Down Texas Way
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In a letter published in the Daily Mirror on 2 April 1941, Fred Godfrey relates that Down Texas Way was first sung by comedian Archie Glen at a concert for servicemen in Dunkirk in 1917, presumably when both he and Godfrey were with the Royal Naval Air Service, and that the song went on to sell half a million copies of sheet music. Certainly, the different versions of the sheet music, the many recordings, and souvenirs such as the song postcards reproduced above attest to the song’s popularity. It’s doubtful, however, that much of the money from those sales found its way into Fred’s pocket.
In 1918, music publisher Bert Feldman was interviewed about “how songs make stars,” and was asked about the popularity of war songs.
The song’s publisher, Star Music (by then part of the Feldman empire), reported to The Stage in October 1917 that “‘Down Texas Way’ is becoming ubiquitous, and letters and telegrams from all parts of the country testify to the success of this number. A few of the artists who have notified the Star Music Co,. this week of the success they are making with this song include Nora Delaney, J.H. Wakefield, Phil Parsons, Dainty Doris, Rene Ralph, Lily Vine, Jenny Hartley, Mabel Costello, and Minnie Muir.”2 Down Texas Way certainly got under the skin of some people. A columnist for the Sunday Mirror wrote, in February 1918: “a man I met in the Café Royal...declared that his idea of Paradise was to sit in a hot bath reading Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ with the gramophone playing ‘Down Texas Way’.”3
Harry Cove & Will Thompson (Coliseum 1069)
Hayes & Croft (Coliseum 1066; Scala 1067)
Robins & White (Scala 1007, 1917)
Savoy Quartet (HMV B-896, 1917)
Slade & Romer (Neptune 222)
The Two Filberts (Jumbo 1540, 1917?)
Courtland & Jeffries (HMV B-870, 1918)
Stanley Kirkby & ? Hudson (The Winner 3188, 1918)
Ernest Pike as “Herbert Payne” (Zonophone 1827, 1918)
Two Stars (Lyceum 02002)
The Two Bostons [Harry Cove & Will Thompson?] (Clarion 192, 1918)
The Unity Quartette (Columbia 2821, 1918)
Jacob’s Trocaderians (Columbia 2849, 1918)
De Busse (Organ-Accordeon Solo) (The Winner 3213, 1918)
Black Diamonds Band, in “Victoryland Selection No. 2” (Zonophone Twin 1835, 1918)
Frank Oldfield (Can. HMV 216268, 1921)
Trevor & Thompson (Regal G-7740, 1922)
Among many others: by Miss Lily Vine, in Francis Laidler’s pantomime Robin Hood And Babes In The Wood, Prince’s Theatre, Bradford (1917-18); by Violet Beatrice in pantomime The Babes In The Wood, Theatre Royal, Bristol (December 1917); by Rita Brunetti in pantomime The Babes In The Wood, Grand Theatre, Derby (December 1917); by Kitty Evelyn in pantomime Robinson Crusoe, Olympia, Glasgow (December 1917); by Raie Walters in pantomime Tommy Toddles, Royal Princess’s, Glasgow (December 1917); by Lil Sprightly in pantomime Little Tommy Tucker, Royal, Hanley [Stoke-on-Trent] (December 1917); by Dolly Ross in pantomime The Forty Thieves, Palace Playhouse, Dundee (December 1917–January 1918); by Victoria Carmen in pantomime The Forty Thieves, Alexandra, Birmingham (January–February 1918); and by Albert Plunkett of The Dumbells, in Biff! Bing! Bang!, Ambassador Theatre, New York (opened 9 May 1921; 73 performances).
1 “How Songs Make the Stars,” The Arrow (Sydney, Australia), 1 February 1918; article reprinted from The Era.