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Everything Old is New Again… “An Historical Buffalo Song Comes Back to Life a Century Later”

Imagine if Nietzsche’s had been around in 1907 – the venue would have certainly featured the headliner composer, singer, and rollicking piano-man who owned the building four doors to its east on Allen Street.
At 230 Allen Street there still stands today a three-story stone building (photo) that, back in 1907, was the Record Theater of its day. Dewitt T. Bell ran a music store there on the first floor’s double storefront. The second floor held his presses for printing the music. And the third floor was where he lived, and composed much of the music he published and sold. He was, essentially, a one-man music factory.
In 1907 Bell was selected to compose the official Buffalo Old Home Week song: “Back to Buffalo, Old Home Week, Buffalo, New York.”
It was on a September day that year that Johnny Doyle left his family-owned pub in South Buffalo and took his daughter, Cornelia (my grandmother), in their horse and buggy into Allentown to buy some sheet music – and they selected the nostalgic song.
One hundred years later, this solely existing (so far) piece of music is a lively, rambunctious delight. BRO viewers might remember when we revived it for Mayor Brown and others at last year’s Buffalo Old Home Week. The song rings with the same tribute to the Spirit of Buffalo today as it did a century ago.
It was the hope of the Buffalo Old Home Week 2007 (July 1-8, 2007 * committee that we could create something special in reviving this historical piece of music for this year’s centennial commemoration and celebration.
The best idea that has surfaced so far has been to engage Buffalo’s ‘homegrown musical best’… to recreate (in their inimitable styles) a CD that produced various versions of the song.
Imagine if we could enlist some of Buffalo’s best — say, Lance Diamond, Ani DiFranco, the Goo Goo Dolls, and more — and maybe a youth chorus and an adult one as well?
The original sheet music cost 75 cents back in the day – an amount worth a week’s lunches. The committee figures that we’ll add a zero and charge $7.50 (plus shipping) this time, and include a reprint of the original sheet music.
We can’t say exactly who will be on the CD at this early date, but we’ll have it completed well before the July 1 Grand Opening of BOHW 2007 events at the Central Terminal.
You can help enormously to defray the costs of production by pre-ordering your copies now. Simply go to to place your order online, or write a check for the number of copies times $10 each ($7.50 plus $2.50 postage/handling) and send to BOHW “CD”, 225 Summer Street, Buffalo, NY 14222 (be sure to include your return address!).
Wish us luck — this is going to be fun!

Written by George Johnson

George Johnson

Buffalo Rising Co-Founder. Designer (Product, Graphic, Motion). Geek.

View All Articles by George Johnson
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