Maceo Pinkard

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Maceo Pinkard (June 27, 1897 – July 21, 1962) was an American composer, lyricist, and music publisher. Among his compositions is "Sweet Georgia Brown", a popular standard for decades after its composition and famous as the theme of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

Pinkard was inducted in the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984.


Pinkard was born in Bluefield, West Virginia to Mary Ellen Jimerson, educator, and G. Pinkard, a coal miner. He was educated at the Bluefield Colored Institute, class of 1913, and wrote his first major song ("I'm Goin' Back Home") one year later. He was one of the greatest composers of the Harlem Renaissance.[1] In his early career he formed his own orchestra and toured throughout the US as the conductor. In 1914, at age 17, Pinkard founded the theatrical agency in Omaha, Nebraska and eventually founded Pinkard Publications, a music publishing firm in New York City. In 1917, he formed his own publishing firm, Maceo Pinkard Music, and began selling compositions to national publishing companies such as Frank K. Root in Chicago and Leo Feist in New York. In late 1918, he was hired by the firm of Shapiro, Bernstein & Company in New York and the following year saw the publication of first big hit, "Mammy O'Mine."

1918 saw a flood of music related to the war. Pinkard composed with words and music "Don't Cry Little Girl, Don't Cry." The sentiment in the lyrics is universal for lovers who must part.[2] He also wrote the words and music for Those Draftin' Blues.[3][4]

In 1919, Pinkard moved to New York City. His best work was written during the decade 1921-1931. Primarily writing as the composer and lyricist, Pinkard's catalog includes such hit songs as "Sugar", "Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Ya Huh?", "At Twilight", "Them There Eyes" (1930), later recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 on the OKeh label. This was one of the songs Holiday sang at the Storyville jazz club in Boston in 1952. "Sweet Georgia Brown" a number one Billboard hit in the summer of 1925, "Here Comes the Show Boat" (1927), "Sweet Man", "I'll Be a Friend (With Pleasure)", "Congratulations" (1929), "Is That Religion?", "Liza" (1922), "Lila", "There Must Be Somebody Else", "Okay Baby", "That Wonderful Boy Friend of Mine", "Let's Have a Showdown", "My Old Man" and "Mammy O' Mine" (1919).Shortly after his move to New York, he recorded his piano playing on several piano rolls (for the Republic and Connorized companies) which are the only known record of his playing.[5] In 1930, his song "I'll Be A Friend with Pleasure", was recorded by a jazz band led by Bix Beiderbecke, with Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman among the sidemen.

His famous music composition "Sweet Georgia Brown", lyrics by Kenneth Casey, was recorded by artists Louis Armstrong (1928), Count Basie, The Beatles album Ain't She Sweet (1962), Cab Calloway (1931), Ray Charles (1961), Nat King Cole (1943), Bing Crosby (1927), Ella Fitzgerald (1956), Dizzy Gillespie (1967), Benny Goodman (1956), Harry James (1939), Carmen McRae (1964), Thelonious Monk (1941), Charlie Parker (1947), Oscar Peterson (1945), Cole Porter (1960), Sarah Vaughan (1963), and Ethel Waters (1923).[6]

Duke Ellington's introduction to the music industry began with Maceo Pinkard.[7] Shortly after they met at Barron's nightclub, Pinkard took Ellington downtown and introduced him to the music publishing district. This area of Broadway, from 40th to 55th Streets, was known as Tin Pan Alley because of the cacophony of so many pianists playing different pieces of music in different keys. It was there that Ellington had his first meeting at Mills Music with younger brother Irving, who would later become his manager. Ellington recorded some of Pinkard compositions such as "Is That Religion?", "Sweet Georgia Brown", and "Them There Eyes".

Stage production[edit]

Liza (1922)[edit]

Pinkard also wrote and produced the Broadway musical, comedy show Liza (from the book by Irvin C. Miller), which opened November 27, 1922 at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre, New York City. Ran for 172 performances (November 27, 1922 - April 21, 1923).[8] Original Cast included Emmett Anthony, Will A. Cook, Thaddius Drayton, Alonzo Fenderson, Doe Doe Green, R. Eddie Greenlee, Snippy Mason, Irvin C. Miller, Quintard Miller, Billy Mills, Packer Ramsey, Maude Russell, Gertrude Saunders, Margaret Simms, William Simms and Elizabeth Terrill.[9] Lyrics and music by Maceo Pinkard: "Tag Day," "Pleasure," "I'm the Sheriff," "Liza," "Just a Barber Shop Cord," "Just a Barber Shop Cord," "That Brownskin Flapper," "On the Moonlit Swanee," "Essence," "Forget Your Troubles, "(I've Got Those) Runnin' Wild Blues," "Dandy," "My Creole Girl," "Planning," "Love Me," and "Don't Be Blue."

