steamboat bill COMPOSERs
REN SHIELDS (1868-1913)
born in Chicago, Shields worked with popular minstrel troupes of Lasses White and George “Honeyboy” Evans. Shields published his first song (“The Warmest Coon in Town”) in 1897 but his greatest hit was "In the Good Old Summertime" (1902) not long after he left minstrelsy and emerged in vaudeville,
Ideas for Shields' later pieces like “Come Take A Trip In My Airship,” may have come from his own theatrical experiences (below, right, 10th billing) That, and another song co-written with the Leightons, “Frankie and Johnny or You’ll Miss Me In the Days to Come,” would later be recorded by country music pioneer, Charlie Poole.
In an interview in the May 5, 1907 issue of The Washington Post Shields explained the secret of music success: “It is the song that the drunk is going to sing that is the song that is going to be popular.”
Chippewa Herald Telegram (Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin) Sun June 31, 1892
The Boston Globe
February 28, 1899
Despite his output of popular songs and his success as a wit and impromptu after-dinner speaker and organizing force in the White Rats theater union, by 1912 Shields was penniless and dependent on the kindness of vaudeville colleagues including George M. Cohan to pay his bills leading to his untimely death. His widow, a former vaudeville comedienne, would run a theatrical boarding house.
The New York Times Sunday October 26, 1913
The Sun Monday October 27, 1913
The Daily News Monday June 23, 1924
The New York Clipper, Aug 12, 1919