J. Will Callahan, Tin Pan Alley's Blind Lyricist

Tuesday, March 14, 12:00 p.m. (Eastern)
with Mary Jane Doerr, Author

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Mary Jane Doerr wins second State History Award for book about J. Will Callahan (yahoo.com)


J. Will Callahan was a blind poet who lived in Northern Michigan. When diagnosed with glaucoma in his 20s, he was forced to leave his position with poet James Whitcomb Riley. He joined a group of ragtime composers in Indianapolis. This was the beginning of his 40 year career writing some 300 songs for some nearly 70 difference composers and publishing houses. His most famous song was the mega hit Smiles. He wrote it in about 20 minutes at his summer home on Forest Avenue in Bay View, Michigan. During the 1918 Pandemic ad World Waar I, it sold 5 million copes. Over the last century, America's great artists recorded it and it has been used in dozens of films. The sheet music covered in this book represent America's well-known graphic artists. In 1919, the world's largest sheet music publishing company Jerome H. Remick paid Callahan $100,000 for his song Tell Me. It was the highest amount ever paid for a song until then.