Welcome to the February installment of your monthly arts history lesson. Last month, I showed you a Thornton Oakley illustration from 1905. And now for something completely different…
That’s the cover page of “Dreary Weather”–a song that Clay Boland D’26 wrote with Frank Winegar in 1924. (Sample lyric: “I used to find sunshine in your loving eyes. We parted, then clouds came to darken the skies.”) That year, the University was offering a prize for the best original prom song, and Boland won with this fox trot. Thus began his long career as a songwriting dentist.
He teamed up with the Mask and Wig Club a decade later, and in 1937, wrote “The Gypsy in My Soul” (along with fellow alum Moe Jaffe W’23 L’26) for the group’s 50th-annual production. Though not a hit in its time, the song has since become a classic, particularly among jazz musicians. Over the years, it’s been recorded by dozens of artists, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, and a very young Liza Minnelli:
In 1946, Time magazine ran a small article about the “Tuneful Dentist,” praising his work on Mask and Wig’s show that year as “some of the best in the Mask & Wig Club’s 58 years.” The author also wrote that Boland “is considering several offers to turn Tin Pan Alley pro, but dentistry pays him too well. ‘Someone else will have to make up my mind,’ says Dr. Boland. ‘It’s a hell of a spot to be in.'”
By the time of his death in 1963, Boland had more than 100 songs registered with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Please send me your images or videos from Penn’s arts-related past. (The not-so-distant past is welcome, too.) Just be sure to include the year, along with a brief description: email@example.com.