Lawrence Wright

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A leading pioneer in UK popular music as a publisher, and as a songwriter under the name Horatio Nicholls .
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b. 15 February 1888, Leicester, England, d. 19 May 1964, London, England. A leading pioneer in UK popular music, Wright used his real name for his music publishing business, and the nom de plume Horatio Nicholls for his songwriting activities. His father owned a music shop, and taught his son to play violin, banjo and piano. After leaving school at the age of 12, Wright worked for a printing company, before joining a concert party and learning the art of public performance. He wrote the first of his many songs, ‘Down By The Stream’, when he was 17, and later hired a stall in the local market to demonstrate his own compositions, and those he had bought from other songwriters. In 1910, he published ‘Don’t Go Down The Mine Daddy’, by William Geddes and Robert Donnelly. It reputedly sold over a million sheet copies, aided, no doubt, by the Whitehaven pit disaster of the same year. He went to London in 1911 and was one of the first publishers to set up business in Denmark Street, soon to become the city’s ‘Tin Pan Alley’. In 1926, he founded his ‘in house’ journal, the Melody Maker, to promote his catalogue; the music paper ran for almost 75 years before being merged with the New Musical Express at the end of 2000. Apart from UK songs, Wright also made publishing contracts with US songwriters, including Hoagy Carmichael, Walter Donaldson, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington. This policy meant that Wright introduced standards such as ‘Little White Lies’, ‘Star Dust’, ‘Lazybones’, ‘Mood Indigo’, ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’, ‘Carolina Moon’, ‘Basin Street Blues’, and ‘Memories Of You’ to Britain. From 1924-56, he presented his own annual summer production, On With The Show, at Blackpool, to promote and try out his songs. Wright’s promotional publicity stunts were legendary. For ‘Me And Jane In A Plane’, written by Joe Gilbert and Edgar Leslie, he flew the entire Jack Hylton Orchestra, who had made a recording of the song, around the Blackpool Tower, dropping copies of the sheet music. For ‘Sahara’, his own song, written with Jean Frederick, and also recorded by Hylton, he rode a camel in Piccadilly Circus.

He is said to have written over 500 songs, often in collaboration with others. His partnership with the American Edgar Leslie produced ‘Shepherd Of The Hills’, ‘Mistakes’ and, possibly his biggest hit, ‘Among My Souvenirs’. The latter was performed by Hoagy Carmichael in the 1946 movie, The Best Years Of Our Lives, and surfaced again in 1959 as a million-seller for Connie Francis. Wright’s best known songs with the English writer Worton David were ‘That Old Fashioned Mother Of Mine’, and ‘Are We Downhearted? No!’. Of the 40 or so numbers he wrote with Joe Gilbert, the most famous was ‘Amy, Wonderful Amy’, a tribute to aviator, Amy Johnson. His other popular songs included ‘When The Guards Are On Parade’, ‘Blue Eyes’, ‘Down Forget-Me-Not-Lane’, ‘Babette’, ‘The Toy Drum Major’, ‘Delilah’, ‘The Heart Of A Rose’, ‘Let’s All Go To The Music Hall’, ‘London Is Saying Goodnight’, ‘Life Begins At Oxford Circus’, ‘The Festival Of Britain’ and ‘Adeline’. A stroke in 1943 caused him to slow down, and he was confined to a wheel-chair, but continued writing into the 50s, and retained personal control of his publishing interests. In 1962 he received an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Services To British Popular Music. Two years later he died in London. After his death Lawrence Wright Music changed hands several times, and was owned for a time by US pop star Michael Jackson.