This collection consists of one manuscript box containing 22 folders. Materials include papers, manuscripts, published music, photographs, and recordings.
Composer Louis Alter was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts on June 18, 1902. At the age of 13, he began playing the piano in local movie houses for silent pictures and shortly after enrolled at the New England Conservatory under the tutelage of Stuart Mason.
From 1924 through 1928, Alter was the accompanist and touring partner to entertainer Nora Bayes. In 1928, he began composing and had his first hit with “Manhattan Serenade”, originally an instrumental that would later become the theme song for Easy Aces Radio Show in the 1930’s. The song would have another incarnation in 1942 when Harold Adamson would add a lyric.
Alter moved to Hollywood in 1929 and continued accompanying various singers including Irene Bordoni, Helen Morgan and Beatrice Lillie. He also wrote music for a few Broadway musicals and for several film scores. For Broadway, Alter contributed songs to such hits as Ballyhoo, Earl Carroll’s Vanities of 1925 and 1928 Americana, Sweet and Low, Crazy Quilt and Hold Your Horses.
His filmography includes Hollywood Revue, Rainbow on the River, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Sing, Baby, Sing, Make a Wish, Las Vegas Nights and New Orleans.
In 1941, Alter entered World War II in the US Air Force, entertaining troops throughout the air bases. He also played as a piano soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing at the Hollywood Bowl.
Throughout his career, Alter collaborated with several lyricists including Joe Goodwin, Jo Trent, Sidney Mitchell, Edward Heyman, Frank Loesser, Paul Francis Webster, Eddie Delange, Harold Adamson, Ray Klages, Bob Russell, Milton Drake, Oscar Hammerstein II, Lew Brown and Stanley Adams.
Highlights from Alter’s popular catalog include “The Sky Fell Down”, “Blue Shadows”, “My Kinda Love”, “Overnight”, “I’m One of God’s Children”, “I Was Taken by Storm”, “I’ve Got Sand in My Shoes”, “Rainbow on the River”,” “Twilight on the Trail”, “A Melody from the Sky”, “You Turned the Tables on Me”, “Dolores”, “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?”, “Circus”, “Nina Never Knew” and “My Ecstasy”.
Alter also wrote several instrumentals and full orchestral works including “Manhattan Moonlight”, “Manhattan Masquerade”, “Metropolitan Nocturne”, “Side Street in Gotham”, “American Serenade” and “Jewels from Cartier”.
Louis Alter died in New York City in 1980.
Source: Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. (Accessed 5 November 2012) https://www.songhall.org/profile/Louis_Alter
In 1979, the majority of this collection was informally donated to the Spaulding Library at NEC. Gerry Ostrove, then Director of Libraries, accepted the gift. The music manuscript parts for “Dolores” were later added to the collection on July 20, 1981, as evidenced by a note from Eleanor Morrisey to Gerry Ostrove.
Access to the Louis Alter Papers is arranged by making an appointment with the NEC Archivist. There are no restrictions pertaining to this collection.
Please contact the NEC Archivist for permissions to publish any material from the collection. Citation should read: NECA 18.1a, Louis Alter Papers, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.
Scope and Content
The Louis Alter Papers (1) which date from 1924-1975 are organized into the following six series:
The correspondence series consists of one folder containing only 2 letters: one from Bing Crosby and one from conductor Andre Kostelanetz. The Biographical materials series consists primarily of newspaper articles, flyers, and advertisements about Alter. The Photographs are organized into seven subseries. The first subseries, autographed photos, is the largest and includes autographed photos of Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Irving Berlin, and Perry Como. The other photograph subseries are: Award Photos, Event Photos, Film Photos, Music-related Photos, Travel Photos and Miscellaneous photos. For a detailed list of photographs, click here. Also included with the photos is a poster that says on the front National Music Theater presents a champagne Autograph Gala which apparently was given in honor of Alter. On the back of the poster are descriptions of several of the posters in the collection, in chronological order.
The Music manuscripts folders contain the orchestral parts for Alter’s song ‘Dolores’
There are seven folders containing published music by Louis Alter. Each piece is autographed by Alter and they are organized alphabetically by title. For a complete list of published music in this collection, click here.
The last series consists of three recordings. The first is a 45 rpm record entitled Manhattan Serenade which includes the songs: “Manhattan Masquerade,” “New York Nocturne,” “Manhattan Moonlight,” and “Penthouse Serenade.” The next recording is a 33 1/3 rpm album entitled Album of Manhattan: Metropolitan Impressions by Louis Alter. This recording includes “Manhattan Serenade,” “Manhattan Moonlight,” “Metropolitan Nocturne,” “Manhattan Masquerade,” and “Side Street in Gotham.” The last recording is a 78rpm entitled Jewels from Cartier: Gem Portraits by Louis Alter. Selections include “Emerald Eyes,” “The Ruby and the Rose,” “Pearl of the Orient,” “Topaz Tango, ”Black Pearl of Tahiti,” “Diamond Earrings,” “Star Sapphire,” “Turquoise Blue,” “Cat’s Eye in the Night,” and “Lady of Jade.”
Series 1: Correspondence
Folder 1 – Correspondence
Series 2: Biographical materials
Folder 2 – Biographical materials
Series 3: Photographs
Folder 3 – Photographs, Autographed
Folder 4 – Photographs, Awards
Folder 5 – Photograph, Events
Folder 6 – Photographs, Films
Folder 7 – Photographs, Music-related
Folder 8 – Photographs, Travel
Folder 9 – Photographs, Miscellaneous
Series 4: Music Manuscripts
Folder 10 – “Dolores,” 1st and 2nd violins
Folder 11 – “Dolores,” Viola, Cello, and Contrabass
Folder 12 – “Dolores,” Brass
Folder 13 – “Dolores,” Woodwinds
Folder 14 – “Dolores,” Percussion, Harp, and Celesta
Series 5: Published music
Folder 15 – Published music, B-C
Folder 16 – Published music, D-G
Folder 17 – Published music, I-L
Folder 18 – Published music, M
Folder 19 – Published music, N-R
Folder 20 – Published music, S
Folder 21 – Published music, T-Y
Series 6: Recordings
Folder 22 - Recordings