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Lawrence Wright

(1888—1964) songwriter and music publisher


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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.

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From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.


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