Harry Carroll (Atlantic City, New Jersey November 28, 1892 – Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania December 26, 1962) was a noted American songwriter and pianist. He was another of those vaudevillians who didn’t finish school and who was already playing piano in a silent movie theater before he was out of grade school. His dream was to move to the big city which he did at age 18, finding work in Tin Pan Alley, that early center for American popular music composition, as an arranger. At night he performed at the Garden Café on 7th Avenue and 50th street and he also took jobs as a pianist for the frequent vaudeville shows in New York City. He continued composing and plugging his tunes, often with words by his friend Ballard MacDonald until one of his tunes was used in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910.
In 1912 Ziegfeld rivals Lee and J. J. Shubert named him to be a staff composer for their New York Winter Garden unit and, working with Arthur Fields, he composed music for the hit show On the Mississippi. Carroll had been part of a vaudeville act with Fields and Eddie Weston known as Weston, Fields and Carroll during 1911 and 1912. There soon followed, usually in collaboration with MacDonald, a series of mega-hits which brought Carroll into the ranks of the most famous composers of his time. A number of his tunes, apart from becoming major hits, became classics and even emblems of their times. These included such songs as By the Beautiful Sea (with Harold Atteridge), There’s a Girl in the Heart of Maryland, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, Trail of the Lonesome Pine and others which sold uncountable amounts of sheet music, in some cases more than one million sheets.
The University of Arizona Collection has three sheet musics of Harry Carroll’s salad days as a composer. They are:
Drip, Drip, Drip, Went the Waterfall (1915) – Words are by Harry Carroll’s long-time lyricist Ballard MacDonald. Harry Carroll, just 23 years old here, plays the piano as his vaudeville partner Anna Wheaton looks on.
The Stormy Sea of Love (1916) – Words again are by Ballard MacDonald. Insert photo of Carroll. The cover art by the noted sheet music artist Starmer features men and women swimming. This tune was intended to duplicate the great success of the earlier By the Sea but failed to do so.
I’ll Come Sailing Home to You (A Long Way From Broadway) (1917)- featuring 25 year old Harry Carroll on the cover and the lyrics are by Stanley Murphy with Carroll having composed the music.
I’m Always Chasing Rainbows (with lyric by Joe McCarthy) had been composed for a highly s
uccessful 1918 Broadway show called Oh, Look! which starred the glamorous Dolly Sisters and Harry Fox, supposed inventor of the fox trot dance form. It was another million selling song for a writer with seemingly a magic touch for hit-making. His work on Broadway continued to be strongly sought after and he did five more shows over the next few years including the 1920 and 1921 seasons of the Follies with Ziegfeld.
Still more massive hits followed in the 1910s including She is the Sunshine of Virginia and Down in Bom-Bom Bay. When issued as sheet music, these songs were usually given beautiful art covers by famous artists such as E. H. Pfeiffer of New York or marketed with gorgeous cover photos of pretty girls. Carroll had quite an eye for the ladies and first married a Radio City Rockette, Estelle Cooper, in Manhattan in 1921 but they had a bitter divorce and alimony legal proceeding in 1925 and the divorce did not become finalized until 1934 by which time he was living with his second wife Polly Baker whom he married in 1935 after they lived together in the early 1930s. He had two children with Polly named Harriet (born 1932) and Polly (1934). His long-time partnership with 1910s and 1920s singer Anna Wheaton (born 1896- died 1961) resulted in their producing a touring vaudeville act for many years and also he would often perform and tour himself playing the piano and singing or using guest singers to sing his great American songbook tunes. He later teamed with Polly Baker and also composed music with her.
Anna Wheaton was a star in her own right in the 1910s, performing as a dancer, singer and musical star on Broadway and even at London’s Hippodrome. She was featured in no fewer than 11 Broadway shows between 1909 and 1914. She also sang on a number of records, including a contract with Columbia. Hit songs for her included Till the Clouds Roll By, a duet with James Harrod, and the comic tune M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I which was also identified with Frances White.
When the movies learned to talk, Carroll was part of that vast New York exodus that brought many composers out to Hollywood to work on the latest musicals and from 1914 to 1917 he was the director of ASCAP.
The University of Arizona collection shows Harry Carroll in 1953 still composing songs for his own music company Carroll Publications, located at 6104 Whitsett Avenue in North Hollywood, California. The sheet music in the collection is entitled Tall Pines of Oregon and was composed and performed by Polly Baker and Harry Carroll who are pictured on the cover of the music. It was introduced at Amato’s Supper Club in Portland, Oregon and it is personally autographed by Harry Carroll. Although Carroll’s hit tunes were in the 1910s he loved to perform and continued to be popular throughout the 1930s and 1940s doing medleys of his perennial hits.
Polly was billing herself as America’s foremost singing comedienne performing “a routine of comedy songs and hilarious nonsense” and Carroll had been her personal accompanist and musical high-jinx partner from at least 1943. They performed at small-scale venues and supper clubs with floor shows all over the country to fantastic reviews. In fact this teaming, late in Carroll’s career was a smash wherever they went, combining her terrific comic timing, drunk-girl routine and singing with a medley of his hits.
Harry Carroll was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1970.
The University of Arizona School of Anthropology Vaudeville Collection has the following Harry Carroll musics including one personally autographed sheet:
LADY ANGELINE NOVELTY SONG 1912 – Dave Reed, George Christic. “Sung with great success by WESTON, FIELDS AND CARROLL” who are pictured on the cover. Eddie Weston, Arthur Fields and Harry Carroll performed together in 1911 and 1912 and Fields went on to great success also as a composer while Carroll began to team up for songs more and more with Ballard Macdonald.
DRIP, DRIP, DRIP, WENT THE WATERFALL 1915 – Words by Ballard MacDonald. Music by HARRY CARROLL. Composers of The Stormy Sea of Love, You Wake Up in the Morning in Chicago, and Suzanne. “As introduced by ANNA WHEATON and HARRY CARROLL (the composer) in vaudeville.
THE STORMY SEA OF LOVE 1916 – Words by Ballard MacDonald. Music by Harry Carroll. Writers of By the Sea, Bom-Bombay and Trail of the Lonesome Pine”. Inset photo of HARRY CARROLL.
WHEN WINTER COMES 1922 – Harry Carroll, Arthur Freed. “Featured in Harry Carroll’s Productions”. Insert photo HARRY CARROLL. Full page photo is of Carroll’s protege KATHLENE MARTYN. Martyn was a British singer and dancer in the Ziegfeld 9 O’Clock Frolic and the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic who never quite made it to superstardom. Once billed as the “Prettiest Girl in All New York”, she was also used as a model for Coca Cola posters. She ended up singing and dancing in 6 Broadway shows including the 2 already mentioned and she was a much photographed model and had been selected as the official mascot of the British Royal Flying Corps in World War I. Her career on stage and screen lasted from 1920 to 1926. Not noted for her singing or dancing or acting, she was basically a beautiful ornament to the productions she was hired to grace.
I’LL COME SAILING HOME TO YOU (A LONG WAY FROM BROADWAY) 1917 – Lyric by Stanley Murphy. Music by Harry Carroll. Photo HARRY CARROLL. World War I song.
TALL PINES OF OREGON 1953 – by Polly Baker and Harry Carroll. “As introduced at Amato’s Supper Club in Portland, Oregon”. Published by Carroll Publications, 6104 Whitsett Avenue, North Hollywood, California. Autographed “To Alma and Harry Coffee, Sincerely, Harry Carroll” on the inside page at upper left.