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Sydney Leff

… leading songsheet artist of the Jazz Age

Sydney Leff

… documenting and defining the aesthetic of an era

Sydney Leff

… his work collected for the first time in a deluxe new collection “A monograph about Sydney Leff is long overdue. Part of the explanation for this work being neglected is that sheet music cover art was long viewed as one of the lowest forms of commercial art. Even some commercial artists deemed it to be beneath them. It was not viewed as something of value. “Now, after Pop Art and other art movements challenged the high/ low distinction in art, we are able to look at this artwork without the blinders of that old paradigm. And what do we see? Among other things, a contemporaneous visual expression of the Great American Songbook. We see a visual world that is a riotous collision and cross-pollination of styles, like jazz. We see the heady transitional period between the World Wars, between the ‘weird old America’ and the post-WWII global superpower. “We also see something by, from, and about New York City, which was the center of the world for popular music production and publication in the 1920s and 1930s. We see and feel the push and pull between the gloomy realities of the Depression years and people’s yearning for escape, fantasy, beauty, joy, and transcendence. And of course we see the rise of Hollywood, as the golden age of the American musical film dawns at the beginning of the 1930s.” Norman von Holtzendorff, from his introduction

THINGS THAT WERE MADE FOR LOVE available in softcover and deluxe hardcover editions Special pricing and one-of-a-kind bundles at


In Memory of Shirley P. Gholson, 1935–2021 Joan Leff Miller, 1930–2021

A New Texture book Designed by Wyatt Doyle Copyright © 2022 New Texture “Sentiment and Style” copyright © 2022 Wyatt Doyle and Norman von Holtzendorff “Unsung” copyright © 2022 Hal Glatzer Portrait of Sydney Leff copyright © 2022 Jimmy Angelina / The archival materials reproduced herein are included by arrangement with The Norman von Holtzendorff Collection. Additional materials courtesy The Hal Glatzer Collection and the Sydney Leff family collection. All rights reserved. The Editors wish to thank Bill Edwards, Alex Hassan, and Peter Mintun. Collectors/Scholars: To contribute covers and expertise to future songsheet art collections, contact the editors at @NewTexture


Booksellers: Things That Were Made for Love and other New Texture books are available through Ingram Book Co. ISBN 978-1-943444-33-5 First New Texture deluxe hardcover edition: April 2022 Also available in softcover Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Sentiment and Style Wyatt Doyle and Norman von Holtzendorff WYATT DOYLE: Sydney Leff ’s approach to songsheet art is quite varied, even in a relatively small sampling of only a few years’ work, as here. Some covers are very like cartoons, and his earliest pieces call to mind magazine illustration of the era. Some take a narrative approach, others eschew that entirely to emphasize design. Still others combine elements to create something unique to songsheet art. Leff telling a story. Leff setting a mood. Leff as illustrator. Leff as cartoonist. His text treatments. His graphic design. His experimentation. Even times when his reach exceeds his grasp. He appeared to embrace his publishers’ frequent lack of art direction as an open invitation to explore, test, and above all, have fun with his covers. Those who knew him remember his humor and playful nature, and it’s a key element to many of his covers, recognizable in both his representational work and his more abstract pieces. NORMAN VON HOLTZENDORFF: Given the vast number of covers he created (sometimes more than one a day, and overall numbering in the thousands), I think part of what he was doing was keeping himself from getting bored by constantly introducing variety. I think he drew from all sorts of styles and reference points, from modern design to fashion. He obviously had a lively eye and was absorbing visual ideas from every possible source. I agree that there is a playfulness to his work, and also a sense of constant renewal through trying new approaches and expanding his visual vocabulary. Just as the Tin Pan Alley songwriters achieved astonishing variety within a very defined song structure, he

achieved a wide range of visual effects in the rather rigid format of the sheet music cover. There were a number of constraints: the title had to be stated, the songwriters and publisher had to be identified, a feeling about the song had to be conveyed, and maybe a performer’s photograph included as well—and all within the same rectangle, always portrait [format] and never landscape! It’s amazing what visual diversity he achieved working within these constraints. One of the things I love about his work is the wonderful hand lettering that he did, which I view as one of his signature elements. Even in his simplest and most minimal covers, such as ones that are really just frames around a performer photo, there’s that incredible lettering that says Leff to me, even before I take in the other design elements and locate the signature. As well as the constant variety, I see trends and developments in his work over time. Although I like all of his various phases, my favorite period of his work is probably the early 1930s—the slinky, ultra chic Leff Ladies reached a peak of stylized gorgeousness, and the covers are just one jaw-dropping bullseye after another. Finding one of these is always a “wow” moment for me. I’m talking about covers like “Trouble in Paradise” (1933), pg. 8; “It’s Gonna Be You” (1932), also pg. 8; “Wha’d Ja Do to Me” (1931), pg. 149; “You’re Famous,” (1931), pg. 153; and “I Beg Your Pardon, Mademoiselle” (1932), pg. 170…. The Leff Ladies and their fabulous apparel are a visual through-line in his work; I



