The Alcoholic Blues

by Albert Von Tilzer and Edward Laska (1919, James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection)

Sheet music cover with an owl wearing a top hat sitting on top of a crescent moon.
The Alcoholic Blues (1919)

The song’s title suggests that it is a blues tune, but its sultry syncopated melody and stride bass line are musical characteristics more commonly associated with 1920s ragtime arrangements.  The Alcoholic Blues was Albert Von Tilzer and Edward Laska’s musical response to America’s Prohibition, and its melancholy lyrics reflect much of America’s post-World War I attitude toward the country’s 18th Amendment. 

“The Alcoholic Blues” from A Toast to Prohibition: All-American Songs of Temperance & Temptation by The Rose Ensemble. Released: 2014.

The chorus of How Dry I Am, another popular anti-prohibition song, is quoted in the instrumental interlude between the chorus and second verse of Tilzer and Laska’s song.  It was recorded by Billy Murray on the Victor label on January 27, 1919, and was released in April of that year.  The song’s chorus begins,

I’ve got the blues, I’ve got the blues,
I’ve got the alcoholic blues.
No more beer my heart to cheer;
Goodbye whiskey, you used to make me frisky.
So long high-ball, so long gin.
Oh, tell me when you comin’ back a-gin? 
Blues, I’ve got the blues
Since they amputated my booze.
Lordy, Lordy, War is well,
You know I don’t have to tell.
Oh, I’ve got the Alcoholic Blues.