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John Stromberg

Year of Induction: 2011
Origin: Milton, Prince Edward Island

Creative and whimsical, John ‘Honey’ Stromberg is probably best known for his work on Broadway and with the comedy team Weber and Fields.

Born in Milton, Prince Edward Island as John Alexander Stramberg, the young boy had music in his blood. His father, Nathaniel Phillip Stramberg, arranged music and was affiliated with the Galbraith’s Band, a Canadian regimental band. After studying music under both his father and a music professor, Stromberg moved to Nova Scotia to direct the River John Brass Band, and both the Pictou Choral Society and the Pictou Concert Band.

A creative spirit, Stromberg joined up with a group of travelling musicians as their pianist before moving to New York, where he eventually changed his name to Stromberg. It was in New York, in 1895, that Stromberg wrote his first hit My Best Girl’s a Corker, while working as an arranger for the music publisher, House of Witmark.

However, it was in 1896, that Stromberg was hired in one of his most prominent roles as a composer and conductor for the burlesque and variety shows of the comedy duo Weber and Fields. The shows were performed at the Weber and Fields Music Hall in New York City. Here, he worked with many popular composers and lyricists, including William T. Francis and Edgar Smith.

Some of the better known productions Stromberg worked on were ‘Helter- Skelter’ (1899); ‘Fiddle-Dee-Dee’ (1900-1); ‘Hoity-Toity’ (1901-2) and ‘Twirly-Whirly’ (1902-3). Some of Stromberg’s most well-known compositions include: Kiss Me, Honey, Do, which went to #1 in 1899; Say You Love Me, Sue; Ma Blushin’ Rosie; My Josephine; Come Down Ma Evenin’ Star; and The Pullman Porters’ Ball.

Sadly, Stromberg took his own life by ingesting paris green while in a state of insanity, on July 5th, 1902, in Freeport, Long Island, New York. At the time of his death he had just finished composing Come Down, Ma Evenin’ Star for Lillian Russell from the production, ‘Twirly-Whirly’. He delayed giving Lillian her solo for several days, saying it was not ready. When he committed suicide a few days before the first rehearsal, the sheet music for the song was found in his pocket. It became Lillian Russell’s signature song and is the only one she is known to have recorded.

Cover artists include: Henry Burr; Lillian Russell; Dan W. Quinn; Fay Templeton; Peter F. Dailey; H.S. Dudley; Arthur Collins; Mina Hickman; Albert Campbell; and Al Johnson.

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