Blame this post on the cowgirl, the one serving as my “gravatar.” She was the first one I stumbled across with part of “San Antonio Song.” Then some postcards in the Anglo Life Series began dishing out portions of the lyrics piecemeal.
Santoniobsessed (apologies for the poor portmanteau), I had to track down the music. Maybe this is the theme song San Antonio needs, I thought. Maybe this could be the After Midnight Blues Band’s greatest hit, I speculated.
Finally found the sheet music written by Tin Pan Alley pioneers, Harry Williams and Egbert Van Alstyne, and published in 1907 by Jerome H. Remick & Co. The pair collaborated on song upon song, many of which endured into the ‘50s and ‘60s to torture young children forced to sit through the Lawrence Welk Show with their parents and grandparents. The songwriters’ sheet music for In The Shade of The Old Apple Tree sold more than 700,000 copies, a record sales level at that time. Came across this Petula Clark version from Vote for Huggett:
Prepped by Petula, I’ll now punish you with the lyrics of “San Antonio Song.” Remember, this was a huge hit, not just here, but throughout the country, as seen on postcards (too prehistoric for “as seen on t.v.”).
San Antonio Song
Just as the moon was peeping o’er the hill, after the work was through, there sat a cowboy and his partner Bill. Cowboy was feeling blue. Bill says “Come down pal, down into town pal, big time for me and you. Don’t mind your old gal. You know its ‘cold’ pal, if what you say is true. Where is she now” Bill cried, and his partner just replied:
[Chorus} San An-to-ni An-to-ni-o. She hopped up on a pony, and ran away with Tony. If you see her, just let me know and I’ll meet you In San An-to-ni-o.
You know that pony that she rode away, that horse belongs to me. So do the trinkets that she stow’d away. I was the big mark E. I won’t resent it. I might have spent it plunging with Faro Jack. If she’s not happy there with her chappie, tell her I’ll take her back. No tender foot like him could love her like her boy Jim.
If the lyrics did not convince you to fail to launch a movement for the song’s revival, listening to it surely will. “The Denver Nightingale,” Billy Murray recorded "San Antonio" for Edison the same year the sheet music was written, and the library of the University of California at Santa Barbara has preserved it for us, "San Antonio Song."
Don't think After Midnight will be rushing to add "San Antonio" to its set list, but, according to Red Hot Jazz, Murray was one of America's best-selling recording artists during the phonograph era:
Around the turn of the century, Murray joined the Al G. Field minstrels as a blackface singer and dancer. When the troupe traveled East to New York City in 1903, Murray... freelanced for any record company that was willing to pay for his services, and soon became one of the most popular singers in the mid-naught years….
Until microphones were used for electrical recording in the 1920s, recordings had to be done acoustically by the use of a horn. Murray was a master at the acoustic process because certain qualifications were required in order to achieve acceptable results. Soft sounds didn't reproduce very well, so one had to have a clear, strong voice to achieve acceptable volume during playback. Murray had powerful lungs, excellent intonation, the ability to sing at a rapid-fire speed without taking a breath, and delivered his songs with a distinctive style that's easy to understand and recognize.
In the 1920s, new styles were coming into vogue. Microphones were beginning to replace the early acoustic horns, and the soft whispering style of singing, known as "crooning," became a favorite. Murray was more used to singing in a full voice instead of toning it down. His popularity waned....
I’d conclude the music was from some earlier more naive time, still pure enough for replication 50 years later on Lawrence Welk, who “fired Champagne Lady Alice Lon for ‘showing too much knee’ on camera,” but….
Wait. What did Jim mean when he was talking about spending his money “plunging” with Faro Jack? Was that a card game or would that be a trick?
Times were not as naive as I tend to think. “That Slippery Trombone Song” written by the Williams and Van Alstyne team in 1912 was about as subtle as an old blues song peppered with jam and jelly:
That Slippery Trombone Song
Down, down, down in an old Rathskeller, where the strains of ragtime fill the cellar, there’s a musical man. Are you listening?
Grandstand trombone “feller,” weepy, creepy, music mellow, from his old trombone would slide, and Lucy would shout as she hustled about just to get up by his side. Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, slide me a ragtime slide.
Honey, honey, hear that tone on that slippery slide trombone; Um Ain’t it beautiful! Um Tu-ti-frui-ti-ful! Honey, don’t blow “Home Sweet Home.” Stephen, don’t you ever waste a breath to telephone. Slide, slide, when I glide, glide, glide, to the music of your slide trombone.
Up, up, up from an old Rathskeller, why, they both slipped right up from the cellar, on a slippery night. Are you listening?
She and that young “feller,” they went out to slip the preacher, but she slipped upon a stone. She fell with a sprawl; he accompanied his “doll” on his slipp’ry slide trombone.
Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, all that she did was moan.
P.S. Oh, oh, oh no. Please, please don’t fail to bail Gayle out of jail!