After the Ball
DESCRIPTION: A girl asks her uncle why he never married. He recalls the sweetheart he took to a ball. After leaving for a moment, he sees her kissing another man. He abandons her; years later, after she is dead, he learns that the other man was her brother
AUTHOR: Charles K. Harris (1867-1930)
EARLIEST DATE: 1892 (copyright)
KEYWORDS: love courting separation death abandonment jealousy brother family
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW)
REFERENCES (10 citations):
Cambiaire, p. 105, "After the Ball" (1 text)
Stout 45, pp. 62-63, "After the Ball" (1 text plus a fragment and a fragment of a parody)
Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 169-175, "After the Ball, the Deluge" (1 text plus variants, 1 tune)
Geller-Famous, pp. 64-69, "After the Ball" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gilbert, pp. 260-262, "After the Ball" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 268, "After The Ball Is Over" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, p. 87, "After the Ball"
DT, AFTRBALL* (UNFORTU6* -- a parody)
ADDITIONAL: Aline Waites & Robin Hunter, _The Illustrated Victorian Songbook_, Michael Joseph Ltd., 1984, pp. 156-158, "After the Ball" (1 text, 1 tune)
Robert A. Fremont, editor, _Favorite Songs of the Nineties_, Dover Publications, 1973, pp. 1-5, "After the Ball" (1 text, 1 tune, a copy of the original sheet music)
Fiddlin' John Carson, "After The Ball (OKeh 45569, 1932; rec. 1930)
Homer Christopher & Wife, "After the Ball" (OKeh 45041, 1926
Crockett's Kentucky Mountaineers, "After the Ball" (Brunswick 394, rec. 1929)
Vernon Dalhart, "After the Ball" (Columbia 15030-D, 1925) (Edison 51610 [as Vernon Dalhart & Co.], 1925)
Dixon Brothers, "After the Ball" (Montgomery Ward M-7577, 1938)
Tom Darby & Jimmie Tarlton, "After the Ball" (Columbia 15254-D, 1928)
Humphries Brothers, "After the Ball" (OKeh 45478, 1930)
Bradley Kincaid, "After the Ball" (Supertone 9648, 1930) (Conqueror 7984, 1932)
cf. "After the War Is Over" (tune)
cf. "Tragic Romance" (plot)
cf. "Fatal Rose of Red" (theme)
cf. "Grandfather's Story" (theme)
cf. "After the Ball Was Over, Sally Plucked Out Her Glass Eye" (form)
After the War is Over (File: R855)
Poor Nellie (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 143)
After the Strike is Over (IWW Song; Edward J. Cowan, _The People's Past_, p. 167)
After the Fall (by D. J. O'Malley; see John I. White, _Git Along, Little Dogies: Songs and Songmakers of the American West_, 1975 (page references are to the 1989 University of Illinois Press edition), p. 82)
After the Fair (song about the 1893 World's Fair with lyrics credited to its performer Press Eldridge by apparently written by Charles K. Harris as a parody of his own song) (Jon W. Finson, _The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song_, Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 153-154)
NOTES: Gilbert describes how Harris (at the time, according to Geller, an impoverished banjo teacher; Jasen, p. 11, says he did not read music) wrote this song by blowing an actual incident all out of proportion (he saw a girl distressed by a fight with her lover, but there is no evidence that the quarrel ended their relationship. Part of the story is actually Harris's own; he was chaperoning his sister at a ball in 1892 when the other incident happened, according to Jasen, p. 12).
According to Furia, p. 23, the "absurd tale of misunderstanding was turned down by the first singer Harris urged to plug it; 'If I sang a line like "Down fell the glass, pet, broken, that's all,: she insisted, 'the customers in my saloon would shatter their beer mugs in derision.' Yet it was precisely this pathetic narrative that was marketed into the first big hit from Tin Pan Alley...."
The song was one of the most popular of its era; sales of the sheet music earned Harris $48,000 in just its first year in print. Waites & Hunter report that it was the first song to sell five million copies of the sheet music.
According to Hischak, p. 2, "Harris wrote the heart-tugging ballad in 1892 for a vaudeville singer who forgot the words during the first performance and the song failed to get any notice. When the popular musical comedy A Trip to Chinatown toured Milwaukee in 1892, Harris paid the singing star J. Aldrich Libby to insert the number in the second act. For the entire three verses and three refrains the audience was silent and remained so after the song; Harris thought he had written a dud. Then the audience rose to its feet and cheered for five minutes." Naturally the song stayed in the show, and went on to become big in vaudeville; John Philip Sousa made it part of his shows, and it was included in the musical "Show Boat," where it is said to have made Magnolia Ravenal a star.
Interestingly, the other hit song from "A Trip to Chinatown," "The Bowery," was also added to the show after its premier (Hischak, p. 36). Makes you wonder what the original show was like....
Finson, p. 69, says that the song sold 400,000 copies in the first few months of its release, peaking at 5,000 copies a day -- an incredible rate for sheet music. Little wonder, then, that Harris titled his 1926 autobiography After the Ball: Forty Years of Melody And Harris's publishing company adopted as its logo the image of a boy chasing (or, one might say, going AFTER) a ball. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Finson: Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994
- Furia: Philip Furia, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Greatest Lyricists, 1990 (I use the 1992 Oxford paperback with a new preface)
- Hischak: Thomas S. Hischak, The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia (with a Foreword by Gerald Bordman), Greenwood Press, 1995
- Jasen: David A. Jasen, Tin Pan Alley: The Composers, the Songs, the Performers and their Times: The Golden Age of American Popular Music from 1886 to 1956, Primus, 1988
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.