Music, School of


Date of this Version



Lefferts, Peter M., 2017. WILL MARION COOK (1869-1944): SHOWS LIST and SONGS and INSTRUMENTAL NUMBERS. White paper, UNL DigitalCommons.


Copyright (c) 2017 Peter M. Lefferts.


The present material supplements my on-line document “Chronology and Itinerary of the Career of Will Marion Cook.” That put into some kind of order a number of biographical research notes, principally drawing upon newspaper and genealogy databases. It is one in a series ---“Chronology and Itinerary of the Career of”---devoted to a small number of African American musicians active ca. 1900-1950. In those other documents, compositions were interleaved with other kinds of references following a chronological sequence. Instead of doing the same for Cook, his shows and songs and instrumental numbers, spanning a creative career of almost a half century have been listed here in chronological order as a separate document. The reader is cautioned that this is not finished, polished work; it represents work in progress, complete with inconsistencies, repetitions, missing data, and the occasional typographical error. I invite queries, amplifications, and corrections, which may be directed to This is a first draft of October 2017.

Will Marion Cook (1869-1944) was a consummate man of the theatre---a composer, conductor, arranger, orchestrator, producer, director, librettist and lyricist. Crucial to understanding his creative musical stage career is that he mostly fashioned compilation scores, consisting of songs by others, together with original ensemble numbers by Cook, all of which he then developed at length, arranged, and orchestrated. In some cases, he contributed a few solo songs of his own composition, but in only a few instances (e.g., Clorindy (1898), The Southerners (1904), Darkeydom (1915) and probably a few other mini-musicals) did he write all of the songs for a musical show. Granting this overall picture, when a song title remains unidentified below in the list of songs associated with a given show, it may well be the work of Cook. In one of the great ironies of musical theatre studies in general, and the appreciation of Cook as a composer for the stage in particular, however, it is his ensemble and choral numbers that so often attracted the praise of commentators in his day, and these big, elaborate, extended numbers, with lyrics specific to a given show and thus mostly lacking an external market, were never published as sheet music and are now lost to us.