Music popularized on disc by Zez Confrey and His Orchestra (Victor 19055), Albert E. Short's and His Tivoli Syncopators (Vocalion 14554), and the new Synco Jazz Band (Perfect 14104).[10]

Category: Musical, Comedy, Original, Broadway
Description: A musical in two acts
Setting: Summer Time in Jimtown, South Carolina


The Negro hit of the year, with book by Irving C. Miller and music by Maceo Pinkard, opened at Daly's 63rd Street Theater in November. "The dressing rooms, which were built for Shuffle Along," say Eubie Blake, "were completed just in time for Liza." A few months later Liza moved to the Nora Bayes Theater on 44th Street, and became the first Negro show to play Broadway proper during the regular season. (Only the summer months had been available for Negro productions heretofore, while the critics wondered why the shows were presented at such a hot time of the year.) Liza ran for 172 performances at a time when a run of one hundred was considered good.[11]

Maceo Pinkard died in New York City on July 19, 1962.[12] Each year, Bluefield State University holds a weeklong festival in honor of its famous alumnus.

In 1999, the Grammy nominated album The Love Movement by A Tribe Called Quest, included a sample of the 1920 Maceo Pinkard composition "Start It Up."

Film scores[edit]

Pinkard's compositions as a film score were used in a number of movies, which were compiled from previously written musical compositions. Partial list includes:[13]

Year Film Actor/Actress Songs
1929 Show Boat Laura La Plante
Joseph Schildkraut
"Here Comes the Show Boat" (1929)
1930 The Widow from Chicago Edward G. Robinson "Sweet Georgia Brown"
1939 Invisible Stripes Humphrey Bogart
George Raft
William Holden
"Sweet Georgia Brown"
1940 Second Chorus Fred Astaire "Sweet Georgia Brown"
1950 Young Man with a Horn Kirk Douglas
Lauren Bacall
Louis Armstrong
"Sweet Georgia Brown"
1952 Has Anybody Seen My Gal? Rock Hudson
Piper Laurie
"Gimme a little kiss, will ya, huh?" (1926)
1955 Pete Kelly's Blues Jack Webb
Peggy Lee
Ella Fitzgerald
Jayne Mansfield
1959 Some Like It Hot Marilyn Monroe
Tony Curtis
Jack Lemmon
"Sweet Georgia Brown"
1991 The Fabulous Baker Boys Jeff Bridges
Michelle Pfeiffer
"Sweet Georgia Brown"
1991 Oscar Sylvester Stallone "Sweet Georgia Brown"
1992 The Babe John Goodman
Kelly McGillis
"Sweet Georgia Brown"
1993 The Meteor Man Robert Townsend
James Earl Jones
Bill Cosby
Nancy Wilson
"Them There Eyes" (1930)
1999 Sweet and Lowdown Sean Penn
Samantha Morton
Uma Thurman
"Sweet Georgia Brown"
2005 Rebound Martin Lawrence
Wendy Raquel Robinson
"Sweet Georgia Brown" (1925)
2005 Capote Philip Seymour Hoffman "Sugar (That Sugar Baby o' Mine)"


  1. ^ Archer, William R. "Bill". Bluefield, Arcadia Publishing (2000), page 101 - ISBN 0-7385-0598-6
  2. ^ Parlor Songs Archived 2008-02-28 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Those draftin' blues". Library of Congress.
  4. ^ "Those Draftin Blues by Maceo Pinkard (1917, Blues piano)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-05.
  5. ^ Maceo Pinkard: Song List Archived 2006-10-01 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Lawrence, A. H. Duke Ellington and His World: A Biography Routledge (2001), page 33 - ISBN 0-415-93012-X
  8. ^ "Internet Broadway Database: Liza Production Credits". Archived from the original on 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  9. ^ [2][permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Jasen, David A. A Century of American Popular Music, Routledge (2002), page 121 - ISBN 0-415-93700-0
  11. ^ Stearns, Marshall Winslow. Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance, Da Capo Press (1994), page 143 - ISBN 0-306-80553-7
  12. ^ "Maceo Pinkard Dies; Song Writer Was 65". New York Times. July 20, 1962. p. 25. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  13. ^ "Maceo Pinkard". Retrieved 5 August 2018.

External links[edit]