Search Tips: 1) Click "Find on This Page" button to activate page search box. 2) When searching for a name (e.g. a songwriter), enter last name only. 3) When searching for a song title on the catalog page, omit an initial "The" or "A". 4) more search tips.
Vintage sheet music for
"It Happened in Monterey"
music by Mable Wayne; words by Billy Rose
from Paul Whiteman King of Jazz
Born: Wiiliam Samuel Rosenberg, September 6, 1899, New York City
Died: February 10, 1966 (age 66), Montego Bay, Jamaica
Primary songwriting role: lyricist; also a theatrical impresario and producer
Co-writers: Rose worked with many co-writers, as lyricist, co-lyricist and as someone who received credit for other forms of contribution, a practice sometimes calledcutting in. For credits Rose received for working with 73 different co-writers, view the DBOPM database.
Commentary on Billy Rose almost always refers to his extreme ambition and indeed megalomania with regard to his career as a theater/show business producer and promoter and seldom fails to take either a for or against position with regard to his true contribution to the song lyrics for which he has been given (or taken) credit.
Humorous songs were among his earliest undertakings as a songwriter. During the early Twenties he wrote the lyrics for "Barney Google" and "Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight," though as Arnold Shaw suggests these songs were "hardly an index of Billy Rose's talents or scope." On the Lower East Side of Manhattan where he was born (and where his wife for a time, Fanny Brice, also grew up), Rose was everything from a fifty-yard dash champion to the shorthand champion -- in both speed and accuracy -- of New York City.
His motive for becoming a songwriter came from having heard about the money one could make, so after service in WWI, he turned his obsessive attention "to analyzing past hits" with an eye to figuring out how to write one himself. He succeeded in 1920 collaborating with composer Cliff Friend on the novelty song "You Tell Her I Stutter."
When listing a string of Rose's successful songwriting credits in the twenties, Shaw writes, "He was associated with [italics ours] a long list of hits," thus suggesting that Rose wascutting in, a common practice among song promoters, publishers and band leaders who felt they deserved credit for a song's success and, therefore, a portion of the royalties, even though they did not actually write any of it.
Billy was a catalyst and very ambitious . . . . He had some good ideas of his own, but he bought ideas from other writers and possibly appropriated others. He had a compulsion to be rich and famous. That might not be admirable to some people, but you need that kind in show business. They get things going when the rest of us can't (Thomas, p. 16).
The songs [the three of them] wrote together were mostly Warren's and Dixon's, but the ideas and titles were usually Rose's -- and it was Rose's aggressive pushing of them with publishers and other song pluggers that got them heard.
Alec Wilder is less generous with Rose. While discussing "It's Only a Paper Moon" (music, Harold Arlen; words, Yip Harburg and Billy Rose), Wilder says, "It has a very innocent lyric by E. Y. Harburg to which Billy Rose probably contributed the word 'The' and so is listed as the co-lyricist" (Wilder, American Popular Song The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, p. 261, hard-cover Ed.).
Wilfred Sheed at first seems in step with the Wilder view of Rose, but then acknowledges Warren's kinder, gentler and, perhaps, more realistic view of the physically diminutive man with enormous chutzpah:
The nerve-racking Billy Rose . . . took big bows and major money for just supplying the title to Warren's early hit "I Found a Million Dollar Baby (in a Five and Ten Cent Store)." Rose was Widely resented by other writers for just such tricks, but not by Warren, who admired Billy for having precisely what he lacked himself, the gift for promotion. He felt Rose's salesmanship, which would later run to aquacades and live elephants, was worth his cut anytime (Sheed, The House That George Built, p. 202, hard-cover Ed.).
In his autobiography, Richard Rodgers writes of Billy Rose during the time Rose was producing the Rodgers and Hart scored show, Jumbo that opened on Broadway November 16, 1935. The show reenacted a circus with all of its spectacle. Rodgers writes:
Billy wasn't going to stint on a thing and was getting the best designers, directors and writers available. Jimmy Durante and Paul Whiteman and his band would be in the show, and his agents were scouring Europe for the greatest jugglers, tumblers, clowns, animal acts and trapeze artists they could find. It was, he assured us, going to be the most mammoth attraction of its kind, and appropriately, he was calling it Jumbo.
. . . . . . . . .
As befitting the super-showman that he was, Billy seldom thought along conventional lines. For his story, he went to Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the co-authors of The Front Page and Twentieth Century, who had never before written a musical comedy book (Musical Stages, p. 172, hard-cover Ed.).
"The Billy Rose Theatre opened, as the National, in 1921. Financed by theatre agent Walter C. Jordan and designed by William Neil Smith, the National soon became the southernmost Broadway theatre as other nearby venues faced demolition. In 1959 impresario Billy Rose purchased and renamed the theatre for himself. In 1978 the Nederlander Organization purchased and refurbished it, renaming it the Trafalgar. Two years later it was renamed in honor of founder David T. Nederlander."
Submit comments on songs, songwriters, performers, etc.
Feel free to suggest an addition or correction.
Please read our Comments Guidelines before making a submission. (Posting of comments is subject to the guidelines.
Not all comments will be posted.)
Borrowed material (text): The sources of all quoted and paraphrased text are cited. Such content is used under the rules of fair use to further the educational objectives of CafeSongbook.com. CafeSongbook.com makes no claims to rights of any kind in this content or the sources from which it comes.
Borrowed material (images): Images of CD, DVD, book and similar product covers are used courtesy of either Amazon.com or iTunes/LinkShare with which CafeSongbook.com maintains an affiliate status. All such images are linked to the source from which they came (i.e. either iTunes/LinkShare or Amazon.com).
Any other images that appear on CafeSongbook.com pages are either in the public domain or appear through the specific permission of their owners. Such permission will be acknowledged in this space on the page where the image is used.
For further information on Cafe Songbook policies with regard to the above matters, see our "About Cafe Songbook" page (link at top and bottom of every page).
Master List of Great American Songbook Songwriters
Names of songwriters who have written at least one song included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook are listed below.
Names of songwriters with two or more song credits in the catalog (with rare exceptions) are linked to their own Cafe Songbook pages, e.g. Fields, Dorothy.
Names of songwriters with only one song credit in the catalog are linked to the Cafe Songbook page for that song, on which may be found information about the songwriter or a link to an information source for him or her.
Please note: Cafe Songbook pages for songwriters are currently in various stages of development.