Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Indian Tribe-une Old Favorite Song Book from Trafalgar, Indiana

This weird old songbook caught my eye at a thrift store because of its age and blatant copyright infringement. 
The Indian Tribe-une Old Favorite Song Book was a publication of Indian Creek Publishing Company in Trafalgar, Indiana, which I assume was associated with Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, the "Home of the Braves." The cover of the songbook has an image of a stern-looking Native American hovering above an all-white barbershop quartet. Although the cover invites everyone to sing along, the Native American doesn't appear to be singing.

The songbook is filled with lyrics to popular songs but doesn't have any copyright information, publishing information, songwriting credits, or permissions. It was probably created as a fundraising item by people who didn't realize that they could have gotten into trouble for it.

Even though none of the songwriters is identified, the songbook is filled with well-known songs by well-known songwriters. Of the 184 songs that are included, the majority were under copyright. A few of the uncredited songs include:
  • Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart"
  • Dick Thomas' "Sioux City Sue"
  • Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In"
  • George and Ira Gershwin's "Embraceable You"
  • Felix Bernard and Richard Smith's "Winter Wonderland" 

A lot of the songs that are included are old songs that became hits in the '50s because of revivals by pop artists of the day—especially artists like Somethin' Smith and the Redheads, who specialized in songs that were considered oldies back in the '50s. "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie," "In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town," "Heartaches," and "Ace in the Hole" are just a few of the songs in the songbook that were also recorded by Somethin' Smith and the Redheads. 

The lyrics of Hughie Cannon's song "(Won't You Come Home) Bill Bailey" are written in dialect in the songbook: "I'll do de cookin', Darlin', I'll pay de rent." When Brenda Lee recorded this song in 1958, she didn't sing it in dialect. I don't think that anyone has sung this song in dialect since the minstrel era.

The songbook isn't dated, but the back cover lists the Indian Tribe-une's sponsors, and I was able to figure out some ballpark dates by looking at the businesses that are included. 

For example, one of the advertisers was Jim Moore's Grocery in Poega, Indiana. Moore's obituary says that he operated the store from 1958 to 1978, so the songbook can't be from earlier than 1958. 

Another one of the advertisers was Critzer's Flower Shop in Morgantown, Indiana. Critzer's website says that the shop has proudly served the Morgantown area since 1960, so the songbook can't be from earlier than 1960. 

Yet another advertiser was Black's Market in Trafalgar, Indiana. Black's Market was owned and operated by Kenneth and Joyce Smith. Joyce's obituary says that she co-owned Black's Market for many years, then worked at Preston Safeway from 1970-1985. So the songbook must be from between 1960 and 1970. 

Not surprisingly, only a few of the businesses that advertised in the songbook still exist. The Calico Frog gift shop in Nashville, Indiana, appears to still be active. Morgantown still has a Whitaker Chevrolet. Samaria has a Palmer Electric.  

Unauthorized songbooks and sheet music were a big deal to the music industry in the early days of music copyright in America, because printed music was the main musical format before phonograph recordings. Even today, just quoting a line or two from a song can get you into trouble if you don't obtain permission first. 

Copyright protection was extended specifically to music in 1831, and the first lawsuit that was brought under the new law was in 1843 when a women's magazine, Ladies Companion, printed the music for a popular song without permission. The magazine was ordered to pay a fine. The law was further amended later in the century to protect publishers from sheet music counterfeiting.

Printed music continued to be a commodity even after phonograph records came along. Billboard published a "Best-Selling Sheet Music" chart through the 1940s and '50s. 

My guess is that the Indian Creek Publishing Company printed and distributed this little bootleg songbook without consequence, but maybe someone who knows more about it will find this article and add a comment.  

No comments:

Post a Comment