Unsung. Sydney Leff and the art of the songsheet

Hal Glatzer Music and Art In the 21st century, music is all around us: in our homes and cars, phones and tablets, supermarkets and elevators…literally everywhere. And songs become popular because so many people hear them. But in the not-so-distant past, songs were popular because so many people played them. Every clubhouse, ballroom, social hall, tavern, hotel, and ocean liner rang with live music. Many people had a phonograph, and after about 1930, a radio, too. But the real music machine in most households, especially in America, was a piano. Someone in practically every family could read music, sing, or play. The piano in the parlor was the center of home entertainment. And on the stand above the keyboard there’d be dozens of published songsheets with colorful covers. Until shortly after World War II, the sale of sheet music was the primary measure of a song’s success; and most composers earned more in royalties from printed, published music sheets than from records. The most popular songs sold literally millions of copies. A modern printing process called offset lithography had made sheet music cheaper and cheaper: songsheets that had sold for fifty cents in the 1890s were five-for-a-dollar in the 1920s. Music stores encouraged browsing and impulse buying. Department stores like Macy’s, retail chains like Woolworth’s five-and-ten-cent stores, and even the biggest drugstores all had music sections, with

walls displaying tacked-up songsheets These were noisy places: one or two pianos—half a dozen, if the store were large enough—might be in use at the same time. Some were player pianos, driven by punched-paper rolls (which were also for sale). But most were uprights, or smaller spinets. And playing them were song pluggers—performers hired to make the new songs irresistible. If you heard a song on the radio or phonograph, or saw it performed in a show or on a vaudeville stage, you could ask for it by name at a retail music store. But if you hadn’t heard it, or couldn’t remember its name, or the pluggers didn’t happen to be playing it when you got to the music store, publishers needed something that would still make you want to buy it. And that was the cover. A cover that caught your eye and stayed in your memory was a cover that kept on selling—even after you bought it. Displayed on your piano at home, it invited everyone to exclaim, “Oh! Let’s play this one!” Colorful covers attracted customers almost as powerfully as the songs themselves inside. And artists like Sydney Leff, who created those colorful covers, made that happen. They were the truly unsung artists of Tin Pan Alley.

TO READ More, Sydney Leff GET THE

Sydney Leff was a commercial artist all his life because, he said in a 1991 interview, “That’s what I always wanted to be.”





























Why pay an artist to make a fresh cover, when you can reprint an existing cover from a few years earlier with different colors? We’ll never know if Leff was consulted about this recoloring/ repurposing of his 1931 cover in 1937; probably he wasn’t.






Wyatt Doyle Writer Wyatt Doyle is ringmaster of New Texture, and he edits and designs most releases. His own books include Stop Requested (illustrated by Stanley J. Zappa), Dollar Halloween, I Need Real Tuxedo and a Top Hat!, Buty-Wave Is Now Closed Forever, and Jorge Amaya Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. A retrospective of his photography was presented by Gallery 30 South in Pasadena, CA in 2020. With Robert Deis, he edits the Men’s Adventure Library series, exploring vintage pulp fiction, art, and history; titles include Cryptozoology Anthology, Pollen’s Women, Eva: Men’s Adventure Supermodel, Exotic Adventures of Robert Silverberg, and Maneaters. With Jimmy Angelina, he created The Last Coloring Book and The Last Coloring Book on the Left, as well as Be Italian and the forthcoming In Character. He assisted in the publication of Georgina Spelvin’s memoir, The Devil Made Me Do It, and published Josh Alan Friedman’s Black Cracker and Tell the Truth Until They Bleed via his Wyatt Doyle Books imprint. He administers the creative estate of Rev. Raymond Branch, and curates His screenplay with Jason Cuadrado, I’m Here For You, was produced as Devil May Call. A member of The Stanley J. Zappa Quartet, a recording, The Stanley J. Zappa Quartet Plays for the Society of Women Engineers, has been released.

