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The Melody Lingers On: Harry Woods

Harry Woods was born with no fingers on his left hand, yet he learned to play the piano. He also wrote hit song after hit song: I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover, When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful, Side By Side... He was a talented man with a terrible temper and a love for strong drink. Tony Thornton tells one of the most hilarious stories you ever heard about a musician.

Click on The Melody Lingers On in the contents column on this page to read more of Tony's delicious musical tales.

Have you heard the story about the one-armed juggler, or about the one-legged tap dancer? These are old gags of course, but it was no joke for one-handed piano player Harry Woods. He was born with no fingers on his left hand yet he learned to play the piano. His mother sat beside him and played the left hand while he played only the right. He eventually managed to thump out a two-note bass line so that he could play professionally.

Harry Woods began song writing in 1923, and in 1925 he wrote the bouncy Paddlin' Madelin' Home. The song that turned him into a full-time songwriter was When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along, recorded by Al Jolson in 1926, and which sold more than a million copies.

Side by Side (1927) was a tremendous hit when Paul Whiteman recorded it, and Kay Starr revived it in 1953 for another million-selling success. Harry Woods and lyricist Mort Dixon came up with I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover (1927) and River, Stay `Way from My Door (1931). In 1936 he wrote his famous song When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful for Fats Waller, but his most enduring song is best introduced in this extraordinary story told about him.

Harry had a terrible temper and a love for strong drink. He once got into an argument with a customer in one of the clubs he was playing in. This developed into a fight so the bartender called the police. When they arrived they found that Harry Woods had his man on the floor. He was holding him by the throat with his good hand and was belting him in the face with the stump of his other.

As the police pulled them apart, a woman came through the front door and on seeing the bloody mess cried. "Who is that horrible man?"
Harry Woods' friend, sitting at the bar, replied smugly, "That's Harry Woods. He wrote Try A Little Tenderness."


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