Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Broadway Composer Harry Tierney and Broadway Lyricist Joseph McCarthy, Both of Pelham

Rodgers and Hammerstein! Kander and Ebb! Rodgers and Hart!  These are a few of the most successful musical theater partnerships of composers and lyricists of all time.  Add to that list Tierney and McCarthy of Pelham.  

Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy of Pelham, New York, collaborated for a string of successful Broadway musicals during the 1920s.  The most famous and most successful one was "Rio Rita" produced by Florenz Ziegfeld.  It premiered on Broadway on February 2, 1927 and ran for 494 performances, a surprisingly long run for those days.

Harry Tierney wrote the music.  Joseph McCarthy authored the lyrics.  The show subsequently hit the road and ran in Sydney, Australia and on London's West End.  According to one source:  

"Rio Rita may be said to be one of the last, great, "light musical comedies" or "Follies-based" type of musical. With the introduction of Show Boat, later in 1927—as well as the subsequent introduction of George Gershwin's musicals that year and thought the early 30's -- the American musical became much more a dramatically cohesive "musical play". This form reached its maturity in the Rodgers and Hammerstein productions, beginning with Oklahoma! and culminating with South Pacific."

Source:  "Rio Rita (Musical)" in Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia (visited Sep. 23, 2017).

With the tremendous success of "Rio Rita" on stage, the musical was taken to the silver screen in 1929 where it likewise became a tremendous hit.  Produced by William LeBaron and Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures, the film was 141 minutes long.  It cost $678,000 to make and earned $2,400,000 at the box office.  It became known as RKO Radio Pictures' "Picture of the Century."  As a consequence, the careers of Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy as movie songwriters took off.  Indeed, the pair repeatedly traveled cross-country to Hollywood to work on the musical scores of a number of hit Hollywood movies.  

Lobby Card for the 1929 Movie "Rio Rita."

Tierney and McCarthy had a number of notable Broadway successes as composer and lyricist, respectively.  One such success was "Kid Boots" which opened at the Earl Carroll Theatre on December 31, 1923.  It had a run of 489 performances.  It starred Eddie Cantor and Mary Eaton, and featured George Olsen and his orchestra.  

Produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, the show was advertised as "A Musical Comedy of Palm Beach and Golf."  The show was such a success that, like its later cousin "Rio Rita," it was turned into a successful Hollywood movie released in 1926.  

Poster Advertising 1923 Broadway Musical
"Kid Boots."  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Harry Tierney was a successful and famous composer when he bought a home on Boulevard at Monterey Avenue during the summer of 1923.  He was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey on May 21, 1890 and died March 22, 1965.  His first major success was the Broadway musical "Irene" that was the longest-running show of its era with 620 performances.  The most active part of his career was between about 1910 and 1930.  During the 1920s, he often collaborated a composer with lyricist Joseph McCarthy.

Joseph McCarthy lived in Pelham during the 1920s.  Due to his fame, he was a friend and acquaintance of many stars of the day including John J. McGraw, Manager of the New York Giants baseball team (who lived in Pelham), Florenz Ziegfeld, and many stars of the stage and screen.  He was known as a local philanthropist and liked to tell the story of how he and his Pelham pal, Harry Tierney, once helped Florenz Ziegfeld.

It seems that Ziegfeld was producing a show in Philadelphia and needed a song for the show opening on a Monday night.  Ziegfeld contacted the pair and set them to work.  On Sunday morning, the day before the show opened, Tierney and McCarthy wrote the music and lyrics for the song and telephoned the music and words to the orchestra conductor in Philadelphia later that day.  The pair then traveled the next day to Philadelphia, attended the show, and enjoyed their own creation that later was described as follows:  "It's daintiness and musical beauty was a reflection of [McCarthy's] own courtly engaging personality."

Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy wrote a memorable song that virtually became a Pelham anthem mentioned in countless local newspaper articles for a decade or longer as a tune known by every Pelhamite and beloved by all.  It was entitled "Alice Blue Gown."  Indeed, in 1943, The Pelham Sun wrote that the song would "survive the centuries."  The newspaper may have been right.  To hear a recording of Joni James singing the beautiful song, click on the YouTube video below.

