Old Cartons Yield Trove of Lost Music : Unpublished Songs of Gershwin, Kern, Others Discovered

Associated Press

An inventory of music found stashed in a warehouse has revealed unpublished songs by George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers and others, some handwritten by the composers, a musicologist said.

“It’s like finding a Stephen Foster song, or a Walt Whitman poem,” said Robert Kimball, who oversaw the inventory.

Among the manuscripts identified in the Warner Bros. warehouse in Secaucus, N.J., were Kern’s handwritten copies of “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” Kimball said.


With the advent of sound films in the 1920s, Warner Bros. bought several music publishing houses, acquiring the material that was shunted from various offices and warehouses before ending up in Secaucus, he said.

80 Cartons Found in ’82

The 80 cartons were discovered in 1982, but remained largely uninventoried. They were soon moved to a vault in Manhattan. Since 1985, a team of music theater scholars led by Kimball has pored over the material.

Kimball said the project was delayed three years while Warner Bros. sorted through legal claims to the material.

“Manuscripts turn up from time to time, but this was surprising, considering the magnitude and importance of this find,” said Kimball.

A 178-page inventory lists about 70 Gershwin songs that had been forgotten over the years, as well as missing original scores and parts to his musicals “Primrose,” “Tip-Toes” and “Pardon My English,” Kimball said.

175 Songs by Kern

More than 175 unpublished Kern songs and a half-hour of music dropped from “Show Boat” after previews also were discovered.


“The first envelope I opened, which had ‘Cole Porter’ written on it, had songs I’d never heard of--and I’m a Cole Porter scholar and biographer,” said Kimball. “I sat there quite stunned. As we went on, we were more and more stunned.”

The Kern material was especially cherished by the historians, Kimball said.

“All of a sudden we have a lot of Kern’s manuscripts, which until now were as scarce as hen’s teeth,” said H. Wiley Hitchcock, founding director of the Institute for Studies in American Music at Brooklyn College and co-editor of the New Grove Dictionary of American Music. “Lots of dark closets suddenly opened.”