L. Wolfe Gilbert

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
L. Wolfe Gilbert
Gilbert in 1915
Louis Wolfe Gilbert

(1886-08-31)August 31, 1886
Odessa, Russian Empire
DiedJuly 12, 1970(1970-07-12) (aged 83)
Other namesWolfie Gilbert
Years active1912–1945
ChildrenDoris Gilbert
Musical career
GenresTraditional pop

Louis Wolfe Gilbert (August 31, 1886 – July 12, 1970) was a Russian-born American songwriter of Tin Pan Alley. He is best remembered as the lyricist for "Ramona" (1928), the first movie theme song ever written.[1][2][3]


"Ramona" (1928), by Gilbert and Mabel Wayne, was the first theme song ever written for the movies.
William Grant Still, Gilbert, W. C. Handy, Frank Drye and Andy Razaf in Los Angeles in 1954
Gilbert (far right) in 1966

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, then in the Russian Empire, Gilbert moved to the United States as a young man.[1][4]

Gilbert began his career touring with John L. Sullivan and singing in a quartet at small Coney Island café called College Inn, where he was discovered by English producer Albert Decourville. Decourville brought him to London as part of The Ragtime Octet.

Gilbert's first songwriting success came in 1912, when F. A. Mills Music Publishers published his song "Waiting For the Robert E. Lee" (melody by composer Lewis F. Muir).[4][2] Gilbert later wrote both the words and music to "Down Yonder", a sequel to "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee". "Down Yonder" has become something of a standard as an instrumental, though the lyrics are rarely performed.

He joined ASCAP in 1924.[citation needed]

Gilbert moved to Hollywood in 1929, and began writing for film, television, and radio (including the Eddie Cantor show).[2]

During the 1930s, Gilbert worked on Cuban songs that helped to popularize the rumba in America. Some of these hits for which he wrote English lyrics include "The Peanut Vendor", "Mama Inez", and "Maria My Own".[5][6]

Gilbert wrote the theme lyrics for the popular children's Television Western Hopalong Cassidy, which first aired in 1949 on NBC. He was an innovator in his field, having been one of the first songwriters to begin publishing and promoting a catalog of his own works. He served as the director of ASCAP from 1941 to 1944,[2] and again in 1953. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.[citation needed]

Known as "Wolfie", Gilbert and his wife Rose lived in Beverly Hills and he and his family were members of Temple Israel of Hollywood.

He died in Los Angeles, California on July 12, 1970.[1][4] His original gravesite was at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City (Mausoleum, Court of Sages, Crypt 223) but he was later reinterred at Forest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City) near Palm Springs, California.


Lyrics for Broadway productions[edit]

  • 1912 The Girl from Brighton[8]
  • 1912–1913 (From) Broadway to Paris[8]
  • 1916–1917 The Century Girl[8]
  • 1917 Doing Our Bit[8]
  • 1919 Oh, What A Girl![8]
  • 1931 The Singing Rabbi[8]

Gilbert & Friedland[edit]

Gilbert & Friedland was a music publishing partnership between composer, performer, and songwriter Anatole Friedland (also sometimes spelled Anatol Friedland and Anato Friedland) and lyricist L. Wolfe Gilbert.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d "L. Wolfe Gilbert, Composer, Dead. Wrote 'Ramona' and Many Other Successful Songs". New York Times. July 13, 1970. Retrieved 2010-07-28. L. Wolfe Gilbert, composer of more than 250 songs, including 'Ramona,' the first motion picture theme song, died today of a stroke. He was 83 years old.
  2. ^ a b c d "Songwriters Hall of Fame - Member Update Exhibit Home". www.songwritershalloffame.org.
  3. ^ "Wolfie Gilbert in Chicago". Billboard. Vol. 29. June 16, 1917. p. 14.
  4. ^ a b c "L. Wolfe Gilbert". Daily News. New York, NY. July 13, 1970. p. 91. Retrieved March 15, 2022 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ Shaw, Arnold (1987). The Jazz Age: Popular Music in the 1920s. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 114. ISBN 0195038916.
  6. ^ Firmat, Gustavo Pérez (2010). The Havana Habit. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 81. ISBN 9780300168761.
  7. ^ a b c Parker, Bernard S. (2007). World War I Sheet Music - Volume 1. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 70, 255, 321. ISBN 978-0-7864-2798-7.
  8. ^ a b c d e f League, The Broadway. "L. Wolfe Gilbert – Broadway Cast & Staff - IBDB".
  9. ^ a b "Music Trades". Music Trades Corporation. December 9, 1918 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ a b "Billboard". Billboard Publications. December 9, 1917 – via Google Books.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bierley, Paul E.; Rehrig, William H. The heritage encyclopedia of band music. Composers and their music, Integrity Press 1991. ISBN 0918048087
  • Bloom, Ken. American song. The complete musical theater companion: 1877-1995. Volume 2: T-Z. Second edition. Schirmer Books 1996.
  • Gilbert, L. Wolfe. Without Rhyme or Reason, Vantage Press 1956. OCLC 1295930
  • Larkin, Colin. The encyclopedia of popular music, third edition. Macmillan 1998. ISBN 1561592374

External links[edit]