Geoffrey O’Hara, composer, singer and lecturer (1882-1967)
‘Geoffrey O’Hara’ was a Canadian American composer, singer and music professor.
O’Hara was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. He initially planned a military career. O’Hara entered the prestigious Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario at age 18 and he trained with the 1st Hussars. He had to abandon his military career upon the death of his father, Robert O’Hara.
He moved to the USA in 1904, the same year he began performing in Vaudeville. He began recording for Edison Records in 1905. In 1913 O’Hara undertook the recording of traditional Indian songs on behalf of the American government.
During World War I he was a singing instructor of patriotic songs for American troops. In 1919 he married Constance Dougherty from Massachusetts, and together they had two children; the same year, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
O’Hara lectured on music and songwriting, and held positions at Teachers’ College of Columbia University (1936-37), Huron College and the University of South Dakota, where he later received and honorary Doctor of Music degree in 1947. He lectured for the remainder of his life. In 1920 O’Hara helped organize The Composers’ and Lyric Writers’ Protective League. He also was a board member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), was the president of the Composers-Authors Guild, and served in the United Service Organizations (USO).
O’Hara composed over 500 popular and patriotic songs, and hymns. He had some moderate popular music hits in the 1910s with songs such as ”Your Eyes Have Told Me What I Did Not Know” (1913) and ”Tennessee, I Hear You Calling Me” (1914) and one huge hit with his song K-K-K-Katy (1918), one of the most popular tunes of the World War I era.
Reference: ”Popular American recording pioneers, 1895-1925” (2000)
From Larry Bryant’s collection of Edison Amberol Cylinder recordings is this selection of one of the most popular songs during World War I, K-K-K-Katy, written in by Geoffrey O’Hara (From here, Chatham Ontario) and sung by Billy Murray for Edison Records.
If video does not appear, watch it here.
Below Notes from here.
Born in 1882. A well known Chatham native back in the early 1900’s was a song writer who wrote over 300 songs, and one well known one was “K-K-K-Katy my Beautiful K-K-Katy” sung in the trenches of world war one. He wrote some religious tunes of which “I walked Today Where Jesus Walked” and “Prayer For Peace“. O’Hara was credited with creating “Tin Pan Alley” the stage production.
His school years in Chatham were at McKeough Public School, where he had many leading rolls in the musicals. He was a choir boy at the Holy Trinity Church, graduated from the Chatham Collegiate Institute (CCI) in music. He left the city to further his career, and went on to teach music and song writing at University of South Dakota and the Columbia University. O’Hara appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show several times. He passed away in 1967.
More Notes: According to the entry for him in the online Encyclopedia of Music in Canada he joined Lew Dockstader’s Minstrels and went on to sing light opera as a baritone at Daly’s Theater in New York. Later O’Hara travelled the Lyceum and Chautauqua vaudeville circuits as a singer, lecturer, and community song leader. Apparently, he wrote two of his hit songs – “Give a Man a Horse He Can Ride” (1917) and “K-K-K-Katy” (1918) – while he was visiting in Kingston, Ontario.