Hal Glatzer Born and raised in Manhattan, Hal Glatzer performs the music of his native islanders—The Great American Songbook, from Broadway and Tin Pan Alley. He began collecting sheet music more than forty years ago, and is profoundly grateful for this opportunity to talk about them. Hal got his first paying gig at age 12, in the Boys’ Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera Company. Though he initially studied violin and clarinet, he took up guitar and banjo as a teenager, joined the folk music revival of the Sixties, and performed in bluegrass bands. But in 1980, he returned to his Manhattan roots and has been playing and singing the popular songs of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s ever since. He is a published mystery author, best known for the Katy Green series, set in musical milieux during the years just before World War II. For the audio play version of Too Dead to Swing, about murder in an all-female Swing band, he also composed the songs. More about Hal’s music and mysteries is at

Norman Gholson von Holtzendorff Norman attributes his interest in Jazz Age music to his mother’s side of the family, and dedicates his work on this project “To my late mother, Shirley Gholson (1935–2021), who got me piano lessons as a kid and passed along to me her love of music.” His maternal great-aunt Ethel played piano for silent films in Atlanta movie theaters, and he inherited some of her sheet music from his maternal grandfather. Norman also heard his grandfather’s stories about seeing Sophie Tucker and Eva Tanguay in vaudeville shows in New York in the 1910s and 1920s. On the west coast, Norman’s great-uncle Louis von Holtzendorff worked in security for Paramount Pictures, where he rose to the position of chief, and later became a private detective in Hollywood. Secrets of the stars he knew (Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, etc.) were well kept—Norman’s mother could never get any Hollywood gossip out of Uncle Louis. Norman’s sheet music collecting stands on the shoulders of collector friends who have been doing it longer and have much better collections, such as Alex Hassan, Peter Mintun, Harold Jacobs, Roy Bishop, Vince Giordano, and Michael Feinstein. To these luminaries go much of the credit and none of the blame for Norman’s collection. Norman lives in a house from 1907 in the historic Garvanza neighborhood of northeast Los Angeles with his husband Francesco, their rescue dog Rocco, and a restored 1926 Steinway M baby grand piano.

Index After My Laughter Came Tears (1928) After Tonight (1932) Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1929) Ain’tcha Kinda Sorry Now? (1932) All of the Time (1928) Are You Lonesome To-Night? (1927) As Long as Love Lives On (1932) At Last I’m Happy (1930) Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear (1932) Baby—Oh Where Can You Be? (1929) Beside an Open Fireplace [Vaughn DeLeath] (1929) Beside an Open Fireplace [Will Osborne] (1929) Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1931) Blowing Kisses Over the Moon (1929) Blue Pacific Moonlight (1930) Blues in My Heart (1931) Born to Be Blue (1930) By My Side (1931) By the Sycamore Tree (1931) Clouds Will Soon Roll By, The (1932) Collegiana (1928) Concentratin’ (on You) (1931) Cop on the Beat, the Man in the Moon, and Me, The (1932) Crying Myself to Sleep (1930) Dance Hall Doll (1931) Did You Mean What You Said Last Night (1932) Do I Really Deserve It From You (1931) Does She Love Me? Positively-Absolutely (1927) Does She Love Me? Positively-Absolutely [Sophie Tucker] (1927) Don’t Get Collegiate (1929)

41 154 58 155 42 29 156 80 157 59 61 60 114 62 81 117 82 115 118 158 43 119 159 83 120 160 121 31 30 63

Ev’ry Day Away From You (1929) Ev’ry Time My Heart Beats (1932) Everybody Loves My Baby (1924) Everybody Loves My Girl (1927) F’r Instance (1930) Fifty-Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong (1927) Five Minutes to Twelve (1932) Fool Me Some More (1930) Garden in the Rain, A (1928) Get Out and Get Under the Moon (1928) Give Me Your Affection (Honey) (1931) Gone (1930) Good-Bye Blues (1932) Gosh Darn! (1932) Gotta Lotta Love for Someone (1930) Have You the Time (1929) Heigh-Ho! Ev’rybody, Heigh-Ho! (1929) Hello Bluebird (1926) Hello Gorgeous (1932) Here Comes My Ball and Chain (1929) Here We Are (1929) Here’s Hoping [Jacques D’Avrey] (1932) Here’s Hoping [Lanny Ross] (1932) Holding My Honey’s Hand (1932) How Deep Is the Ocean (1932) How Many Times? (1926) Hundred Years From Now, A (1928) I “Wanna” Sing About You (1931) I Beg Your Pardon Mademoiselle (1932) I Can’t Get Enough of You (1928) I Can’t Give You Anything but Love (1928) I Lost My Gal Again (1931) I Never Knew What the Moonlight Could Do (1926) I Want to Meander in the Meadow (1929) I Want You for Myself (1931)

64 161 10 32 84 33 162 85 44 45 122 86 163 164 87 65 66 17 165 67 68 166 167 168 169 18 46 124 170 47 48 123 19 69 125

