Maurice Abrahams

A composer and publisher, whose most effective numbers were written during the ragtime era.
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Artist Biography

b. 18 March 1883, Russia, d. 13 April 1931, New York, USA. A composer and publisher whose most effective numbers were written during the ragtime era, Abrahams was at the forefront of the first popular music ‘craze’ to sweep America and many other countries. Abrahams worked for several music publishers before setting up his own firm in 1923. During that time he was also writing songs such as ‘Hitchy-Koo’ (1912, with L. Wolfe Gilbert and Lewis F. Muir), which became the title of a series of Broadway shows some years later, and ‘Ragtime Cowboy Joe’ (1912, with Muir and Grant Clarke), a catchy item that was a hit at the time for baritone Bob Roberts. It endured over the years, and was successfully revived by Pinky Tomlin (1939), Eddy Howard (1947) and Jo Stafford (1949), and entered the Top 20 in both the UK and USA in 1959 in a version by David Seville and his cheeky Chipmunks.

Another of Abrahams’ appealing numbers, ‘Get Out and Get Under’ (full title ‘He’d Have to Get Under - Get Out and Get Under - to Fix Up His Automobile,’ written with Clarke and Edgar Leslie), was interpolated into the New York Winter Garden revue The Pleasure Seekers in November 1913, where it was performed by vaudeville star Bobby North, and was sung by Gerald Kirby later that year in the London revue Hullo, Tango. The song subsequently became popular for the legendary entertainer Billy Murray. Abrahams’ other compositions included ‘The Pullman Porters on Parade’ (1913, with Ren G. May, said to be a nom de plume for Irving Berlin), ‘The 20th Century Rag’ (1914, Leslie-Clarke), ‘Take Me to That Midnight Cakewalk Ball’ (1916, Eddie Cox-Arthur Jackson) and ‘High, High, High, Up in the Hills’ (1926, Sam M. Lewis-Joe Young).

Abrahams wrote the latter song - and many others - for his wife, the vaudeville headliner, singer and comedienne Belle Baker (b. 25 December 1895, New York, USA, d. 28 April 1957, Los Angeles, California, USA). She had her first record hit in 1919 with ‘Poor Little Butterfly Is a Fly Gal Now,’ which was followed by ‘I’ve Got the Yes! We Have No Bananas Blues’ (1923), ‘Hard Hearted Hannah’ (1924), ‘My Man’ (1929) and ‘My Sin’ (1929). Baker helped to popularize ‘Mamma Goes Where Papa Goes (Or Papa Don’t Go Out Tonight)’ (1923, Milton Ager-Jack Yellen), ‘Those Panama Mamas’ (1924, Irving Bibo-Howard Johnson) and ‘(Here I Am) Broken Hearted’ (1927, De Sylva, Brown and Henderson), and introduced two all-time standards: Irving Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’ in the 1926 Broadway musical Betsy and ‘All of Me’ (1931, Gerald Marks-Seymour Simons), which she sang on radio and in her vaudeville act.