Joseph McCarthy died on Saturday, December 18, 1943. 

makes his home on the Boulevard, Pelham Heights, is a well
known composer of popular music.  Mr. Tierney wrote the 
musical scores of 'Rio Rita,' 'Irene,' and many other musical
comedies and motion pictures."  Source:  HARRY TIERNEY
AND SON HARRY JR., The Pelham Sun, Apr. 24, 1936,
Vol. 27, No. 3, Second Section, p. 9, cols. 3-4.  NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *         *          *

"Famous Song Writer Comes to Pelham

Harry Tierney, composer of the music of 'Irene,' 'Up She Goes,' and 'The Follies,' has purchased from David S. Crater a new house at Monterey Avenue and the Boulevard.  The property was held at $75,000 and the sale was negotiated by the local office of Fish & Marvin."

Source:  Famous Song Writer Comes to Pelham, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 6, 1923, p. 3, col. 7.  


Fish & Marvin, through their Pelham office, have sold for the Witherbee Real Estate & Improvement Company an acre plot in the Mt. Tom section of Pelham Manor to John Smith.  The property was held at $20,000.00.

Fish & Marvin, through their Pelham office, have sold for Dr. A. C. Bechtold a plot of land on Elderwood avenue, Pelham Heights, to Mr. Harry Tierney, well known composer of Pelham.  The property was held at $14,000.00."

Source:  HARRY TIERNEY BUYS ANOTHER PLOT IN PELHAM, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 6, 1925, Vol. 16, No. 36, p. 11, col. 1.  

"McCarthy and Tierney At Work on Ziegfeld Show

Melody continues to flow in Pelham Heights where the pennant winning song writing team of Joseph McCarthy and Harry Tierney are busily engaged preparing the music and lyrics for Florenz Ziegfeld's [sic] new production 'Rio Rita,' which will be the curtain raising vehicle in t he new Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City, November 1.  Tierney and McCarthy were responsible for the tuneful melodies of many New York successes including several editions of the Follies and Kid Boots."

Source:  McCarthy and Tierney At Work on Ziegfeld Show, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 27, 1926, p. 10, col. 4.  


Joseph McCarthy and Harry Tierney scored again with 'Rio Rita' which opened the new Ziegfield Theatre in New York city Wednesday night.  The tuneful melodies prepared by the two Pelhamites are credited by metropolitan critics as the season's best and Rio Rita assured a long run in New York.  Ada May heads the cast."

Source:  PELHAM SONGWRITERS SCORE WITH NEW PRODUCTION, The Pelham Sun, Feb. 4, 1927, Vol. 17, No. 49, p. 1, col. 3.  

"Tierney and McCarthy To Join Pelhamites In Motion Pictures
Songwriters Preparing To Leave For Hollywood To Write For Talking Pictures

With a large delegation of Pelham's theatrical folk already in Hollywood doing motion picture work, two more of this famous group are preparing to embark for the coast.  They are Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy, songwriters extraordinary.  The success of 'Rio Rita' on the screen has assured Tierney and McCarthy a prominent position among motion picture songsters.  We can expect a new crop of theme songs from these twain in an early series of motion pictures.  

Tierney and McCarthy will be remembered for the songs and lyrics of Ziegfeld productions of 'Rio Rita' and 'Kid Boots.'

Edgar J. MacGregor, stage director, John Hunter Booth, author and Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar, songwriters, all of Pelham, are now on the coast doing motion picture work."

Source:  Tierney and McCarthy To Join Pelhamites In Motion Pictures -- Songwriters Preparing To Leave For Hollywood To Write For Talking Pictures, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 11, 1929, p. 20, col. 4.  

Pelham Composer Responsible For Tunes in Motion Picture at Proctor's.

Bebe Daniels and Everett Marshall.  Music by Harry Tierney.

Never has there been a greater singing combination than this youthful, romantic pair, featured in 'Dixiana', coming to Proctor's New Rochelle Theatre tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday.

Miss Daniels surpasses even her phenomenal success in 'Rio Rita.'  Marshall certainly proves his right to the title, the 'Metropolitan Opera's most popular baritone.'

Together they sing a half dozen songs, lilting catchy love lyrics.  They sign solos.  And the songs fit perfectly into the continuity of the vitally interesting romance of that romantic place and time -- New Orleans in 1840.  Due credit for this must be given to Luther Reed, the director and adaptor [sic].

In Radio Pictures' first original music drama, William Le Baron has outdone any previous effort in point of magnificence, story, cast, setting and musical appeal.

