William "Tell" Taylor (aka Tellie né Tell Roberts; born 28 October 1876 to Jane Roberts, on a farm near the Village of Vanlue, Amanda Township, Hancock County, Ohio — 23 November 1937 Chicago) was an American traveling vaudeville performer, tenor vocalist, playwright, music publisher, composer, and lyricist who had written over 200 popular songs. By far his biggest hit was "Down by the Old Mill Stream" from 1910, one of the most commercially successful Tin Pan Alley publications of the era. The song was published by Forster Music Publisher, Inc. of Chicago. Taylor performed vaudeville theaters and founded a Chicago music publishing house bearing his name. His other notable songs include "He Sleeps Beneath the Soil of France," "I Love You Best of All," "If Dreams Come True," "Little Old Home in the Valley," "Rock Me to Sleep in the Old Rocking Chair," "Some Day," and "When the Maple Leaves Were Falling." Taylor also wrote the Broadway comedies Tiger Lillee and In New York Town.
- By 1892, at the age of 16, Taylor's name as a thespian began to be published in theater reviews of newspapers in and around New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri. Among the plays of that year featuring Taylor was By Wits Outwitted, written by Edward Owings Towne, where Taylor played the audacious hero (Valentine Navaro), and Florence Modena playing the pretty heroine (Fernanda). Taylor also played the part of Bill Smith, a farm hand, in A Glimpse of Paradise, by Frank S. Pixley, a one-act play that often preceded the three-act By Wits Outwitted. 
Music publishing and songwriting
- Before launching his Chicago publishing firm in 1907, Taylor had co-founded one of the original Tin Pan Alley publishing houses in New York City with fellow composer, Ernest R. Ball, and former New York City Mayor who then was a state senator, James J. Walker. In 1918, Earl Kelly Smith (1886–1954), who had been affiliated with Taylor's Chicago publishing house since 1908, opened a branch in New York City. In Chicago, Taylor composed songs and ran his own sheet music publishing firm from 1907 to 1922.
Post publishing & singing
- In 1922, Taylor sold his Chicago publishing firm and purchased a farm for his parents near his boyhood home, on the outskirts of Findlay, Ohio, and spent the rest of his life there. By 1936, his top selling composition, "Down By The Old Mill Stream," had sold 4 million copies.
- In the fall of 1937, prior to embarking on a trip to California to discuss a motion picture about his life and career, Taylor entered a Chicago bar and ordered a drink. Tell sat at a table, put his head down to rest and, unexpectedly, died from a heart attack at the age of sixty-one. He was buried in Van Horn Cemetery, Findlay, Ohio.
Posthumous lawsuit over song
- In 1937, when the original copyright for "Down By The Old Mill Stream" was expiring, Earl Kelly Smith (1886–1954) filed an application to renew the copyright as co-composer. The renewal was granted. Jerry Vogel Music Company began publishing it. Forster Music, which had acquired the rights to the song from the heirs of Tell Taylor, filed suit to stop Vogel from publishing the song. In 1944, a U.S. District Court in New York ruled in favor of Forster.
G.W. Setchell Publisher (George William Setchell; 1860–1923), Boston
- "Tommy: Tell Me True," lyrics by Taylor, music by Don Ramsay (né Donald Howard Lee Ramsay; 1877– ) (©1904) OCLC 18853408
Forster Music Publisher, Inc., Chicago
- "Down by the Old Mill Stream" (©1910) OCLC 36009589 and 498329355
- "On The Banks of the Old Mill Stream," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1937) OCLC 502264132
Tell Taylor, Chicago
- "Someday," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1908) OCLC 46819987
- "If Dreams Are True," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1909)
- "Flowers of Love," lyrics by Taylor, music by Earl Kelly Smith (1886–1954) (©1909) OCLC 367943569
- "Down by the Old Mill Stream" (©1910) OCLC 426144037
- "When We Were Sweethearts," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1911) OCLC 27094209
- "Fare-Thee-Well," lyrics by Taylor, music by George Fairman (né George Wayne Fairman; 1881–1962) (©1911) OCLC 726906429 and 444497331
- "The Roses of Erin," lyrics by Taylor & C. F. McNamara, music by Earl Kelly Smith (1886–1954) (©1911) OCLC 499139181
- Copyright renewed 1939 by Earl Kelly Smith (1886–1954), Hollywood, California
- Copyright renewed 1939 by Fred Sloop, Jr. (1883–1966), Steubenville, Ohio
- "Forty Years Ago," lyrics by Dave Nowlin (pseudonym of Dave N. Robinson), music by Taylor (©1911) OCLC 498539329
- Copyright renewed 1939 by Dave N. Robinson, Austin, Texas
- Copyright renewed 1941 by Jesse Thornton Taylor, Jr. (1890–1956) Findlay, Ohio
- "She Sold her Soul For the Sake of Gold," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1914) OCLC 497116217 and 497116217
- "Don't Cry Little Girl, Don't Cry," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1914) OCLC 57298046
