning in vaudeville she also appeared in dramatic performances as well as Broadway musicals, beginning her career while still in her mid teens. Her breakthrough hit was the classic song In The Good Old Summertime from a 1902 Broadway show called The Defenders. George “Honey Boy” Evans, famous for his minstrel shows, had written the music and Ren Shields the words but the song was considered unsuitable to be interpolated into Ring’s Broadway show.
Ring reportedly worked with Evans to arrange the song with a slowed-down oft repeated chorus that the audience could join in singing and it was tried out in the Broadway show where it was an instant smash hit. It also showed off Ring’s propensity for choosing material that would allow the audience to sing along or shout out at certain intervals within the song. This made the audience feel that they were a part of the performance. The song was identified with Ring for years and remains one of the iconic songs of the turn of the century era.
During this era, Ring was quite lovely if a bit portly, which was a popular look for the time. Moon-faced and possessed of a Julia Roberts-type smile which she flashed during her audience participation numbers, Blanche Ring always delivered an evening of comedy and song. As a hitmaker, Ring also sold absolutely enormous quantities of sheet music so that songwriters seeking royalties sought to write hit songs for her. She was fond of wearing the enormous wide-brimmed hats of the time and always graced the cover of her sheet musics as she became instantly recognizable.
Hit after hit followed including The Belle of Avenue A from the musical Tommy Rot. An even bigger smash was the classic song I’ve Got Rings on My Fingers, a ridiculous song about an Irishman who sails off and becomes a castaway and then an East Indian sultan or more accurately Panjandrum to a bevy of beautiful exotic girls. The song’s chorus had a break in it which allowed the audience to shout out “whooooooooo” at full strength and this became a fun part of each performance of the tune. Ring introduced the song in 1909 in one of her great Broadway successes called The Midnight Sons, which ran for 257 performances and it was also carried over to even greater fame in her next show, the huge hit The Yankee Girl. Ring’s spirited recording, complete with audience participation for the whooping, survives and remains a delight. A silent movie based on this show was made in Hollywood in 1916 starring Ring. Later in the 1930s, the song would be revived by Judy Garland.
Blanche Ring became a bankable surefire topnotch Broadway superstar by 1905 and she began to be known as The Incomparable Blanche Ring; hit shows and personal appearances followed at which she introduced pop hit after pop hit, some of them selling sheet music into the upper hundreds of thousands. Yip-I-Addy-I-Aye became another smash in 1908, from the musical satire The Merry Widow and the Devil. This was followed by a pop hit based on the current craze for buying children so-called Billiken dolls. The odd Buddha-like dolls were created and produced by a Kansas City artist named Florenz Pretz who claimed the idea for them had come to her in a dream, that they brought good luck to whoever bought them and that they brought better luck if someone gave you one. They became friendship gifts as “The God of Things As They Ought to Be” and Ring quickly capitalized on the fad by her song The Billiken Man, another enormous hit, in 1909.
Blanche Ring, being part Irish, never failed to introduce Irish songs to an immigrant audience that adored songs about the homeland and St. Patrick’s Day might often find a new Ring Irish tune available to be introduced. Over the years these included some of her biggest hits, including Along the Rocky Road to Dublin (a huge hit in 1915), Bedelia the Irish Coon Song Serenade (1905), ‘Twas Only an Irishman’s Dream (from her Broadway show Broadway and Buttermilk of 1916), If They’d Only Move Old Ireland Over Here (1914), and My Irish Molly-O (1905), all songs that the audience was delighted to join in on. And then there was her longest titled Irish tune: Everyone Sings Tipperary So Why Not Sing Wearin’ of the Green from the 1905 show Oh Papa!.
In 1910, ever mindful of trendy songs based on current events, she introduced another of the greatest hits of the 20th century, called Come Josephine In My Flying Machine, celebrating that recent invention the airplane at a time when wealthy people were beginning to own their own airplanes and offering to take up women for an exciting ride at low altitudes. The song became so famous that Ring adopted it as her signature piece, closing special engagements with it. The song appeared to reference Josephine Sarah Magner, the first woman parachutist in America! It was just one of Ring’s songs designed to capture contemporary events or be a novelty comedy song. During World War I, she would emerge with yet another hit based on what America would do to the kaiser in Germany, entitled Bing! Bang! Bing ‘Em on the Rhine.
In addition to her acting and singing, Ring was famous for her impressions of famous people and she was one of the first female impressionists in vaudeville. Being in constant demand early on as one of America’s greatest talents, her personal life was a shambles. She married and divorced four times, most notably and finally to the famed former trapeze artist, vaudeville star and movie character actor Charles Winninger. Hers was very much a show business family as both of her sisters were in the business. One married comedy movie director of the 1930s, A. Edward Sutherland. Another sister wed silent film acting icon, Thomas Meighan.
