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Peter DeRose and “Wagon Wheels”

deRose

Peter “Pete” DeRose (March 10, 1900 – April 23, 1953) was a U.S. Hall of Fame composer of jazz and pop music during the Tin Pan Alley era.  DeRose was born on March 10, 1900,  in New York City, NY, and as a boy exhibited a gift for things musical. He learned to play the piano from an older sister but composing music was a gift that saw him have his first song published at the age of eighteen. After finishing high school (DeWitt Clinton High School), class of 1917, he found a job at a music store as a stock room clerk but a highly successful 1920 composition called “When You’re Gone, I Won’t Forget” led to his being hired by the New York office of the Italian music publisher G. Ricordi & Co.

In 1923 DeRose met ukulele musician May Singhi Breen (1895–1970) performing on radio with a female ukulele group known as the “Syncopators.” A personal relationship developed and she left the group to join DeRose in a musical radio show on NBC called the “Sweethearts of the Air” in which he played piano and she performed on the ukulele. The popular show ran for sixteen years during which time the two entertainers were married. The show not only provided them with a good living, but was also a vehicle for the introduction of a number of his compositions.  DeRose collaborated with a number of prominent lyricists such as Charles Tobias, Al Stillman, Carl Sigman, and Billy Hill.

Here are some of DeRose’s best known works.  “Somebody Loves You” (1932) was a piano composition and with lyrics recorded by Eddy Arnold in 1966.  “Wagon Wheels” (1934) was used in the Broadway musical, Ziegfeld Follies in 1934, and performed by singers such as Bing Crosby and Paul Robeson.  The most famous of his songs, “Deep Purple” (1934) was a piano composition with lyrics added a few years later by Mitchell Parish and was popularized in 1939 by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra featuring Bea Wain and later by Nino Tempo and April Stevens as a duet; it was later recorded by Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Sarah Vaughan. In 1957, it was a No. 20 hit record for Billy Ward & the Dominoes then a No. 1 hit on the 1963 Billboard charts for Nino Tempo and April Stevens. It would become popular again in 1976 with another duet by Donny and Marie Osmond.  “Rain” (1934) was performed by Ella Fitzgerald.  “Have You Ever Been Lonely?” (1934) was originally a hit for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra; it was recorded by Teresa Brewer in 1960, Patsy Cline in 1961, and Jim Reeves in 1962.  “On a Little Street In Singapore” (1938) was performed by Harry James and Frank Sinatra.  “A Marshmallow World” (1949) was a Christmas song recorded by numerous artists including in 1963 by Johnny Mathis, Dean Martin Christmas 1966 album, Kim Stockwood (1999).  “Buona Sera” was an international hit record for Louis Prima in 1956.

The music of DeRose has been recorded by many other artists including John Coltrane, Spike Jones, Art Tatum, Les McCann, and Peggy Lee. In addition to Wagon Wheels, Peter DeRose wrote songs for the Broadway musicals Yes Yes Yvette and Earl Carroll’s Vanities of 1928.   In 1932 DeRose wrote religious sheet music with radio star Phillips H. Lord for one of Lord’s “Seth Parker” religious music books. DeRose also composed music for the 1941 Ice Capades show and in the late 1940s and early 1950s wrote songs for several Hollywood motion pictures.   DeRose’s final hit was “You Can Do It”, written just before his death in New York City on April 23, 1953.  He was interred in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, and his tombstone is etched with the words “Every friend he ever made, he kept.” In 1970, Peter DeRose was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The following work by Pete DeRose is contained in my collection:

Wagon Wheels (1934).

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