The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #120470   Message #3067399
Posted By: Artful Codger
04-Jan-11 - 08:39 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Old Brown's Daughter (from Peter Bellamy)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Old Brown's Daughter (from Peter Bellamy)
Hunt was a British artist, not an American one. He was well-established as a songwriter at the time the music was published, and many music hall performers, both British and American, performed his works--they even wrote parodies or included recognizable snippets of his works in their own productions. In fact, Hunt was far better known as a songwriter than as a performer.

The Oxford Library has sheet music for the song (also published ca. 1878) published by Hopwood and Crew, a London publisher which also handled the works of many other British music hall performers--and which contracted for such works to be reprinted elsewhere (including the US). The American sheet music is likely a copy of the British music, and the attribution in both to Hunt is fairly conclusive, particularly since Vance is credited as the performer (but not as author) in the British edition.

The Tilzer argument falls down in two sigificant respects. Tilzer was a publisher as well as a songwriter; Hunt was not. And given the geographical remove between Burke and Hunt, it's quite unlikely Burke would have ghostwritten for Hunt when so many potential markets for his efforts were available closer to home.

I don't believe Johnny Burke began printing and distributing his songs until rather later in his career, as an outgrowth of running his own paper. I'm unaware of any of his other songs being dated prior to the turn of the century. The period of his most widespread popularity appears to have been in the 1930s and 40s--an inexplicable delay if he began printing such good songs over fifty years previously!

In his paper, Burke reprinted songs by other people as well as his own poems, parodies and reworkings. Do we know whether he was scrupulous in assigning credit? Did he himself ever claim to have written this song, or was it merely ascribed to him because Newfies only knew of him as their source? (How many songs continue to be miscredited to the Carter Family merely because AP slapped a copyright on everything they recorded?)

Despite the wishful thinking of Burke fans, the theory of Burke's authorship doesn't hold up to examination.