QUESTION: Eddie Leonard wrote the lyrics for "Ida Sweet as Apple Cider." Who wrote the music?
A) Elmore Leonard
B) Leonard Bernstein
C) Eddie Munson
D) Eddie Munster
Yesterday's blogged addressed some famous sheet music from the nineteen-teens, so we thought we would take a step backwards chronologically today, and talk about some even older music displayed in our Music Room here at the American Treasure Tour, specifically the song "Ida Sweet as Apple Cider." Eddie Leonard was the stage name of the performer Lemuel Golden Toney, considered one of the best minstrel performers of the turn of the twentieth century. So, this begs the question of what a 'minstrel singer' is, and there's no easy way to say it. Let us begin by saying that American attitudes towards race and racism were MUCH different one hundred years ago than they are today, and not for the better. This is awkward.
Minstrel shows were a form of entertainment developed initially in the 1830's, during the time of slavery. There was dancing, singing, comedy acts and buffoonery. That part isn't awkward, what is awkward is the twist. They were performed exclusively by Caucasian performers; however, they applied make-up that gave them the appearance of being African American. They then acted in ways that lampooned African-American culture at the time. There is no defense of this behavior but, back then, it was standard. If you ever watch The Jazz Singer from 1927, the first widely distributed sound film, you will see Al Jolsen perform in a minstrel show; however, they were already past vogue by then. Eddie Leonard was a minstrel performer, and he was aware that the shows were losing their popularity by 1903, to be replaced by the far more palatable vaudeville shows.
When Leonard sang "Ida Sweet as Apple Cider for his first time, he did so defying the demands of his boss at the Primrose and Western minstrel agency (yes, they had their own agencies, these sorts of shows were so popular at the time). Fortunately for Leonard, the song was a huge hit, and its sheet music sold like gangbusters - over one million copies out the door in the first year alone. Eddie Leonard was able to make a living in show business as a singer-songwriter and as an actor until his death in 1941.
ANsWER: D) Eddie Munster. Oh, wait. No. That's not right. It was really C) Eddie Munson.