[Dixielandjazz] Re: Copyright - "Copywrong"?

Bill Haesler bhaesler at bigpond.net.au
Tue Aug 10 18:03:45 PDT 2004

Dear Jack and Bob,
Yes, there are several other tunes which use the title "Ballin' The Jack".
Versions by The Chicago Footwarmers (Johnny Dodds/Jimmy Blythe 1927) and The
Red Devils [Salty Dog Four] (1930) are not the Chris Smith tune,
notwithstanding their titles. However, I do not know about those mentioned
by Bob (Smith): the barn dance and those composed by Moore or Clark.
Fortunately, the Chris Smith version is now in the Public Domain and
therefore not subject to copyright (refer below).
The "Ballin' The Jack" we all know and love (or hate) was composed in 1913
by Chris Smith (1879-1949) with words by Jim Burris. It was featured in the
1914 Broadway musical 'The Girl From Utah'. This was originally an English
production to which Jerome Kern was asked to contribute songs. "Ballin' The
Jack" by Chris Smith and Jim Burris was added while the show was on tour.
With the help of James Reese Europe, Chris Smith turned the hit song into an
("Down In Honky Tonk Town" with lyrics by Charles McCarron, is another of
Smith's better known compositions. Well to us, anyway.)
Early  recorded versions of "Ballin' The Jack" include the Victor Military
Band (Sept 1914), Red Nichols, Jelly Roll Morton, Eddie Condon and Bunk

Now for "High Society" (based on early research by Jean C Averty and
Thornton Hagert in 'Record Research' Nov 1973).
The version we all know was copyrighted (as a march & two step) in April
1901 by Porter Steele. The score does not contain the celebrated clt solo.
However, a later 1901 orchestration written by Robert Recker (violinist
leader of the NYC Variety Theatre Orch) originates the piccolo trio part
which Alphonse Picou turned into his now famous clt 'test' piece.
Two other "High Society" copyrights by Lucie Wyatt (Jan 1906) and Tom
Lemonier- Clarence M Jones (Nov 1914) are not the Porter Steele composition.
Jo [sic] Oliver and Lil Harding [sic] copyrighted "High Society" in Aug
1923, but the manuscript does not score the clt solo, which is on the King
Oliver Creole Jazz Band record (22 June 1923). They had probably assumed
that the tune was in the Public Domain because it had never been recorded.
They were obviously unaware that the "Arthur Pryor" band had recorded it in
1911. [I think Mr Hagert may have meant Prince's Band. I have been unable to
find a 1911 Pryor Band version.]
Although a lawyer, Porter Steele did not renew his copyright of "High
Society" when it expired in 1929 and it passed into the Public Domain.
"High Society" (by A J Piron) was copyrighted by Clarence Williams in May
1929. This is the Porter Steele composition.
"High Society" by Porter Steele and Walter Melrose (with 32 bar new melody
strains A and B by Walter Melrose) was copyrighted by the Melrose brothers
in Dec 1931.
Clarence Williams and A J Piron copyrighted an arrangement of the 'trio'
part with words, of "High Society" in Aug 1933.
In 1933 trumpet player Zilmer Randolph copyrighted his arrangement of the
Louis Armstrong Orch 26 Jan 1933 recording of "High Society".
Notwithstanding the above, "High Society" is now in the Public Domain and is
listed as such on the Public Domain Music web site which explains: "Music
and lyrics written by an American author and published in 1922 or earlier
are in the Public Domain in the United States. No one can claim ownership of
a song in the public domain, therefore public domain songs may be used by
everyone. PD songs may be used for profit-making without paying any
royalties. If you create a new version or derivative of a public domain
song, you can copyright your version and no one can use it without your
permission. However, the song remains in the public domain, and anyone else
can also make and copyright their own version of the same PD song."

Once again, much more than you needed to know.
Very kind regards,


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