SONGPLUGGER, OR HOW MUCH IS THAT DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW? by Roy Kohn
In the beginning, new songs were sold only as sheet music. In the late 1800s, Jerome H. Remick, a milkman, acquired a music publishing firm in Detroit, Whitney-Warner Publishing Company. In 1914, Remick hired a musician named George Gershwin as a “songplugger” to perform songs from the Remick catalog for theater managers, dance bands, and stores selling sheet music. The offices of all the major publishers congregated in New York on 28th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway, and those streets became known as Tin Pan Alley.
Songplugging became an integral part of music writing and publishing. When phonograph records and radio later became a practical reality, songpluggers wined and dined artists and got them to sing or play songs on what today is known as Old Time Radio, and a new era was born. Enter Roy Kohn.
His first job was in the stockroom of Shapiro-Bernstein, a successful music publisher. He advanced to Counter Boy, and soon advanced again to fledgling songplugger, but he was drafted into the US Army in World War Two, and his aspirations suddenly ended. Roy could also play a trumpet, so after six months as a gunner, he was plucked into serving in the Syracuse Army Air Base Air Force Band as their Drum Major and Post Bugler.
After the war, he returned to Shapiro-Bernstein as a songplugger for music from Columbia Pictures. His first big hit was “Anniversary Song” by Al Jolson. In the years that followed, he played a major role plugging songs by such popular singers as Tony Martin, Vic Damone, Al Jolson, Kate Smith, Dennis Day, Sammy Davis Jr., Eartha Kitt, and Patti Page.
You have loved many of the songs he plugged throughout the world during the 1950s and 1960s, including “The Battle of New Orleans” and “North to Alaska by Johnny Horton, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Born to Lose” by Ray Charles, “Tossing and Turning” by Bobby Lewis, “Amor” by Ben E. King, “Granada” by Frank Sinatra, “Lazy River” by Bobbie Darin, “In the Jailhouse Now” by Johnny Cash, “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” by Dinah Washington, “Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat” by Herman’s Hermits, and a whole string of hits by Donovan, including “Catch the Wind” and “Sunshine Superman.”
When Roy moved into supplying theme music for movies and television, his work became well-known to millions. This is his autobiography, a melodious hi-fidelity song about a man deep in the grooves of the music industry from 78 rpms to CDs. 198 pages, Indexed, and featuring dozens of rare photographs.
"I remember the night when Guy Mitchell and Roy came to the Enchanted Room in Yonkers, NY. I consider this the real beginning of my singing career. I find reading his story of the music publishing business very fascinating and educational. His World War II story in the army is exciting. And don't skip to the endings before you read the book as you will find Roy to be Amazing.” – Jerry Vale
"How did vinyl records hit the air waves or music, movies, and TV shows come together? What did it take to bring Beethoven and Elvis into your living room? Songplugger is the history of the music business and more.”
– Steve Peterson, Poet, Singer, Songwriter
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