Once dominant in sheet music, probably more than any other performer in her era, she disappears from major popularity in the early 1920s as she enters middle age and the singing styles of the jazz age run more to Ruth Etting and a slimmer more boyish flapper look wins the day. But Blanche Ring continued performing even into the later 1930s in character roles and in Hollywood films, secure in her knowledge that in the old days she had been one of the true icons of the American musical theater and the vaudeville stage.
She died at 89 after suffering a stroke and experiencing several years of ill health.
Blanche Ring sings one of her biggest hits:
The University of Arizona has a large collection of BLANCHE RING sheet music including the following pieces (all of the sheet music shown on this entry is from the School of Anthropology collection):
IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMER TIME 1902 – Ren Shields, George “The Honeyboy” Evans. As sung in A. H. Chamberlyn’s latest musical extravaganza THE DEFENDER by MISS BLANCHE RING.
DOWN IN LOVER’S ROOST 1902 – by Ren Shields, George “Honeyboy” Evans. Cover BLANCHE RING in FAD AND FOLLY at Mr. Osborne’s Playhouse, New York.
THE SAME OLD CROWD 1903 – by Fred C. Farrell, Joseph C. Farrell, Theodore F. Morse. As sung “with unbounded success” by MISS BLANCHE RING in George W. Lederer’s production of THE JEWEL OF ASIA.
BEDELIA, THE IRISH COON SONG SERENADE 1903 – William Jerome, Jean Schwartz. Cover MISS BLANCHE RING. “The novelty song of the century”
MY IRISH MOLLY-O 1905 – Jean Schwartz, William Jerome. As sung by MISS BLANCHE RING of the Frank Daniels Comic Opera Company in Charles B. Dillinham’s production of the musical farce SERGEANT BRUE
WALTZ ME AROUND AGAIN WILLIE (‘ROUND- ‘ROUND- ‘ROUND) 1906 – Ren Shields, Will D. Cobb. Successfully sung by BLANCHE RING in Alfred E. Aaron’s production HIS HONOR, THE MAYOR
WALTZ ME AROUND AGAIN WILLIE (‘ROUND- ‘ROUND- ‘ROUND) 1906 – Ren Shields, Will D. Cobb. Successfully sung by BLANCHE RING in Charles Dillingham’s production MISS DOLLY DOLLARS
YOU’LL HAVE TO WAIT TILL MY SHIP COMES IN 1906 – Ren Shields, George Evans. BLANCHE RING’s big success.
MY IRISH FLUFFY RUFFLES 1907 – Albert Gumble, Will A. Heelan. Introduced by MISS BLANCHE RING in Sam S. and Lee Shubert Inc.’s THE GAY WHITE WAY
AREN’T YOU HE GIRL I MET AT SHERRY’S? 1907 – Joel P. Corin, Felix Feist. As sung by BLANCHE RING, JEFFERSON DE ANGELIS, ALEXANDER CARR in THE GAY WHITE WAY. Management Sam S. and Lee Shubert Inc.
DIXIE DAN 1907 – Will D. Cobb, Seymour Furth. BLANCHE RING’s big hit as featured in THE GAY WHITE WAY. Management Sam S. and Lee Shubert Inc. Cover art by STARMER
THE BILLIKEN MAN SONG 1909 – E. Ray Goetz, Melville J. Gideon. As introduced by the Famous Singing Comedienne MISS BLANCHE RING. Cover art by STARMER.
I’VE GOT RINGS ON MY FINGERS OR MUMBO JUMBO JIJJIBOO J. O’SHAY 1909 – Maurice Scott, Weston and Barnes. BLANCHE RING’s greatest success as introduced in THE YANKEE GIRL
LOUISIANA LIZABETH, MAID OF SEVILLA, WHERE’S MAMA and ALL ALONE 1909 – George V. Hobart, Silvio Hein. Cover BLANCHE RING in Lew Fields’ production THE YANKEE GIRL, a musical play
LET’S MAKE LOVE AMONG THE ROSES 1910 – William Jerome, Jean Schwartz. As sung by BLANCHE RING in THE YANKEE GIRL
TELL IT TO SWEENEY 1910 – Will Dillon, Harry Von Tilzer. Sung with great success by BLANCHE RING in Lew Fields’ production THE YANKEE GIRL
COME JOSEPHINE IN MY FLYING MACHINE (UP SHE GOES!) 1910 – Alfred Bryan, Fred Fischer. Inset photo BLANCHE RING
THE DEEDLE-DUM-DEE 1911 – Benjamin Hapgood Burt, Silvio Hein. BLANCHE RING’s tremendous song hit in THE WALL STREET GIRL
UKULELE DALY 1915 – Harry Williams, William Jerome, Jean Schwartz. Cover art by Barbelle. “As introduced by BLANCHE RING in NOBODY HOME. One of her famed story songs about an Irishman who lives in a far-off exotic isle surrounded by Hawaiian-type hula girls while his girl pines for him back in Killarney. Typical Blanche Ring sequel to her highly successful I’ve Got Rings on my Fingers.
