DAVIS, GUSSIE LORD (1863-1899)

Born in Dayton, Gussie Davis was the first African-American to achieve success as a composer of popular songs. He worked as a janitor at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and listened in to classes there, although he wasn’t allowed to enroll. He wrote what were known as “parlor songs” in their day, picked up years later by old-time country and bluegrass musicians. Some of his best known songs were “Maple On the Hill,” “In the Baggage Coach Ahead,” “Fatal Wedding”, and “Goodnight Irene.”

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