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Archives Hidden Gems

March 15, 2023

Check back regularly for new hidden gems found in the Songbook Library & Archives! 



Have you ever loved a song with every bone in your body?

The Songbook Library & Archives exist to preserve cultural materials that have enduring value to the history of American popular music. Among the holdings are bootlegged copies of jazz and pop recordings that were etched into discarded X-ray film for underground sharing among music fans in the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, when Western music was illegal. 




By donating to the Great American Songbook Foundation, you help to preserve these and other rare artifacts of music history, providing inspiration for future generations. 





Bones, Bootleggers, and Forbidden Music

The Richard W. Judy Bone Records Collection presented by Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics is one of the most unique collections housed in the Songbook Library & Archives. In 1958, Richard Judy (an American student at the time) joined one of the first international exchange programs with Moscow State University. Judy was fascinated by these “bone records” and bought a number of them during his time in the USSR. He and his wife, Jane M. Lommel, generously donated his collection to the Great American Songbook Foundation in 2013.


The collection includes 18 recordings of songs such as "Begin the Beguine" and "Rock Around the Clock". Though the X-ray film is cut into discs – with a cigarette used to burn a spindle hole in the center – the ghostly images of ribs and other bones are still clearly visible.



This audio recording of The Andrews Sisters singing "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" is a digitized sample from the collection.


"The fact that people would go to those lengths to listen to something that at that time we would have taken for granted is very touching. It's also very courageous."

- Michael Feinstein, Founder


Fun fact: This promotional photo of The Andrews Sisters is from the Robert Boyer Collection, a collection of photos, recordings, posters, letters, and publicity material documenting the careers of The Andrews Sisters, also housed in the Songbook Library & Archives. 



Lost Songs from Meredith Willson's The Music Man

The Meredith Willson Papers, which came to the Songbook Foundation through the Music Man Foundation, feature materials related to Willson's four musicals (including several early drafts of The Music Man); 40+ scrapbooks, journals, scripts; correspondence with Mamie and Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan; photos; recordings; film; and video.


Among the early drafts of The Music Man are several "lost songs" that were cut from the show throughout the writing process or after the show's tryout in Philadelphia. 

What a researcher had to say:

"It was wonderful to see the songs for the first time. I particularly remember coming across the song "The Think System", which is a cut number for the Mayor to sing to the townspeople when he has discovered that Harold Hill is a fraud. The Mayor wants them to rise against Hill but because the Mayor isn't very bright, he keeps getting his metaphors mixed and the song keeps breaking down." - Professor Dominic Broomfield-McHugh, University of Sheffield, U.K.



Read more about Broomfield-McHugh's research in the Songbook Library & Archives.


Meredith Willson was inducted into the Songbook Hall of Fame in the Fall of 2020.