Pop and show tunes composing pianist Ray Henderson is best known for his years in the Henderson-DeSylva-Brown team, who were without equal as songwriters of the Roaring Twenties. Born in Buffalo, NY, on December 1, 1896, Henderson later studied at the Chicago Conservatory and performed in vaudeville and dance bands while he was there. He eventually worked as an arranger and song plugger for New York publishing houses, in addition to collaborating with many lyricists, including Lew Brown, starting in 1922. The duo's early hits included "Alabamy Bound," "Bye Bye Blackbird," and "I'm Sitting on Top of the World." In 1925, lyricist Buddy DeSylva joined them and the trio successfully established itself with a second Broadway score, George White's Scandals of 1926. They then scored the 1927 stage productions Good News and Manhattan Mary, followed the next year by Hold Everything, more George White's Scandals in the late '20s, and Flying High in 1930. Off the stage, the songwriting trio had several hit songs, in addition to movie credits for songs in early Al Jolson films (including Sonny Boy and It All Depends on You) and the popular 1929 film Sunny Side Up, which the trio went to Hollywood to work on. A movie based on Henderson-DeSylva-Brown, entitled Best Things in Life Are Free, came out in 1956. After DeSylva left in 1931, Brown and Henderson continued scoring Broadway shows, including Hot-Cha (1932) and Strike Me Pink (1933). Some of the other lyricists Henderson worked with over the years include Mort Dixon, Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young, Jack Yellen, Ted Koehler, Billy Rose, and Irving Caesar. Toward the end of his career, Henderson co-wrote for films, scored a 1936 Ruth Etting show in London, and enjoyed the success of another hit song ("Don't Cry, Cherie") in 1941. Henderson's final stage show was The Ziegfeld Follies of 1943, after which he faded away from the public eye, re-emerging only once to conduct on TV around 1950. Ray Henderson died on New Year's Eve 1970.
Ray Henderson Biography
by Joslyn Layne