A Publication of WTVP

If it weren't for the holidays, the music business reportedly would collapse. Recall the music you've given and received. The gift of music sets the cash registers singing, as customers prepare to wrap the rap.

Peoria can claim a variety of composers, lyricists, singer-songwriters, and publishers through the years. Composer Richard Whiting, born in Peoria in 1891, was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 1970. His first hit, "It's Tulip Time in Holland" sold more than one million copies in just a few months in 1915. Because he'd sold it outright, he never received any royalties. In 1918, his song, "Til We Meet Again," sold five million copies.

Whiting, who'd graduated from an L.A. military academy, sung in vaudeville shows, and worked in Detroit and New York, went to Hollywood in 1929. In nine years of writing music for films, he produced more than 50 hit songs, including "On the Good Ship Lollipop," made famous by Shirley Temple in 1934. Other music includes "Hooray for Hollywood," "Ain't We Got Fun?," and "Beyond the Blue Horizon." He scored several Broadway shows and worked with some of the most successful lyricists of his day, including Ray Egan, Gus Kahn, and Johnny Mercer. Al Jolson, Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Bing Crosby, and Ethel Merman were among the stars who sang his melodies. His daughter, Margaret Whiting, born in 1924, made her debut in 1940 on Mercer's NBC Radio show, singing her father's "Too Marvelous for Words." Richard Whiting died of a heart attack in 1938, when he was only 46.

A 1910 hymn written by Julia Harriette Johnston of Peoria continues to inspire. The words and music to "Grace Greater than Our Sin" (which begins "Marvelous grace of our loving Lord…") are easily found on the Internet. It's also included in a Treasury of 101 Best-Loved Hymns, published in 1997. Johnston, whose father was pastor of Peoria's First Presbyterian Church, lived in Peoria from age six. She directed the First Presbyterian Church Sunday School for more than 40 years, served as president of the Presbyterian Missionary Society of Peoria for 20 years, and was vice-president of the Presbyterian Board of Missions of the Northwest. She wrote the words to more than 500 hymns. "Grace Greater Than Our Sin" first appeared in Daniel B. Towner's compilation Hymns Tried and True in 1911. The composer, Towner, was for many years the director of the music department at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Johnston also wrote lesson materials for primary age children for the David C. Cook Publishing Co. Johnston died March 6, 1919, in Peoria and is buried in the family plot in Springdale Cemetery.

School songs often spring from local composers. Bradley Polytechnic Institute published a 16-page booklet (undated, but evidently pre-WWII) entitled "College Songs by Bradley students and faculty." The "Bradley Loyalty Song," still sung today, is credited to lyricists John Fritz and Frederick Siebert, with music by E.J. Schlegel. Olive White, an English teacher and later dean of women, penned the words to a "Song of Allegiance," with melody by music professor William E. Donovan. Helena Burgess, '12, focused her musical muse on her contemporaries. Her "Brown Song" extols Coach Brown-"he's brot the hilltop boys renown"-while her song for a club for out-of-town girls tells of the "girls of the mixing spoon" who mix batter and friendships too. "Others may study musty prose, It's the girl who cooks that gets the beaus," she opined.

Peoria was home to at least two music publishers: Crescent Music Publishing Company and Charles C. Adams & Co. In the early 1900s, Adams & Co. published a waltz song: "A Jolly Old Ride in a Glide." Words were by Ross Walker, a newspaperman with the Peoria Journal, with music by Al Conigisky. They dedicated the piece to The Bartholomew Co., makers of Peoria's "Glide" automobile.

Mattie H. Cox dedicated her composition, "The Peoria Lake Waltz" to Mrs. P.R.K. Brotherson of Peoria. The piece was published in the late 1800s by Higgins Bros. of Chicago.

Born in Peoria in 1951, singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg often drew inspiration from his local roots. He who was raised by a river has now come "Full Circle." Illness caused him to cancel his Fall 2004 tour for this latest album. While listening to his 1999 album, "The First Christmas Morning," add a prayer for Dan. His song, "Same Old Lang Syne," set in Peoria, recalls a holiday visit home. It's a popular classic as we head into a new year. AA!