Irish-American Standards: My Wild Irish Rose

"My Wild Irish Rose," photo of sheet music by modernpoetry on Etsy.

“My Wild Irish Rose,” photo of sheet music by modernpoetry on Etsy.

“My Wild Irish Rose” was written by Irish-American songwriter Chauncey Olcott in 1898. Olcott was also the author of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.”

From the Saginaw News, October 15, 1904.

From the Saginaw News, October 15, 1904.

The song was composed for a musical titled “A Romance Of Athlone,” which debuted at the Fourteenth Street Theatre in New York in January of 1899. The play is set in Athlone in the year 1800, a turgid romance set, in part, in an Irish Traveller’s camp.

 

From the Muskegon Chronicle, August 21, 1903.

From the Muskegon Chronicle, August 21, 1903.

 

Grand Rapids Press from October 24, 1903 told the following story of the creation of the song:

Five years ago when Mr. Olcott and his mother were in Ireland spending the vacation months, they were sailing on a pretty Irish lake. The mother spied some beautiful flowers. She asked the boatman what they were. He told her they were wild Irish roses.

“What a pretty name for a song,” she said.

“It is that,” the actor cried, “and I’ll write one to fit the title.”

“My Wild Irish Rose” was the title of a 1922 silent film, but the film was based on “The Shaughraun” by Dion Boucicault, and not Olcott’s play.

Olcott died in 1932 in Monte Carlo at 71. His funeral services were held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. On his death, it was revealed that Olcott had spent his life collecting cigar store wooden Indians.

A jubilee of joy, apparently.

A jubilee of joy, apparently.

There was also a film titled “My Wild Irish Rose” in 1947; this one retold the life of Olcott, based on “Song in His Heart,” a memoir by Olcott’s widow, Rita. Despite some dismal reviews, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Although the film starred Dennis Morgan, Olcott’s singing voice was provided by singer and radio personality Dennis Day.

Irish-American Standards at a Glance: Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra

Just a simple ditty.

Just a simple ditty.

“Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra” was composed in 1913 for a Tin Pan Alley musical called “Shameen Dhu.” The show was scripted by Rida Johnson Young, herself an accomplished songwriter, and wrote the lyrics and book to “Naughty Marietta,” one of the great successes for composer Victor Herbert. The comedy told of an anonymous poet in Kincannon, Ireland, who goes by the pen name Shameen Dhu, meaning “Black Jamie”

The star of the show was Chauncey Olcott, the American Broadway star who specialized in Irish characters and who introduced the world to (and got writing credit for) “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” Olcott made a recording of “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra” in 1914, released through Columbia, and it became a number one hit. “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra” have strikingly similar melodies, but Olcott’s recording of the former went mostly unnoticed.

“Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra’s” composer was J.R. Shannon, whose real name was James Royce, an Irish-American composer from Michigan who also wrote “The Missouri Waltz,” which later became the state song of Missouri. Shannon spent much of his life in Detroit, where he was a drama critic and managed several music businesses, before he died in 1946 by stepping in front of an oncoming train.

It's actually an Irish-American lullaby.

It’s actually an Irish-American lullaby.

The song found new popularity in 1944 when Bing Crosby performed it in the popular film “Going My Way.” Crosby released the song as a single, selling a million copies and spending 100 weeks on Billboard’s charts, reaching the #4 slot. In the late 60s, when Crosby was a guest on the Joey Bishop show. Bishop asked Crosby to sing the song for his sidekick, who was a fan of Crosby’s. The sidekick was a very young Regis Philbin, who is half Irish-American, and who performed one of Crosby’s own songs back to him. The following day Crosby helped Philbin get a recording contract at Mercury Records.

When Crosby was buried at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Los Angeles in 1977, “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra” was one of the songs played at the church service.

Even if the song was not originally Irish, many Irish musicians have either covered the song or borrowed from it. Van Morrison performed a version of the song with The Band, captured on the documentary “The Last Waltz.”

Dexys Midnight Runners: Too-Rye-Ay.

Dexys Midnight Runners: Too-Rye-Ay.

Dexys Midnight Runners, led by English songwriter Kevin Rowland (whose parents came from County Mayo), not only used the song as part of the chorus for their 1982 hit “Come On Eileen,” but named the album that featured it “Too-Rye-Ay.”

Shane McGowan, formerly of the Pogues, borrowed the song’s chorus for his song “A Christmas Lullaby,” recorded with his band The Popes.