I Wonder Who’s Under the Moon With You, To-Night (1931) I’d Climb the Highest Mountain If I Knew I’d Find You (1926) (I’m Cryin’ ’Cause I Know I’m) Losing You (1928) I’m For You a Hundred Per Cent (1931) I’m Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now (1927) I’m Sailing on a Sunbeam (1929) I’m Singing Your Love Songs to Somebody Else (1930) I’m Tickled Pink With a Blue Eyed Baby (1930) I’ve Gone Goofy Over Miniature Golf (I’ve Got the Words—I’ve Got the Tune) Hummin’ to Myself (1932) In the Gloaming by the Fireside [Arthur Tracy] (1931) In the Gloaming by the Fireside [Gus Arnheim] (1931) It’s a Million to One You’re in Love (1927) Just a Little Longer (1926) Just a Little While (1930) Just Another Day Wasted Away (1927) King for a Day (1928) Let’s Get Friendly (1931) Lies (1931) Little Bungalow, A (1925) Little Less of Moonlight (A Little More of You), A (1931) Love-Tale of Alsace Lorraine, A (1928) Me (1931) Me and My Shadow (1927) Moonbeam Kiss Her for Me (1927) Must It Be the End (1931) My Bluebird Was Caught in the Rain (1930) My Bluebird Was Caught in the Rain [Two Troupers] (1930) My Fate Is in Your Hands (1929) Night You Gave Me Back the Ring, The (1931) Nobody’s Gonna Keep Me Away From My Gal (1926) Oh Boy! How It Was Raining (1926) Oh How I Miss You To-Night (1924) Oh How She Could Play a Ukulele (1926) On a Night Like This (1925) On the Road to Rainbow Bay (1929) One I Love Just Said Good-Bye, The (1931) One Little Quarrel (1931) Peace of Mind (1929) Poor Papa (He’s Got Nothin’ at All) (1926) Prairie Skies (1930) Promises (1930) Reaching for the Moon (1930) Rollin’ Down the River (1930) ’Round Evening (1928) Running Between the Rain-Drops (1931) Sentimental Baby (1928) Sharing (1930) She’s a Very Good Friend of a Friend of a Friend of a Very Good Friend of Mine (1930)

126 20 49 127 34 70 88 89 90 171 128 129 35 21 91 36 50 130 131 12 132 51 133 37 38 134 93 92 71 135 22 23 11 24 13 72 136 137 73 25 94 95 96 97 52 138 53 98 99

Singing a Vagabond Song (1930) Sittin’ in the Movies (Holdin’ Your Hand) (1931) Snowflakes (1930) So That’s the Kind of Girl You Are (1925) Some Day (1926) Some Night When You’re Lonely (1928) Sorrows (1929) Spanish Doll (1929) Spell of the Blues, The (1928) Starlight (Help Me Find the One I Love) [Leon Belasco] (1931) Starlight (Help Me Find the One I Love) [Sid Garry] (1931) Stolen Moments (1930) Strangers (1931) Sugar (1931) Summer Nights Sweet and Hot (1930) Swingin’ in a Hammock (1930) Take Me (1930) Talkin’ to Myself (1928) Tell Me With a Love Song (1931) Telling It to the Daisies (But It Never Gets Back to You) (1930) Tell-Tales (1931) Thanks to You (1931) That’s a Good Girl (1926) Them There Eyes (1930) There’s a Time and Place for Everything (1931) Tie a Little String Around Your Finger (So You’ll Remember Me) (1930) To-Day, Tomorrow, Forever (1931) To-Night’s My Night With Baby (1926) Under the Mistletoe (1931) Until We Meet Again Sweetheart (1930) Waitin’ for the Moon (1925) We Love It (1928) We Only Love Once (1937) Wha’d Ja Do to Me? (1931) (What Do I Care What) Somebody Said (1927) What Does It Matter? (1927) What Have I Done? (1930) What She Says Goes (1929) When I Close My Eyes and Dream (1930) When You Come to the End of the Day (1929) When You Come to the End of Your Dreams (1929) Who’s Calling You Sweetheart To-Night (1930) Why Dance? (1931) (You Can’t Take Away) The Things That Were Made for Love (1929) You Don’t Need Glasses (To See I’m in Love) (1931) You’re Famous (1931) You’re the One I Care For (1930)

100 139 101 14 26 54 74 75 55 141 140 102 142 143 15 103 104 105 56 144 106 145 150 27 107 146 108 147 28 148 109 16 57 116 149 39 40 110 77 111 78 79 112 151 76 152 153 113



photos by WYATT DOYL


Words and Pictures and Music

$49.95 USD

“There were formulas, and artists followed them just like songwriters did. You know, moon, spoon, honeymoon…you put a palm tree in front of the moon, a starlit night…anything sentimental. I made it my business to be up on fashions, too, I tried to make the women on my covers up to date. Sometimes I exaggerated a lot, but Erté did, too!”