Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

They'll Sing the Wrong Song at the Indy 500

In May the thoughts of Hoosiers near and far turn to the granddaddy of all auto races, the Indianapolis 500. As usual it will be preceded by the singing of Back Home Again in Indiana, probably by Jim Nabors. But that's the wrong song, a plagiarized version of the Indiana state song.
This came to mind when a Washington D.C. madame began preparations for a trial that has big shots trembling in their shoes for fear her list of clients will become public. One such figure has already resigned as a result, but he contends he used her "escort service" only for massages.
Naturally all this brought another madame to mind, one who ran a house of pleasure in Evansville in the late 19th century. She was immortalized in the song My Gal Sal. You remember -they called her Frivolous Sal . . .
Well, the song about Sal was composed by Paul Dresser, who changed his last name from Dreiser. Some say it was when he set out from his native Terre Haute in pursuit of a musical career, others contend it was to avoid confusion with his younger brother Theodore. During the early years of the 20th century Theodore Dreiser was one of the foremost American authors and even today Amazon lists 4,430 of his books for sale. Not all different books, of course, but dozens of various issues of An American Tragedy, Sister Carrie and other works.
Brother Paul wrote what became the Indiana state song, On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away. There was some controversy about the song because Theodore claimed he wrote the first verse and chorus and this outraged many Hoosiers, especially those in Terre Haute, because they felt he was a sex-crazed, Indiana bashing lout whose books should have been either banned or burned. But Theodore never wanted to be listed as co-author or share in the profits, which were huge. He just made that statement in a letter and it became blown out of all proportion. Paul said he didn't have help on any of his songs. Whatever, the version that seems most plausible of the many I have heard is that Paul was struggling with the lyrics and Theodore spent most of one night helping him get them right.
The song was a terrific hit (25 of Paul's would have won Gold Records had they been written today) when it was first heard shortly before the turn of the century. Then in 1917, 11 years after Paul's death, James Hanley and Ballard MacDonald collaborated on Back Home Again in Indiana. It was as blatant an example of plagiarism as ever existed so Theodore, for the sake of his dead brother, pressed a case of copyright violation. The publishers contended they had been granted permission to use two bars of music from On the Banks of the Wabash by the firm that published Paul Dresser's song. Saying that was unlikely would be a gross understatement.
Judge for yourself: Paul wrote: "Thro' the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming."
MacDonald wrote: "The gleaming candlelight still shining bright thru the sycamores."
Paul wrote: "From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay."
MacDonald wrote: The new mown hay sends all it fragrance."
Paul wrote: "Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash."
MacDonald wrote: When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash."
The music for that latter line of MacDonald's was lifted from Paul's song with only one note changed.
So what do you think, will they be singing the wrong song before the 500?
If you believe they should be singing the state song, Paul Dresser's song, here are the words:
"On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away"
Verse 1
Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields, In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool. Oftentimes my thoughts revert to scenes of childhood, Where I first received my lessons, nature's school. But one thing there is missing in the picture, Without her face it seems so incomplete. I long to see my mother in the doorway, As she stood there years ago, her boy to greet!
Verse 2
Many years have passed since I strolled by the river, Arm in arm with sweetheart Mary by my side. It was there I tried to tell her that I loved her, It was there I begged of her to be my bride. Long years have passed since I strolled thro' the churchyard, She's sleeping there my angel Mary, dear. I loved her but she thought I didn't mean it, Still I'd give my future were she only here.
Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash, From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay. Thro' the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming, On the banks of the Wabash, far away.


Anonymous Mary Lou Hagen said...

Mr. Stodghill:

Although I have read many of your posts, I have not responded until now. (I don't post on the board.) My name is Mary Lou (Evans) Hagen and I was born and raised in Vincennes, IN. I graduated from high school in 1945. My husband and I left there after we married and moved to Indianapolis where we lived until we moved to San Antonio in 1990 after "snow birding" for 5 years. So many of your posts contain information familiar to me. My brother-in-law worked for the Muncie Press for many, many years. When you posted the message re the "banks of the Wabash" I finally decided I had to contact you. My writing career started after I retired, and I have hadI have had four books published by P.A. I look forward to reading your posts.

10:34 PM  

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