- "I Love You Best of All," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1915) OCLC 30857351
- "He Sleeps Beneath the Soil of France," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1917) OCLC 61356619
- "When It's Rose Time In Old Virginia" ("I'll Be Coming Down Your Way"), lyrics & music by Taylor & Ray W. Fay (©1917) OCLC 34201002
- "Tell Me Again You Love Me," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1917) OCLC 497116301
- "We're In The Army Now," lyrics by Taylor & Ole Olsen, music by Isham Jones (©1917) OCLC 72437358
- "When The Autumn Leaves Are Turning Gold," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1917) OCLC 456264795
- "Down in Hindu Town," lyrics by Taylor, music by Fred Rose (©1919) OCLC 10217172
- "I'm Going To Write You A Letter," lyrics & music by Taylor (©1919) OCLC 25255123
- "Bless Your Little Heart," lyrics by Taylor, music by Isham Jones (©1919) OCLC 459711512
- "Rock Me To Sleep in an Old Rocking Chair" (©1926) OCLC 46931548
- "Little Old Home in the Valley," lyrics & music by Taylor & Al Biship (pub. date unknown) OCLC 498173381
Taylor Music Corp., Chicago
On November 4, 1907, Taylor married Buda Godman (née Helen Julia Godman; 1888– ), the daughter of Otho and Julia Godman (née Conklin) of Chicago. Buda had met Taylor about two years prior when Taylor had been a dinner guest at the St. Joseph's Convent and Academy in Adrian, Michigan, where Helen had been attending school. Taylor had just started his songwriting career and was appearing with a traveling stage company in Adrian. Buda and Tell had become good friends before dinner was over, but did not correspond afterward. Two years later, while attending the performance of "The Girl Question," by Howard, Adams, and Hough, at a theater in Chicago, Buda recognized Tell and sent a note to him backstage, and they became reacquainted. After spending much of their time together lunching and dining during the following week, they met once again for dinner at a downtown Chicago hotel, and sent for a judge to marry them in the hotel's parlor.
In 1910, Tell Taylor filed for divorce from Buda in Chicago. In late September of that year, the divorce was granted, with Tell accusing Buda of having "affinities" with other vaudvillains. In the divorce proceedings, Tell stated that "I married Buda when we both were drunk and I found out she was quite incapable of loyalty to anyone." 
As cast member
- La Salle Theater, Chicago
- Opening night: August 17, 1907
- Mort H. Singer (né Mortimer Henry Singer; 1876–1944), theater manager
- "United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch, "Tellie Roberts," under entry for "Arthur S
. Roberts, 1880" (image)
- Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003 (Record of Births, Probate Court, Hancock County, Ohio), FamilySearch, "Fell Roberts, 1876" (image)
- Tell Taylor, Author of "Old Mill Stream", Ballad Inspired On Shore of Blanchard River in Ohio — Writer Dies in Chicago, The New York Times, November 24, 1937
- Tell Taylor Dies in Chicago; Composed "Old Mill Stream," Plain Dealer, November 24, 1937, pg. 15
- Biographical Dictionary of American Music, by Charles Eugene Claghorn (1911–2005), Parker Publishing Co., West Nyack, New York (1973) OCLC 609781
- Biography Index, A Cumulative Index to Biographical Material in Books and Magazines — Volume 3: September 1952 — August 1955, New York: H. W. Wilson Company (1956) OCLC 731506763 and 35305535
- "By Wits Outwitted at the Grand". The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri). November 7, 1892. p. 5.
- ""By Wits Outwitted" Gives Satisfaction". Wyoming County Times (Warsaw, New York). October 13, 1892. p. 1.
- "By Wits Outwitted". The Daily Citizen (Iowa City, Iowa). November 2, 1892. p. 2.
- Earl K. Smith, Variety, April 5, 1918, Vol. L, Issue 6, pg. 11
- Findlay to Sing Composer's Praises, by Peg Dennis, Toledo Blade, April 28, 1967, pg. 18
- Slight Hope of Cleaning Old Mill Stream is Held, The Lima News, August 28, 1936, pg. 1, cols. 6 & 7 (bottom)
- The Mystery of 'Down By The Old Mill Stream', by Gary Pakulski, Toledo Blade, September 20, 1987
- Helen likely took the name "Buda" from the slang word "bud," used in the late 1800s and early 1900s for a cute girl that had just entered puberty.
- Helen Godman: Passport Application November 3, 1919, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.
Passport Applications, 2 January 1906 – 31 March 1925, Collection ARC Identifier 583830, MLR N° A1 534
NARA Series M1490, Roll 974, Certificates 135750–136125, 5 Nov–6 Nov, 1919
- Weds Actor She Met At Convent, Philadelphia Enquirer, November 10, 1907, pg. 3
- Music Publisher Divorced, Variety, October 1, 1910
- Queen of the Badger Band., by Elgar Brown. In The American Weekly, Sunday newspaper supplement, The Milwaukee Sentinel, September 1, 1946, p. 16.
- Six Divorces: Freedom Season Has Opened In Chicago Courts, Variety, October 28, 1921, pg. 5, col. 1