Researcher Finds Sheet Music for Gershwin's First Musical

For nearly a century, the full 'La, La, Lucille' had been missing
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2024 7:45 PM CDT
Researcher Finds Sheet Music for Gershwin's First Musical
The original 1919 publication of "Tee-Oodle-Um-Bum-Bo" from "La, La, Lucille"   (University of Michigan)

Its resurrection may or may not get modern audiences humming "Tee-Oodle-Um-Bum-Bo," but the sheet music for George Gershwin's first full-length musical—missing for nearly a century—has been found. A University of Michigan researcher and musician came across the full orchestral score of La, La, Lucille while sifting through the Samuel French Collection at Amherst College, Hyperallergic reports. The show was first published in 1919 and last performed in 1926. It had not been heard from in full since and was presumed lost. Parts of the show had survived, but this find includes nearly everything, including the complete score and orchestration, meaning that La, La, Lucille can be performed again.

Michigan students have already performed several of the songs, including "From Now On" and "Somehow It Seldom Comes True," which can be heard here. But La, La, Lucille is not quite ready for its public. Jacob Kerzner, who dug out the sheet music from a box of about 800 pages, some of which were crumbling, said there's work to be done first; some songs are in multiple keys, for instance, while others are missing instrumentals. "It will eventually be our job to do our best to restore, report, or assess what to do with these small missing pieces," said Kerzner, of Michigan's Gershwin Initiative.

The musical centers on a married couple, John and Lucille Smith, dealing with an unexpected inheritance, a sham divorce, and other misadventures, per Smithsonian Magazine. Part of the excitement will be seeing and hearing songs "that we had only heard in piano form come to life," Kerzner said. Overall, he added, "It feels like Gershwin just beginning to learn what makes a hit song, and just beginning to play around with some of his adventurous harmonies and syncopated rhythms." One of the existing piano versions, the bouncy "Tee-Oodle-Um-Bum-Bo," can be heard here. (More George Gershwin stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.