Re: [EliteSyncopations] Female ragtime composer, Lily Coffee
- Keith and Bill, what a fascinating biography! Although I got into
ragtime for the music, the stories of its creators are often just as
interesting -- even for such minor composers. Thanks for posting this!
On Jun 30, 2009, at 11:09 PM, keith2draw wrote:
> Hi all,
> Perfessor Bill asked me to help him look up a few facts on some of
> his wonderful biographies (actually I asked him), and I decided to
> tackle Lily Coffee, in which he needed a day of death. So I started
> this morning on her and as often happens now with the far reaching
> internet, a number of connections fell in place and I came up with
> oodles of facts about her. Following is a brief sketch of her life,
> building around Bill's known facts:
- Bonnie points out that "Lily Dale" was made into a Hallmark movie. Read the following synopsis and tell me this isn't Lily Coffee's story to a 'T.'
"The story takes place in 1910, texas. 19-year-old Horace Robedaux is invited by his mother (Corella Davenport) to visit her and his little sister (Lily Dale) in Houston. Horace's father died of alcoholism when he was 12 and Corella has been married to a railroad worker (Pete Davenport) for seven years. Pete let Corella bring along Lily Dale but refused to accept Horrace. Tension built up between Pete and Horace as Pete's trip to Atlanta cut short and Horace was seriously ill when he got there.
Horace is of course Albert Jr...Pete Davenport is Peter Cleveland...the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
I don't necessarily want to see this movie, but I'm ordering the book/play for insight into Lily's life.
- Hi all.
Indeed, Keith asked if he could take up some research slack for me as I get closer to publication, since we both love the thrill of the chase, especially of the unknown. With the information he gathered on Lilyan I was able to run with it and fill in a few more details which now makes for a more engaging biography of the Coffee/Foote family. Ragtime is by no means boring.
I also found the Hallmark movie Lily Dale in my research (Foote won Oscars for two of his screenplays, but this one appears to have been widely panned). It does make me wonder, however, if the composer bore any resemblance to Mary Stuart Masterson, who played her in the pseudo bio-pic.
Still trying to pin down some other details in tandem with Keith.
Please note, as I'm not sure he has, that Keith's site of many years now, hulapages.com, is of great interest in and beyond ragtime. It focuses on sheet music that is Hawaiian-centric, and you'd be surprised at some of the composers you might find represented there, since Hawaiian music was quite the craze once we dumped the Sandwich Islands name and started using the native language. Give it a shot.
The expanded and improved Coffee bio is on:
Thanks to Keith and others who have written off line with further support on recent additions.
In my usually pickiness on birth date variants, and trying to find the best possible source, I have the same problem with Miss Lily (that sounds soooooo Suthun, duzzn't it?). Even though the 1900 Census reports a June 1892 date for her, that is word of mouth, likely from her grandparents as she was in school and her mother may have been working or elsewhere at the time. Given the number of aberrations on that record, misspellings and mis-attributions, I tend to look at it with a skewed eye.
I maintain that the birth date I have posted for her, 26 October 1891 (a difference of 9 months, curiously) is more accurate, given that it was reported in the Texas registry I had received information from a couple of years ago, and it is also the official SSN date. Since a birth certificate has long been required to obtain an SSN, I will tend to trust that date even further. That is the main variance between what was reported by Keith and myself, but as you know from the past on this forum I will tend to trust death certificates, birth certificates, passport applications and draft records much more than Census birth dates (which are sadly often all that is available), so I stand by this one.
All due respect is intended, of course.
Finest, Bill E.
- Hi Bill,
I'm sure the date of birth you have is correct...you have to remember I threw this bio together in about half a day...so there will no doubt be some details needing 'polishing.'
Anyway, I discovered that in another one of Horton Foote's plays, "A Young Man From Atlanta," our Lily Dale is again a central character. The story deals with Lily and her husband Will coming to grips with the unexpected drowning death of their 37-year-old son in a Florida Lake.
If this work of fiction borrows from reality, as Foote's other plays seem to do, then we can assume that Lily's son died in or around the 1950s, and indeed, after a quick check of the Florida Death Index, there is a record of a 1947 death of a William B. Coffee, Jr. in Hillsborough County.
This is turning into quite the dramatic ragtime biography.
- --- In EliteSyncopations@yahoogroups.com, "keith2draw" <keith2draw@...> wrote:
> Hi Bill,
> I'm sure the date of birth you have is correct...you have to remember I threw this bio together in about half a day...so there will no doubt be some details needing 'polishing.'
Just a statement behind my rationale, not a criticism by any means. I often put out bios in around 80% shape just to gather more info. I've only really missed on the correct person one time (Charles Cohen(s)), so I know the process works well, and the little snippets I find often point me to the other 20% of the missing DNA I'm looking for.
I also found William B. Coffee Jr. in Florida, and am pretty sure it's the same guy, but wasn't sure how much that added to the story. That his cousin wrote a story using him perhaps means something more, and perhaps not. Note that the following year another William Coffee died in the same county, although he was black. Still, what are the odds?
It has been said that to be a good write you write what you know. I'm just glad I never met the guy who wrote Transformers 2 or Clockwork Orange, since I'm not sure I want to know what THEY know.
My search for photos online has pretty much brickwalled, but hopefully something will come from the Foote side of the family as they assemble his life story this year.