Again the inimitable pair of comics, Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, score heavily in the art of funmaking.  Others in the cast who give excellent performances are Joseph Cawthorn, Jobyna Howland, Dorothy Lee, Ralf Harolde, Edward Chandler, George Herman, and Bill Robinson.

Hall's Negro Chorus furnishes choral music throughout the film -- Negro spirituals and songs of the old South.  They score particularly in 'Mr. and Mrs. Ippi.'

To say that Harry Tierney's music and Anne Caldwell's book and lyrics are above criticism, is really superfluous.  The songs are intoxicating.  'Dixiana,' the principal song, is the kind one whistles on the way out of the theater."

Source:  "DIXIANA" MUSIC WAS WRITTEN BY HARRY TIERNEY -- Pelham Composer Responsible For Tunes in Motion Picture at Proctor's, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 26, 1930, Vol. 21, No. 26, p. 3, col. 1.  

Pelham Lions Are Singing New Song Written for Them by Noted Composer; Resident of Pelham Heights.

'Roar, Lions Roar,
For More, More, More'

If you hear any prominent local merchant humming those words to a catchy tune you can thank Joseph McCarthy, noted songwriter, for that's what the members of the Lions Club of the Pelhams are doing these days.  The catchy little tune was composed by Mr. McCarthy especially for the Lions Club, and the members of the club are losing no time in putting the number across.

The entire song is as follows:

'Roar, Lions roar
For More, More, More
If you've got a little business,
     you should advertise
Boost that business 'fore the darn 
     thing dies.
Roar, Lions roar
For you shop, your place, your
Show P-E-L we're up to 'L' H-A-M
And we mean all of them; 
We want More, 
So Roar, Lions Roar.

The club received a surprise on Monday when Mr. McCarthy arrived as the guest of William McNulty toward the close of the program.  The song was quickly distributed and it was but a few minutes before the melody was learned by every member.

Mr. McCarthy, who lives on the Boulevard, is well know as a songwriter, having been responsible for the songs in many Broadway successes and motion pictures.  With Harry Tierney he wrote the music for 'Rio Rita,' 'Up She Goes' and several others.  He is at the present time engaged in preparing the words and music for a new Ziegfeld production.  In this enterprise he is associated with Walter Donaldson."

Source:  JOS. McCARTHY COMPOSES SONG FOR LIONS CLUB -- Pelham Lions Are Singing New Song Written for Them by Noted Composer; Resident of Pelham Heights, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 30, 1931, p. 13, col. 3.

"ASCAP Oddities.

Note to Joseph McCarthy who is back in Pelham for a short stay:  Haven't heard 'Alice Blue Gown' for nearly a week.  That song will live as long as harmony endures.  It was, we think, the greatest hit ever written by the Pelham composer Harry Tierney and lyricist, Joseph McCarthy.  We did hear 'Where Did You Get That Hat,' which is known to all over 80.  A vague idea for a cartoon:  The verger of a church tiptoeing to the organist with an awed warning:  'We're on the air and that's ASCAP you're playing.'"

Source:  ASCAP Oddities, The Pelham Sun. Jan. 10, 1941, p. 2, col. 3.  

"They Pass Into the Night

More than twenty years ago Tom Sheehan a Pelham Heights policeman was found badly injured in New Rochelle.  He died a few days later leaving destitute a widow and a large family.  There was no police protection fund in Pelham at that time.  A letter was sent to a random list of residents of the town.  Among those who came to a meeting was one who quietly gave a check for $50 to start the fund.  Later to stage a baseball game, he used his acquaintanceship with John J. McGraw, of the New York Giants and aided in bringing about a game between the New York Giants and the New York Athletic Club.  A fine handsome man, few knew that the resident of the Boulevard was one of America's great songwriters -- Joseph McCarthy, who died on Saturday.  He was one of the most ardent supporters of his friend, Joseph McCormick when the latter won the election as Supervisor in 1931.  One weekend for Flo Zeigfeld [sic], he and his collaborator Harry Tierney wrote a song in Pelham telephoned the words and music to the orchestra conductor in Philadelphia Sunday morning and then went to the Quaker City to see the song in production on Monday night, an unusual feat.  His 'Alice Blue Gown' will survive the centuries.  It's daintiness and musical beauty was a reflection of his own courtly engaging personality."

Source:  They Pass Into the NightThe Pelham Sun, Dec. 22, 1943, p. 2, cols. 3-4.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home