Cecil Mack

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He didn't write a lot of songs, at least compared to the most prolific of lyricists; still, what Richard McPherson created under the name of Cecil Mack has proven to be a dish many performers want a taste…
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He didn't write a lot of songs, at least compared to the most prolific of lyricists; still, what Richard McPherson created under the name of Cecil Mack has proven to be a dish many performers want a taste of. A clerk tibia-deep in publishing data speculated that there is one cover version of "Charleston" for each resident of either the West Virginia or South Carolina cities with that name, perhaps both. This artist had already been writing songs for two decades when the latter number as well as "Old Fashioned Love" became hits after being introduced in the 1923 Broadway show entitled Running Wild. The following year his skills really shone with "Shine," another of the Mack trucks in terms of performance mileage. His career trident includes not only success on the musical theater stage, which continued well into the '30s, but the establishing of his Cecil Mack Choir and the Gotham-Attucks Music Publishing Company, one of the first firms to champion the cause of black composers.

Early Mack credits indicate his first songs were written as a teenager, an eye ogling the gals and lyrics indicating that more than looking is going on: "Good Morning, Carrie" and "Josephine, My Jo" are two of his originals from 1901, beginning the string of collaborative creativity with composers and performers Chris Smith, James P. Johnson, Eubie Blake, Ford Dabney, and Albert VonTilzer. Boasting that "I Take Things Easy" in 1903, Mack bore down a tad harder when concocting what has been described as "special material" for a vaudeville team of Bert Williams and George Walker. Mack remained involved with a few song folios each year, sniffing at trends such as exotica "In the Shade of the Pyramids." By 1910 he was known for his sense of humor, as in "You're in the Right Church but the Wrong Pew" and "If He Comes in, I'm Going Out." There seem to be gaps in his writing prior to the obviously major rise in visibility in conjunction with Broadway, his administrative duties taking over certain periods. His choir was in the footlights for the 1931 Rhapsody in Black; the Swing It revue in 1939 seems to be his last major show and set of songs, meaning he literally exited "Huggin' and Muggin' by the Sweat of Your Brow."