The suggestion that I write my autobiography was made at a time when anyone who did not write one risked being called eccentric. It became, and still is, a major sport among the oldsters. Some of the contemporary books are good reading indeed. One of the best of them is the result of an enormous research job, as is brought out in the introduction to the work. Imagine spending long hours and traveling many miles to find out about oneself: I am sure I would be one of the first to be utterly bored by the subject. It was not so easy, however, to dismiss the whole idea as my friends presented it.
The only answer I could think of with any degree of enthusiasm was this one, written purely for whatever pleasure it could give. My own part of the pleasure is mostly in utilizing the musical language of the concert band, with its apparently inexhaustible colors and its fabulous vitality.
The form (if the term has any right being here) is seven short pictures, each about two minutes long, of my own personal seven ages. The two-minute idea may be the result of the loudspeakers spread all over the hotel in Arizona where the piece was composed. There was no getting out of ear-shot of those two-minute gems - in the dining rooms, around the swimming pools, by the putting green, everywhere-but I honestly do not believe any of them crept into what I was writing. I do not believe I paid much more than passing attention to them.
I. 1894: Cherry Street
II. 1899: South Omaha
III. 1900: Corn, Cows and Music
The three of my seven ages in Part One took us to the legal end of my youth. Gathering up my unspectacular belongings, including my entire fortune of less than two hundred dollars, I swooped down on New York for no more reason than that it was New York and had a street in it called Broadway. The music borrows two or three rhythms from the era, but the only note-for-note quote is what the bugler at Camp Funston played every morning while we put on our shoes. Later, when we get to Paris, some of the cute old French tunes that everybody knows come tripping by. This is the full extent of actual musical quotes, at least conscious ones. As I laid down the pen on this I wondered how many musicians had done the same kind of autobiography, and I remembered being in London with one of the editors of Chappell and Company when Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby turned out "Three Little Words". I innocently said I wondered why that title had not been thought of before. My British friend said, "Funny you should ask that! I just looked it up in the index of songs copyrighted in the British Isles. There are fifty-three." - Robert Russell Bennett