Seventeen-year-old Lou Handman wormed his way into the music business by tickling the ivories on behalf of various vaudeville performers. This was a task he would continue to perform in North America and across Europe as he grew into a worldly adult. At one point, Handman is said to have toured Australia as half of a vaudeville duet. He also survived active participation in World War I. He then underwent that standard initiation for Tin Pan Alley composers: demonstrating songs at an upright piano for music publishing companies. Handman's songwriting career began in 1920 with "Give Me a Smile and a Kiss." His first memorable tune was "Blue (And Broken Hearted)"; published in 1922 with lyrics by Grant Clarke and Edgar Leslie, it was popularized by the Virginians, Marion Harris and Zez Confrey. This sentimental song was to be resuscitated during the '30s by Mildred Bailey. In 1923, Handman wrote "My Sweetie Went Away," recorded by both the Original Memphis Five (under their pseudonym the Cotton Pickers) and Joe Raymond's Orchestra. Handman's other hit of 1923 was "Lovey Came Back," with lyrics by Sam Lewis and Joe Young. It was recorded both by Ray Miller's Orchestra and the aforementioned Original Memphis Five. Handman's next contribution to western civilization was "I Can't Get the One I Want," published in 1924 and rendered enormously popular through the efforts of Paul Whiteman, the Lanin Brothers, Ray Miller, Paul Specht, and Vincent Lopez. Handman displayed symptoms of advanced cleverness by publishing "I'm Gonna Charleston Back to Charleston" in 1925. This hot novelty dance number was heralded by the California Ramblers and given additional publicity by a mysterious bandleader named Lou Gold. Handman's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" was published in 1927 and subsequently made famous by Little Jack Little. Elvis Presley attracted a lot of attention with his recording of this song in 1960. Handman came up with something called "Puddin' Head Jones" in 1933. Ozzie Nelson succeeded with his orchestra's recording of this song, even as the composer seems to have grappled to keep up with changing musical styles. In 1936, Handman's last jazz-worthy opus, "Bye Bye Baby," was splendidly rendered by Thomas "Fats" Waller & His Rhythm. From that point onward, Handman seems to have become fixated on the word "Baby"; he wrote "Let This Be a Warning to You, Baby" in 1938 and "Baby Me" in 1939. One of his very last songs, "I Solemnly Swear" appeared, however innocuously, in 1954. Lou Handman died in Flushing, NY on December 9, 1956.
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