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To Broadway And Back

From the late 1920s through the mid '40s, Moe's songwriting credits made Moe Jaffe and His Orchestra a Philadelphia favorite. Their dance music was broadcast live from the Georgian Room of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel.

They received marquee billing at Atlantic City's Steel Pier. And for many summers, he led the band north to Poland Spring, Maine, where they served as the house orchestra at the fashionable Poland Spring House.

Moe Jaffe marquee billing at Atlantic City's Steel Pier

But, in the inverted world of show business, bandleading was only Moe's "day job". Between gigs, he continued to pursue his songwriting career -- primarily as a lyricist, although he also wrote the music for some songs. In 1929, the Shubert Brothers offered a helping hand.

Two years earlier, a Shubert production, "Listen, Dearie" included the song Sweetest Little Girl, by Moe Jaffe, Nat Bonx and Clay Boland. Then, in 1929, Moe contributed songs to three revues produced by the Messrs. Shubert: Pleasure Bound, A Night in Venice and Broadway Nights. None of them was a smash hit, but they did reward Moe with the generous sum of $50 for every week each show ran.

Despite those "Broadway Nights," it was actually the Philadelphia stage that introduced one of Moe's most successful songs, The Gypsy In My Soul, written with Clay Boland in 1937 for the 50th annual production of the University of Pennsylvania's Mask & Wig Show.

In those days, "varsity shows" were major productions, playing in legitimate theaters and drawing large audiences from outside the university community. But despite their popularity, the commercial value of their songs was neither recognized nor exploited; typically, the songs were printed in a portfolio and sold as souvenirs. Then in 1935, Brooks Bowman wrote East Of The Sun for a Princeton Triangle show and changed the rules. After that, contributing songwriters were able to secure independent publication of their songs, which were published in individual copies, orchestrated for dance and recorded by name artists.

So, instead of simply donating his creative services to his alma mater, Moe teamed up with Clay Boland (a Penn Dental student when Moe was in Law School) to write the scores for a total of nine Mask & Wig shows between 1936 and 1950. Considering that The Gypsy In My Soul has been recorded at least 80 times since then, it was clearly a smart move for Jaffe and Boland to retain the rights.

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