Odd and Maybelle McIntyre were close friends with composer George Gershwin. Gershwin spent many hours playing the piano until late at night at Odd and Maybelle’s parties, and they saw him often while in Paris.

Odd McIntyre found much to write about when he began working on Tin Pan Alley as a publicist with Leo Feist and others in New York’s growing music publishing industry.

The same post-Civil War improvements in printing and transportation that allowed newspapers and magazines to reach a mass audience had a similar impact on popular music of the day. Suddenly, sheet music was affordable and provided a way for everyone to perform the same popular songs. To offer publishers protection of rights and encourage the distribution of sheet music, the 1891 copyright law was passed.

Around the turn of the century, popular sheet music was the gold record of the day, and from 1900 to 1910, over one hundred songs sold a million or more copies of sheet music. While sheet music was also produced in cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta, New York quickly became the publishing capital of the world.

As vaudeville stars toured the country, publishers began to see the benefit of having their songs performed on stage.

Although Feist had begun his career in the late 1800s as a corset salesman, he had a passion for music and was, in his spare time, a composer. Frustrated that the publishers of the day rejected all his submissions, he decided to publish his music himself. Odd likely found much to which he could relate in Feist’s story of success through failure. At night, the composer would come up with new music and during the day take it around to orchestra leaders and singers performing in New York clubs. Once he convinced the performers to use his songs, he would take copies of the sheet music to stores that sold them to the public.

Cartoon of a Tin Pan Alley Jazz band by Roland J. Scott, 1923.

Once Feist had made his first two hundred dollars, he quit selling corsets and began his own music publishing business. Today, he is credited with incorporating modern business principles to music publishing and distribution. In 1897, Feist was one of the first to open a studio and office in Tin Pan Alley.

Here the decaying brownstone fronts of an older New York are honeycombed with box-like stalls, and in these stuffy stalls ebullient, perspiring and coatless young men fashion the nation’s popular tunes. Tin Pan Alley has the feverish energy of the ‘hell-roaring’ gold camp. It races along like a mill stream. The strident jangle of a hundred pianos rises above the street din. Like its raggy-gay creations, life in Tin Pan Alley is pitched in a high and furious tempo. In the ‘Alley,’ Youth is king!
O. O. McIntyre

As vaudeville and other forms of public entertainment continued to grow, and sheet music became a significant source of revenue, a community of writers, composers, and publishers in New York began to work in a strip of row houses running between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on Twenty-Eighth Street.

Every piece of sheet music Feist produced in those early years included the slogan “You can’t go wrong with a Feist song.” And apparently, you couldn’t. Feist’s company became one of the largest sheet music publishing firms in the United States.

For Odd, the job combined the two areas about which he knew the most—newspapers and live entertainment. He had fond memories of his years spent ushering at the Ariel Opera House back in Gallipolis, and the hundreds of shows he saw while working as a reporter in Cincinnati. It was as though the job was created just for him.

Composer Meredith Willson at the piano with Sam Pierce, director of the War Production Board. Willson was such a fan of Odd’s column, in 1934 he composed the “O. O. McIntyre Suite.” Willson also composed the score for Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and wrote the music and lyrics for the hit Broadway musicals The Music Man and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

While working as a publicist for Feist and others in the New York music and entertainment scene, Odd made close friends and connections that would remain for the rest of his life.

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Listen to the original 1905 Tin Pan Alley recording of “Give my Regards to Broadway” by Billy Murray.

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