Hughie Cannon Author of “Frankie and Johnny”
Another of the author’s long-lasting hits is Frankie and Johnny, published in 1904. Cannon wrote the featured song ‘I love the Two Steps (With my Man)’ for the New York show ‘Mrs. Black in Back’, which opened in 1904 and ran for 79 performances. Mrs. Black was played by May Irwin, who also appeared in one of Thomas Edison’s earliest productions, “The Kiss. ” Cannon also wrote music for “A Venetian Romance” at the Knickerbocker Theater. Cannon was buried in Connellsville, Pa. , where his mother lived.
His mother, May Cannon Robbins, had been in show business and had played the role of “Little Trixie” in a production that toured the nation for several years in the late 1800s. By the time her son became a well-known composer she was managing a theater in Connellsville with the help of her third husband Fred Robbins. Not much is known about his the composer’s father, John Cannon. Not long before his death, Cannon told a Detroit newspaper that he sold off the rights to most of his songs. In a letter to his mother he lamented “the songs I once had. He told the same newspaper that while he also used drugs, it was alcohol that was the hardest to kick. A brief marriage to Emma Dorsam ended in divorce, and he died penniless. Cannon’s other songs include “For Lawdy Sakes, Feed My Dog,” “I Hates To Get Up Early In The Morning”, “Possum Pie”, “Just Because She Made Dem Goo-Goo Eyes” and “You Needn’t Come Home. ” Musicologist Peter Muir remarked that “You Needn’t Come Home” was “truly remarkable for 1901” for its unusual use of 12-bar arrangements for both chorus and verse. “In terms of popular songs at the turn of the century, the enterprise, to the best of my knowledge, is quite unique.
Thornton Hagert (founder of Vernacular Music Research), in 1971, noted Cannon’s use of a 12-bar structure. “A few” of Cannon’s better known songs, Hagert found, “are very close to the classic blues structure. ” Two years after “Bill Bailey” swept the nation, Cannon composed a tune called “He Done Me Wrong. ” This “death of Bill Bailey” tune is sad, Muir noting “a powerful ambivalence often found in the blues. Muir argued that Cannon’s “music represents in its way the birth of commercial blues in American culture. Cannon died at the age of 35 at the Lucas County, Ohio, Infirmary. The official cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver.