On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away
Composer: Paul Dresser
Arr: Merv Rowley
Paul Dresser was a native of Indiana, born in 1857 in Terre Haute. He was one of the well-known songwriters of the early Tin Pan Alley era, known for his sentimental music. This month's selection was his best effort, telling the story of growing up near
the Wabash River and his recollection of home, mother, and early lost love. This music, in
it's original printing, carried an imprinted
dedication to "Mary E. South", as described in the lyrics.
Dresser wrote numerous songs, but this one and My Gal
Sal ranked as his best. He owned a small, portable reed organ, which he carried in his travels and used to compose his music. He is said
to have composed Wabash on this organ while sitting in a hotel room in Chicago, overlooking Lake Michigan in 1897. Apparently, he
died a bachelor. Over the years, Wabash became very popular as a parlor song, and
as one sung by Barbershop Quartets as well. It became the State Song of Indiana in 1913.
We are sure you will enjoy both music and lyrics, although the
lyrics have been known to
cause a few tears to be shed.
About the Music:
Notice the extensive use of coupled eighth-notes as part of the story line, giving the narrative some "bounce". This is a reflection of the influence of early ragtime writers
even on parlor music.
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