Our Iowa Heritage Index: Meredith Willson – Iowa’s Music Man.

As you can see, our growing website Our Iowa Heritage covers a lot of time (pre-1800 to the present) and a lot of people. We’ve written about famous people and the not-so-famous ones as well. Yet, despite a person’s prominence (or lack of it), everybody has a story. And as you read our posts, you’ll hopefully discover that everyone’s story is a good one. So, in order to better find these good stories and details surrounding them, we’ve added this INDEX of HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS to help you along the way. Enjoy your journey.

Our Iowa Heritage: An Introduction. We might suggest you start here! Here’s how & why I got started collecting stamps, coins, and other Iowa memorabilia.

Iowa’s Own Music Man – Meredith Willson. No list of famous Iowans can be complete without a big 76-trombone tribute to my very favorite – Meredith Willson of Mason City – better known to the world as Iowa’s Music Man. In 1957, his first Broadway show opened – becoming an overnight sensation – winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and running for 1,375 performances.

Meredith Willson – The 1940’s Pop Songwriter. Long before Meredith Willson became known for The Music Man, he was writing pop songs that were being recorded by all the big-name stars of Hollywood. Take a brief glimpse and an enjoyable listen to three of Meredith’s top radio hits from the early 1940’s – You And I, Two In Love, and his first salute to his home state – Iowa.

The Big Show – Meredith Willson’s Big Stage. In the fall of 1950, NBC-Radio debuted The Big Show – a high-budget, star-studded variety show designed to stop the public’s infatuation with the latest innovation in home entertainment – the television. While the effort failed to save radio, the show produced an abundance of amazing moments, including the debut performances of Meredith Willson’s classics: May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You, and The Iowa Fight Song.

May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You. In November of 1950, The Big Show on NBC-Radio introduced Meredith Willson’s song of blessing in its closing segment. Within weeks, America had a new favorite song – one that has shown amazing staying power even to today.

Meredith Willson & The Iowa Hawkeyes. Everybody knows that Iowa’s Music Man – Meredith Willson – made it big on Broadway, but fewer know that he loved the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, writing The Iowa Fight Song in 1950 and directing The Hawkeye Marching Band on numerous occasions – including the 1957, 1959 & 1982 Rose Bowls.

PBS-Iowa – The History of the Iowa Fight Song. If you’re a Hawkeye fan – you know what happens when you hear a cymbal crash. What’s the word? Fight. Fight. Fight. Back in December of 1950, Iowa’s Music Man – Meredith Willson introduced his new Iowa Fight Song on national radio. All these years later, it still serves as one of our favorite songs in Iowa City! Watch the Iowa-PBS video story here.

NBC’s Chime Master – Iowa’s Meredith Willson. In 1951, NBC celebrated its 25th anniversary, and in order to commemorate the special occasion, NBC-Radio executives asked their employee and long-time musical director – Iowa’s own Meredith Willson – to write a special song that paid tribute to NBC’s famed three-note trademark. By October, Willson had his tune – Three Chimes of Silver – written and recorded by a popular quartet of the day – The Mellomen – and the song debuted on NBC-Radio’s last big hurrah – The Big Show.

It’s Beginning To Look Like A Meredith Willson Christmas. 1951 was a big year for Iowa’s Music Man Meredith Willson with several of his songs finding big success across America. In September, Perry Como released a new Meredith Willson Christmas song which quickly hit the charts and has remained a Yule-time classic even to today.

My Meredith Willson – Music Man Story. I owe a big thank you to Meredith Willson and his best-known work – The Music Man. When the movie version appeared in 1962 – I was enthralled with this Iowa love story – choosing music as my primary passion when entering high school and college in Iowa City.

Meredith Willson …And Then I Wrote The Music Man. In 1959, Capitol Records released a LP record album that corresponded with Meredith Willson’s latest biographical book – But He Doesn’t Know The Territory. Tied in, as well, with a 20-city tour, this record features both Meredith and his wife Rini as they recreate their two-person presentation used in finding a Broadway producer for The Music Man back in 1956. Here, you can listen to the entire album and get a wonderful first-hand listen to Willson – Iowa’s Music Man, and how he originally envisioned this Broadway classic.

Till There Was Meredith Willson. Did you know that the classic love song – Till There Was You – from The Music Man was written seven years before first appearing on the Broadway stage in 1957? Meredith Willson wrote numerous pop songs in the early 50’s and while Till There Was You flopped in 1950, it’s reappearance stirred many different recording artists to include it on their hit albums – from Chet Atkins to Ray Charles to, yes, even Paul McCartney and The Beatles!

The Music Man On Broadway – 2022. Sandy & I were honored to be a part of the first NYC tour group representing Meredith Willson’s hometown – Mason City – and the Hawkeye State at the newest Broadway revival of The Music Man – starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.

Meredith Willson Marches On To Iowa-PBS. After two decades of discussion, Iowa-PBS finally gave the go-ahead to film a one-hour television special dedicated to Meredith Willson – America’s Music Man. Debuting in February 2023, Our Iowa Heritage was honored to offer a little contribution to the program, and yes, we are certainly proud to play a small part in such a beautiful production that honors Iowa’s best-known musical hero!

Meredith Willson – Want To Go Deeper? People often ask me how they can access more resources surrounding the amazing musical career of Meredith Willson. Sadly, many of Meredith’s autobiographical books are no longer in print, but if you do a bit of searching you can find a used copy at reasonable prices. Check out my ideas to start your own Meredith Willson library.

Kudos to Tyler Brinegar, Senior Producer & Director at Iowa PBS – who used one of our rare B&W photos in his February 2023 Iowa PBS production on Iowa’s very own Meredith Willson. Click here for more!

Looking for more resources on Meredith Willson? Check out our suggestions here.

Click here to go to the next section of our INDEX…

Click here to go to the MASTER INDEX…