Friday, April 06, 2018

F. B. Silverwood and Our State Song (Part 4)

Sheet music for our state song.
[Continued from Part 3]

Having fully adopted the lifestyle, attitudes, and internal thermostat afforded by the Golden State, Frank Silverwood was none too thrilled when necessity sent him to the east coast on a buying trip in the dead of winter. He found himself eating dinner alone in a New York café, homesick for Los Angeles and fed up to the gills with the miserable snow and cold. When the house band began belting out “Maryland, My Maryland,” it was the last straw.

Then and there, Silverwood decided to write a song about his beloved California. On his way home, he wrote the lyrics, into which, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “he poured all the earnest deep-felt love a man can have for his homeland.”  Those lyrics are…

I love you, California, you're the greatest state of all.
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall.
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore.
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore.

Where the snow crowned Golden Sierras
Keep their watch o'er the valleys bloom,
It is there I would be in our land by the sea,
Every breeze bearing rich perfume.
It is here nature gives of her rarest. It is Home Sweet Home to me,
And I know when I die I shall breathe my last sigh
For my sunny California.

I love your red-wood forests - love your fields of yellow grain.
I love your summer breezes and I love your winter rain.
I love you, land of flowers; land of honey, fruit and wine.
I love you, California; you have won this heart of mine.

I love your old gray Missions - love your vineyards stretching far.
I love you, California, with your Golden Gate ajar.
I love your purple sun-sets, love your skies of azure blue.
I love you, California; I just can't help loving you.

I love you, Catalina, you are very dear to me.
I love you, Tamalpais, and I love Yosemite.
I love you, Land of Sunshine, Half your beauties are untold.
I loved you in my childhood, and I'll love you when I'm old

In addition to scratching an itch, and celebrating a love more permanent than his marriage, Silverwood’s new song also had “a real purpose back of it,” he said. “I was troubled by the sectional strife growing up between northern and southern California and felt that our people must get together some way” and that appealing to “state-love and state pride” might be “the best cement for the broken relations.”
A. F. Frankenstein (not Fronkensteen) in 1908.
Soon after arriving home, Silverwood presented his lyrics to Abraham Franklin Frankenstein, conductor of both the Orpheum Theatre Orchestra and the Al Malaikah Shrine Band. Frankenstein liked what he saw and wrote music to go with the lyrics. The song was copyrighted in 1913.

Silverwood would never make a dime on “I Love You, California.” He and A. F. Frankenstein gave all royalties to the Shriners, initially to finance the Al Malaika (Los Angeles) Shrine delegation’s trip to the 1913 meeting of the Imperial Council in Dallas. Of course, with the song’s unexpected popularity, the Shriners had plenty of royalties to put toward their charity causes as well.

Silverwood later signed over future proceeds to the Shrine charities in his will. Frankenstein’s descendants gave their share of the proceeds to the Crippled Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, and signed over any remaining rights they had to the song to the State of California in 1971.
Mary Garden, looking dyspeptic on the sheet music cover.
In early March 1913, famed soprano Mary Garden was in Los Angeles to perform the lead in the Chicago Grand Opera Company’s production of Nantoma – an opera set in Santa Barbara during the “Days of the Dons.” While in town, she agreed to be the first to perform “I Love You, California” publically, at a Shriner convocation.  The Shriners responded at the end of the song by cheering, jumping up on chairs and waving their fezes. They "rushed to Mary," wrote the Los Angeles Times, "each with a blood-red rose. They wound ribbons around her glistening neck. A basket held in her hands was filled to overflowing with the roses and she was well-nigh choked by the ribbons, but she smiled through it all and waved her ostrich plume fan, and marched around the room at the head of the procession."

Then the Shriners put Garden up on a chair, and marched around her, serenading her, throwing rose petals, and occasionally pausing momentarily for someone to further acclaim the wonders of their guest of honor.

Over the next few days, Garden would sing the song at least twice more: Once at a fireman’s benefit show and then, on March 14, at the end of a performance of Nantoma. The opera, by many accounts, stank. By comparison, Garden’s coda was a breath of fresh air. The audience gave a standing ovation for “I Love You, California,” and called for and received an encore. A group of Shriners in the audience jumped in on the chorus. These performances set the song on the road to widespread national popularity and robust sheet music sales.
Mary Garden as Natoma. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.
Next time: Orange County reacts

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