Among My Souvenirs

Album: Among My Souvenirs (1927)
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  • Horatio Nicholls was a prolific songwriter. Unfortunately, prolific does not necessarily equate with good; most of his songs were instantly forgettable, and some, like "Queen Of The Sea," were notoriously bad. He struck gold with this one though, and rightly so. According to Mark White's 1983 study of popular songwriters, You Must Remember This..., "Among My Souvenirs" was his biggest hit, a sentiment echoed by Arnold Shaw's 1987 book The Jazz Age, which says it was rated America's #1 song by Variety in February 1928.
    An instant hit, it was recorded at least five times in 1927, though it must be said that not all these recordings did it justice. Early in that year, Nicholls (under his real name Lawrence Wright) sailed to New York aboard the SS Majestic to drum up business for his music publishing concern. While on board he composed "Shepherd Of The Hills" and, according to the blurb on the back page of the sheet music for his solo effort C-L-E-M-E-N-T-S, "got America's best lyricist, Edgar Leslie, to write the words."

    After becoming the first song to be composed and performed simultaneously in the US and the UK, "Shepherd Of The Hills" would disappear into the netherworld of no-hit wonders, but their other collaboration, "Among My Souvenirs," would go on to feature in the 1946 film The Best Years Of Our Lives, and become a big hit for Connie Francis on both sides of the Atlantic in 1959. It was also recorded by Marty Robbins, and as an album track by Ken Dodd. The enduring popularity of this short but poignant ballad may be due to the fact that like lyricist Leslie, so many of us find a broken heart among our souvenirs.
  • The sheet music was published in the UK by Lawrence Wright Music, including a choral edition arranged for mixed voices by Vere Harker which retailed for the princely sum of 9d. In 1956, it was republished in the Wright Evergreen Series Of Orchestrations, Arranged by Bernard Ebbinghouse, at 4 shillings; when Connie Francis recorded her version on MGM, the new arrangement copyright 1957 retailed for 2s6d.
  • An edited version is usually recorded/sung by most performers; there are two additional verses which add nothing to it.
  • In Lullaby Of Broadway, the daughter of lyricist Al Dubin claims that her father actually wrote the lyrics to "Among My Souvenirs"; at the time he was broke, and "needed" quick cash to get in a small stakes poker game. He wrote the lyrics on the back of an old gas bill envelope, and sold them to Leslie for $25. He sold many lyrics in such fashion, she said, but this was the only one he brooded over because it became such a massive hit.
    Lyrics and indeed entire songs are often misattributed, sometimes openly, the best example of this is probably Lennon-McCartney; although they shared the songwriting credits, most of their songs were written individually: for example "Yesterday" was written by McCartney, while Lennon wrote "I Am The Walrus." Elton John wrote "I've Been Loving You" but gave Bernie Taupin a writer's credit out of his characteristic generosity.

    Patricia Dubin McGuire's book was published in 1983, seven years after Edgar Leslie's death; though undoubtedly her father did sell many lyrics in this fashion early on in his career, and this was a fairly widespread practice in the days of Tin Pan Alley, Edgar Leslie had made his name as a lyricist as long ago as 1909, and in 1927 he had an office on Broadway forty floors up, so although she may sincerely have believed her father walked in off the street and sold him an international hit scrawled on the back of an envelope, the song was, and remains, rightly credited to Horatio Nicholls and the man he regarded, rightly or wrongly, as the best lyricist in America. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above
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