On This Day in History, February 15: From Wall Street to Tin Pan Alley

Walter Donaldson was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 15, 1893. His mother taught him to play the piano and he started writing songs while still in high school, but after graduating he decided to pursue a career as a Wall Street broker. 


He soon realized that he loved music more than stocks and bonds. He decided to try his hand in Tin Pan Alley. In 1915, while working as a pianist for a music publishing company, Donaldson wrote his first hit, “Back Home in Tennessee,” and triumphed again in 1918 with “The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady.” 


During World War I, he entertained troops for 14 months at Camp Upton, NY.


After the war Donaldson went to work as a staff writer for Irving Berlin’s music publishing company. During this time, Donaldson wrote “How Ya Gonna Keep ’Em Down on the Farm” and the Al Jolson favorite “My Mammy.” 


In 1922 Donaldson teamed up with lyricist Gus Kahn, and the duo maintained a writing relationship that lasted 20 years. Their hits included “My Buddy,” “Carolina in the Morning,” “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby” and “That Certain Feeling.” 


Donaldson wrote film scores for The Prizefighter and the Lady, Kid Millions, Hollywood Party and The Great Ziegfeld, among others. 

Walter Donaldson died on July 15, 1947, in Santa Monica, Calif. 

The articles in ‘On This Day In History’ were written by Vernon Parker (1923-2004).


February 15, 2012 - 9:43am



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