James S. Kerr

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James Spiers Kerr was a Scottish music publisher.


Kerr's "Merry Melodies" are the most popular collections of Scottish tunes ever published. Almost nothing is known of the publisher. "Kerr's First Collection of Merry Melodies for the Violin" (447 tunes) does not carry a date, but is thought to be from 1870 to 1875. The second collection (445 tunes), the third collection (446 tunes) and the fourth collection (444 tunes) all bear the address "65 Berkely Street, Glasgow". There is a street called Berkeley Street in Glasgow. Either the spelling has changed, or Kerr didn't bother to check the spelling. The fourth collection is often believed to be from 1879 or the early 1880s.

By the time he published "Kerr's Caledonian Collection" the address was changed to "79 Berkeley Street" (this time with the correct spelling), and his audience changed from the violin player to the "piano or piano-accordion" player. This reflects the new popularity of the piano accordion in Scotland in the early twentieth century. Nothing more is known of the company until they published "Cornkisters" in 1950. By this time the original Kerr must have died.

Kerr Music Corporation Limited was founded in 1952. It publishes several vintage titles under the names of the original publishers: James S. Kerr, Mozart Allan, and Bayley and Ferguson. Current titles include Kerr’s Merry Melodies and Skinner’s Scottish Violinist.[1] It is listed at the 79 Berkeley Street address.[2]

In 1952 the company published the most famous song about Aberdeen, "The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen" (as sung by Robert Wilson). This song was composed in 1952 by Mel and Mary Webb[3] who were English and had never visited Aberdeen.[4]

James S. Kerr also produced a book called "Kerr's Violin Instructor and Irish Folk-Song Album. Containing 158 Irish Airs. Price Ninepence Net. Address given as James S. Kerr. 314 Paisley Road. Glasgow. I have in my possession a very old copy of Kerr's Violin Instructor and Irish Folk-Song Album. It contains 158 Irish Airs. Price Ninepence Net. and the words Glasgow. James S. Kerr, 314 Paisley Road. The name Mr. Fitzell, 56 Henry St. is handwritten across the top of the back page. I researched this name and discovered that there was a Fitzell family living at that address in Dublin at the time of the 1912 Census. So I take it from that information that this book is very old. My music teacher gave it to me about 60 years ago. It is bound with stitching not staples. There is a reference in "Musical Scotland" stating that James Spiers Kerr was born in Glasgow 1841 and died in Glasgow 13th Nov 1893. Kerr's tune books have travelled around the world, and are performed by bluegrass groups, Newfoundland fiddlers, and US fiddlers. The books are in standard use by ballet schools for performing national dances of Scotland. Scottish groups such as Silly Wizard, The Battlefield Band and The Boys of the Lough, use the tunes. About half the tunes are traditional, and some are composed by "James S Kerr" - probably the publisher himself. Masterpieces by Neil and Nathaniel Gow are included.


  1. ^ Windblower Music Accessed 2020-06-10
  2. ^ Companies House Accessed 2020-06-10
  3. ^ The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen Accessed 2009-11-30
  4. ^ The A-Z of Scottish Places; Aberdeen Archived 2009-04-25 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 2009-11-30

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