I, Fatty Tidbit #6: Illustrated Songs

by Jerry Stahl

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I, Fatty Tidbit #6: Illustrated Songs

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Jun 11, 2005 10:00 am

Since Roscoe spent some time in vaudeville performing this type of act, I thought a brief history of illustrated songs would be in order… the first music videos.



In the 1890’s a man named George Thomas first put music together with projected photographic images to entertain an audience. Known as live model illustrated songs, these ancestors of MTV were a nationwide craze by 1900.

Here's how it all began. Thomas photographed people acting out a song called "The Little Lost Child." The photographic images were printed on glass slides, and painted in color by hand. In the theater, musicians played and sang the song while the slides were projected on a screen.

George Thomas's first illustrated song show was a disaster. He accidentally projected one of the images upside down. The audience went wild with laughter. But by the second performance, Thomas had his act together. And this time the audience went wild with delight.

Thanks to illustrated song performances, "The Little Lost Child" became a nationwide hit. A huge industry was born. At one time, as many as 10,000 small theaters across the country featured illustrated songs. And customers lined up to see the show. For music publishers, it was a gold mine.


Today, record companies use music videos to sell CDs. In 1900, CDs didn't exist. But many people played musical instruments for entertainment in their homes. Sheet music publishers used illustrated song performances to sell sheet music to these living-room musicians. The publishers rented or gave song slides to theater owners so they could put on illustrated song shows.

At the end of an illustrated song performance, the words to the song's chorus were projected on the screen. The singer encouraged everybody to sing along. Music publishers knew that people who left the theater singing a tune would probably buy the sheet music. And it worked. Songs like "The Little Lost Child" sold millions of copies of sheet music nationwide.


Millions of glass song slides were produced between 1890 and 1914. Large studios created many of them. Models earned about $3 per day to pose for photos. Artists colored the slides by hand. The results were often stunning. In fact, song slide makers created the first "special effects." They sandwiched two or more slides together to create dazzling shots, such as a couple floating on a cloud, or a person "blooming" from the middle of a flower.


llustrated songs first became popular in vaudeville theaters. In vaudeville, live performers put on brief acts such as juggling, singing, or playing musical instruments. Groups of vaudeville performers toured the country, putting on shows. And illustrated songs went along for the ride.

As movies became popular, song slides showed up in movie theaters. Many early movies were very short. So theater owners used illustrated songs to help fill out the night's entertainment. Also, most early movies were shown in black and white. The beautifully colored song slides made for a spectacular show.



Movies helped make illustrated songs popular. But movies and other forms of entertainment helped put an end to the illustrated song. Theater-goers found movies much more exciting than song slides. And many music lovers bought phonographs. With phonographs, people could listen to hit songs whenever they wanted. By about 1914, the live model illustrated song was dead. Theater owners dumped out millions of the slides.

Image

Fortunately, thousands of song slides were saved by collectors. And thanks to modern technology, you can view an authentic song slide performance. Just click on the buttons below to look and listen to the music video, turn-of-the-century style.


http://pbskids.org/wayback/tech1900/music/lobby.html


Source: http://pbskids.org/wayback/tech1900/music/music3.html
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Unread postby suec » Sat Jun 11, 2005 10:18 am

Well, I'm having trouble accessing the video, but I suspect that it is due to my ineptitude - that's the usual for me when it comes to ICT. Great to see the images though - I can see why they would be collectors' items. Interesting, really, that it tooks so long for pop videos to take off when there was this tradition pointing the way.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Jun 11, 2005 10:28 am

Hmmmm... the video is working for me. It could be that you need to update your Quicktime. You should be able to do that for free by going to the Quicktime site. :-?
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Unread postby Liz » Sat Jun 11, 2005 10:41 am

I can't access it either, but that's because I'm on my husband's laptop (we're on vacation on the gulf shores of Texas) and it doesn't have quicktime. But you get the idea with the slide show. Very interesting.
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Unread postby Bix » Sat Jun 11, 2005 11:07 am

How delightful! I don't think I had ever heard of these before. They are wonderful. She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage was one of my mom's favorite songs to sing to my brother and me when we were little. She wasn't born until 1919, but I guess the song stuck around longer than the glass slides.

Welcome to Texas, Liz. Hope you have a great vacation.

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Unread postby suec » Sat Jun 11, 2005 12:25 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Hmmmm... the video is working for me. It could be that you need to update your Quicktime. You should be able to do that for free by going to the Quicktime site. :-?


Ah, yes. Thank you DIDHOT :-D
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Unread postby Theresa » Sat Jun 11, 2005 2:52 pm

Interesting - we do something very similar to this for our song services at church - the end results are the same, only the technology has changed! :zoner:

BTW, I liked "Let's Get the Umpire's Goat". Cute!

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Unread postby Glendaleigh » Sat Jun 11, 2005 3:02 pm

Thank goodness for collectors! What a treasure! I'd no idea about illustrated songs! The videos are amazing - I wasn't really interested in this book, but the era is fascinating. Now I really need to get this book!

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Unread postby lizbet » Sat Jun 11, 2005 7:17 pm

Who knew - DITHOT my :investigate: is off to you - the entertainment industry is much more intertwined then I knew - photography, live music and sheet music - it really is no different then music videos, concerts and C.D.s - just the better part of a century in between - how ever you and Liz do it :eyebrow: I can't imagine but keep those 'bits coming :disco:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Jun 11, 2005 9:14 pm

It has been very interesting for me to go back and see the history of entertainment at the turn of the century and see how far we have come in a very short period of time. Makes you wonder what's around the corner for us in our lifetimes! :-O

Glendaleigh, I hope you get it and read it in time for the discussion! The more the merrier!
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Unread postby Theresa » Sat Jun 11, 2005 11:52 pm

I was just thinking about illustrated songs and MTV -

And I remembered back when I was a kid, there would always be sing-along cartoons on Saturday morning. Maybe some of the Zoners old enough remember them - they always had the words at the bottom of the screen, and a ball that would bounce over each word as it was sung.

I guess that was the kiddie version of vaudeville illustrated songs!

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Jun 12, 2005 12:24 am

I am seriously dating myself here... Mitch Miller anyone???? :-O
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Unread postby lizbet » Sun Jun 12, 2005 12:56 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I am seriously dating myself here... Mitch Miller anyone???? :-O


Mitch Miller and the sing - a - long gang was on the top of my mother's pile of albums!!! I wasn't allowed to touch Elvis but I was allowed to put Mitch on the stereo so seriously date me too, DITHOT :blush:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Jun 12, 2005 2:05 am

I actually remember watching him on television when I was REALLY young... :-O and he had the bouncing ball thing with the lyrics to the song. He always signed off with the song "Be kind to your web footed friends, that duck may be somebody's mother..." I can't believe I remember that! :lol:
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Unread postby DeppLovesBananahs » Tue Jun 21, 2005 10:01 pm

theresa wrote:I was just thinking about illustrated songs and MTV -

And I remembered back when I was a kid, there would always be sing-along cartoons on Saturday morning. Maybe some of the Zoners old enough remember them - they always had the words at the bottom of the screen, and a ball that would bounce over each word as it was sung.

I guess that was the kiddie version of vaudeville illustrated songs!

oh wow...I think I remember that! Not only that, but I have a vague memory of Alvin and the chimpmunks doing something like an illustrated song....I remember they did bad to the bone or whatever....thats the only reason I know that song...because of alvin. :blush:

thanks for the info, DITHOT, I'm really learning here! :)
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