I WANT A REGULAR MAN 1911 – Karl Hoschna, Hapgood Burt. Cover BLANCHE RING in THE WALL STREET GIRL. Book by Margaret Mayo, Edgar Selwyn. Presented by Frederic McKay.
GEORGIA LAND 1912 – Arthur Fields, Harry Carroll. Cover BLANCHE RING and WILL CARLETON in THE WALL STREET GIRL.
GEE! I SHOULD HAVE BEEN BORN A BOY 1912 – A. Seymour Brown, Nat D. Ayer. Cover BLANCHE RING in THE WALL STREET GIRL
EVERY DAY 1912 – by Earle C. Jones, Charles N. Daniels. Cover BLANCHE RING in THE WALL STREET GIRL. Missing back page.
COME WITH ME TO SPOONEY LAND 1912 – Lou Madden, James Fitzpatrick. Originally introduced by CLARENCE OLIVER and FLORENCE SHIRLEY with BLANCHE RING in Fredric McKay’s great production THE WALL STREET GIRL.
WHISTLE IT 1912 – Al Bryan, Grant Clarke, Jean Schwartz. As introduced by BLANCHE RING in Frederick McKay’s production of THE WALL ST. GIRL
IF THEY’D ONLY MOVE OLD IRELAND OVER HERE 1913 – Jamie Kelly, Lou Klein, Frank Gillen. Successfully introduced by BLANCHE RING in WHEN CLAUDIA SMILES
SWEETHEART LET US DANCE THE BOSTON 1913 – George A. Spink. Featured with great success by BLANCHE RING in WHEN CLAUDIA SMILES
WHY IS THE OCEAN SO NEAR THE SHORE WHY WHY WHY? SPLASH!! NOVELTY WALTZ SONG 1913 – Arthur Weinberg, Clarence Jones. BLANCHE RING’s big hit in WHEN CLAUDIA SMILES
THE FLOWER GARDEN BALL 1913 – William Jerome, Jean Schwartz. Cover Fredrick McKay presents BLANCHE RING in WHEN CLAUDIA SMILES. Staged by J. H. Burnside.
BY THE ZUYDER ZEE 1914 – Alfred Bryan, Jack Wells, Lewis F. Muir. Cover BLANCE RING. “Blanche Ring’s sensation”
ALONG THE ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN 1915 – Joe Young, Bert Grant. Successfully introduced by BLANCHE RING
EVERYONE SINGS TIPPERARY SO WHY NOT SING WEARIN’ OF THE GREEN 1915 – Howard Johnson, Jack Glogau. As sung by BLANCHE RING in OH PAPA, from the play by Leo Ditrichstein, with book by Canning Pollock, Rennold Wolf. “Blanche Ring’s latest song hit”
‘TWAS ONLY AN IRISHMAN’S DREAM 1916 – John J. O’Brien, Al Dubin, Rennie Cormack. Sung with great success by America’s Foremost Singing Comedienne BLANCH RING in Frederic McKay’s production of BROADWAY AND BUTTERMILK, a new comedy with songs and girls by Willward Mack.
MY GRANDFATHER’S GIRL 1916 – Will A. Dillon. BLANCHE RING’s Big Hit in JANE O’DAY FROM BROADWAY.
FAUGH-A-BALLAGH (FOG-A-BOLLA) 1917 – Abe Olman, Ed Rose. BLANCHE RING’s sensational song hit in Oliver Morosco’s production WHAT NEXT
THEY WERE ALL OUT OF STEP BUT HIM 1918 – Irving Berlin. As sung by BLANCHE RING. Cover art by BARBELLE.
BYE AND BYE (YOU’LL SEE THE SUN A SHINING) 1918 – Ed Moran, Vincent Bryan, Harry Von Tilzer. Cover BLANCHE RING
BING! BANG! BING ‘EM ON THE RHINE COMIC SONG 1918 – Jack Mahoney, Allan Flynn. As sung by BLANCHE RING.
THERE’S A TYPICAL TIPPERARY OVER HERE, YOU’D THINK THAT YOU WERE HOME IN IRELAND 1920 – Alex Gerber, Abner Silver. Sung by BLANCHE RING at the Winter Garden, New York City.
STAND UP AND SING FOR YOUR FATHER AN OLD TIME TUNE and THERE’S A TYPICAL TIPPERARY OVER HERE 1921- Henry Burr, Ray Perkins. Sung by BLANCHE RING in THE BROADWAY WHIRL
MY HEAVEN 1928 – Alma Sanders, Monte Carlo. Cover BLANCHE RING, Jack Hazzard in THE HOUSE-BOAT ON THE STYX, presented by Ned Jakobs. Book by John E. Hazzard, Kenneth Webb. Directed by Oscar Eagle. Dances by Ray Perez.