The two main sources of published scores for Broadway shows at the turn of the 20th Century were G. Schirmer & Sons and M. Witmark & Sons. While both had a number of composers listed under their publishing banner, they did not use exclusive contracts. Thus, Sigmund Romberg could use Schirmer or Leo Feist, another music publisher. Witmark at one time published the sheet music for Victor Herbert and George M. Cohan.
Both Shapiro-Remick & Company and its successor, Jerome H. Remick & Co., seemed to concentrate on popular music (Tin Pan Alley) and not theatrical music. One of their hit songs in 1926 was Ray Henderson’s “Bye Bye Blackbird,” which most of us remember from the 1993 film Sleepless in Seattle.
As an example of how a song can be used to enhance a story line, let us remind you of the setting. A man and his young son lose their wife/mother to an illness in Chicago, and the father decides to head west to forget. They buy a houseboat on the Sound in an idyllic Seattle setting; it doesn’t help, because both father and son are lost and lonely without her. The son awakens one night, frightened, yelling for his mother and then father. His father runs to the boy’s bedside and smoothes his son’s sweat-dampened hair, reassuring him that all is well; it was just a bad dream. The son explains his dream; the houseboat was sinking and water was pouring in. The father asks his son to remind him what song his mother used to sing to him to put him back asleep. The son replies softly: “Bye Bye Blackbird.” And over their conversation, first very faintly, this rendition of the song starts to play:
One of the ragtime songs we referred to in the Section called How Broadway Became Broadway was “Oh, You Beautiful Doll,” written in 1911 by Nat Ayer and published by Remick in the same year. Let’s listen to the original piano roll sold to the public.
Remick was eventually acquired by Warner Music in 1929, along with a number of other music publishers in New York.