[Dixielandjazz] fake books (continued)

AL LEVY jazz_man at ix.netcom.com
Sun Mar 23 17:47:59 PST 2003

It was during World War II that a company in New Jersey started publishing 
Tune Dex cards. These were songs printed on small index cards. All royalties 
were paid and the publishers' names were prominently displayed at the bottom 
of each card. Each tune had melody, chords (from the sheet music) and 
lyrics. No guarantee that the harmonies were correct. Jazz guys used to put 
down a player with the expression "he plays tune-dex chords".

Some "rocket scientist" with a printing press decided to "gang up" the 
cards, (print more than one on a page), so they would fit on 8.5 x 11 paper. 
The paper was three hole punched and put into loose leaf folders. The book 
did not have a name, no title, but it did have a slightly inaccurate table 
of contents. Usually there were three songs to a page, sometimes two. I 
suppose there was some photo-reduction involved.

My source was a drummer named Ernie Krickett. I purchased the books for one 
dollar each and usually bought two to five hundred at a clip. The books were 
*never* copyrighted and mysteriously the publishers' names disappeared.

Each year a "new and improved" issue appeared. Union members got them from 
me at $2.00 each. I also sold to music stores at the same price. The stores 
usually "brown bagged" the books and retailed them at $35.00 and up 
depending. The three hole version eventually became a spiral bound version.

Publishers would call me when each new issue appeared. They were the first 
to scan the titles to see if their tunes were included. Often, if their 
tunes were *not* included, they would give me copies of the songs and almost 
beg to have them in the next issue. (as if I had any say).

How come? If the songs were in a book that professional musicians used on 
gigs, the A.S.C.A.P. rating went up and they collected more royalties.

Now, as to the arrests etc. At worst a violation of copyright suit was 
possible. The individual publishers didn't bother. What could they sue for? 
The wholesale was $1.00. If they sued for their piece .....

It was a great sales gimmick to publicize that these books were printed by 
the mafia and the guy who printed them went to jail, or some variation of 
that tale. To my knowledge, no one was ever sued nor did any one go to jail.

A brief aside. I quit the industry around 1970. During that time a new 
publication appeared called the "Real Book", a play on words, get it? This 
was put together by a few literate jazz people. The transcribed tunes and 
chords (no lyrics), from jazz recordings. The chords are "close" to the 
artists' conception and not the composers. We now have a generation that 
thinks these are the tunes and harmonies.

The smartest move was by Hal Leonard (Time Life, Sony, et al) they published 
the Legit Fake Book in hopes of putting the bad guys out of business.

Today; a different story. One company owns all the former publishing 
companies. A few years ago I placed calls to a number of small publishers, 
some of whom I worked for or at least knew the owners. All answered with 
"Hal Leonard" or "Schirmer"! I saw the handwriting on the old wall when I 
went to Chappell and ordered 50 copies of Oklahoma. The receptionist asked 
me what group he played with. I was running a piano school and placed a two 
thousand dollar sheet music order at the beginning of each school year.
Today Schirmer only leases music - no publishing.

Any questions? send email.
Thanks for putting up with me.

Pianist, Composer, Arranger, Conductor, Teacher and Music Prep.
Please visit me at
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