A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 30, 2021
Trunk Song

Broadway composers usually have “trunk songs”—songs that were cut from a musical, but are saved (perhaps in a trunk) to be used in another musical, or to be re-written and used in another form for another purpose. A composer’s good work is usually not thrown away.

Famous “trunk songs” include Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” (originally written for World War I in 1917, but re-written in 1938) and Jule Styne’s “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (originally written for the musical High Button Shoes in 1947, but with lyrics re-written for the musical Gypsy in 1959).

“In 1938, when the song writer (Irving Berlin—ed.) was in London with the ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ picture, the appeasement of Munich was on. This event turned his thought again to patriotic songs, and he remembered ‘God Bless America.’ He dug it out of the trunk when he got home” was printed in the Daily News (New York, NY) on July 28, 1940. “Tune Recently Dug Out of Trunk for Kate Smith Program” was printed in the Sioux City (IA) Sunday Journal on August 11, 1940.

Jule Styne talked about “The Trunk” in the Miami (FL) Herald on February 5, 1962. “Jerry Bock, the composer of ‘Fiddler on the Roof, carried all of his ‘trunk-songs’ in a briefcase stolen from him last week” was printed in The Morning Call (Paterson, NJ) on August 13, 1964. “Most of the original TV musicals written by Broadway composers seem to have scores made up of what one observer tagged ‘trunk songs.’ A ‘trunk song’ is defined as a ditty the musician wrote when he was starving, was unable to get published and then stored it away in his closet on the assumption he’d be able to sell anything if he became famous” was printed in The Morning Call (Allentown, PA) on October 5, 1966.


Newspapers.com
28 July 1940, Daily News (New York, NY), “Being a Show Husband Is No Joke” by Burns Mantle, pg. 58, col. 1:
“God Bless America,” it was recently related in a Berlin tribute in Variety, was written originally for a soldier revue in 1917, when Berlin was in training at Camp Yaphank and writing shows for Broadway soldier benefits to help recruiting. It was crowded out of one called “Yip, Yip Yaphank!” and went back into the Berlin trunk.

In 1938, when the song writer was in London with the “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” picture, the appeasement of Munich was on. This event turned his thought again to patriotic songs, and he remembered “God Bless America.” He dug it out of the trunk when he got home. One or two lines were changed. What had been :Make her victorious on land and foam” became “from the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam,” and Kate Smith got “God Bless America: for a trial.

Newspapers.com
11 August 1940, Sioux City (IA) Sunday Journal, pg. A-3, col. 2:
Song, God Bless America, Was Written
for Show in War Camp 22 Years Ago

MAY SHATTER
SALES RECORD
Tune Recently Dug Out
of Trunk for Kate
Smith Program


Newspapers.com
5 February 1962, Miami (FL) Herald, “Meet Jule Styne: A Lively Legend” by Helen Van Hoy Smith, sec. E, pg. 1, col. 2:
“Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” was written 11 years before Ethel Merman sang it in “Gypsy.”

Which brought up the subject of “The Trunk.”

Every composer, he declares, has a trunk. It’s his most valuable possession. So a song is written. It doesn’t get used. It goes into the trunk. Those songs in that trunk are like money in the bank.

Newspapers.com
12 August 1964, The Morning Call (Paterson, NJ), “The Lyons Den” with Leonard Lyons, pg. 5, col. 4:
Jerry Bock, the composer of “Fiddler on the Roof,” carried all of his “trunk-songs” in a briefcase stolen from him last week. He was taking the songs to the out-of-town tryouts.

Newspapers.com
5 October 1966, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), “TV Keynotes: He’s Never Satisfied” by Harvey Pack, pg. 50, col. 4:
‘Trunk’ Songs
Most of the original TV musicals written by Broadway composers seem to have scores made up of what one observer tagged “trunk songs.” A “trunk song” is defined as a ditty the musician wrote when he was starving, was unable to get published and then stored it away in his closet on the assumption he’d be able to sell anything if he became famous.

Newspapers.com
15 January 1980. Daily News (New York, NY), “Richard Rodgers: final note” by Douglas Watt, pg. 20, col. 2:
(Richard—ed.) Rodgers was unique in another sense, one beyond his immense productivity over a record number of Broadway shows, and that lay in the fact that unlike the others, he left no “trunk” songs, leftovers to be exhumed.

Google Books
The Best Plays of 1980-1981
Edited by Otis L. Guernsey
New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Co.
1981
Pg. 30:
Another of the off-Broadway year’s musical attractions was Marry Me a Little, a bundle of Stephen Sondheim trunk songs (written for shows but dropped in production, often for reasons other than quality) and numbers from Saturday Night, which never reached the New York stage.

Google Books
As Thousands Cheer:
The Life Of Irving Berlin

By Laurence Bergreen
New York, NY: Viking
1990
Pg. 47:
Even Berlin’s frequent misfires possessed some residual value. In Tin Pan Alley parlance, they were trunk songs: songs to be saved for the future. And even if they were not resurrected, they could still yield useful bits and pieces for new songs.

Twitter
Mimi Heart
@mimiheart9
Replying to @ceebeegeebees
@notshelving640s But everyone knows the songs from Chess. Trunk songs are songs that composers cut and plan on using in other shows.
6:38 PM · Aug 29, 2011·Twitter for Mac

Twitter
Adam Lenson
@AdamLenson
Replying to @AdamLenson and @paulmoylan
I would also posit that musical theatre trunk songs are different to unused pop songs.
8:55 AM · Sep 24, 2019·Twitter for Android

Twitter
TheDiva
@MusicalHell
Replying to @MusicalHell
That’s what a “trunk song” is--an earlier-written piece that gets repurposed for a future score. Or for future cabaret performers.
7:02 PM · Dec 14, 2020·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Diane Keaton’s Stylist
@brayet
Replying to @akakarenwilson
I know the trunk song is common but it does bum me out when composers are like “these songs from a musical about Cricket clearly also fit 1960s love in Paris!”
2:11 PM · Jan 3, 2021·Twitter for iPhone

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film/Circus • Wednesday, June 30, 2021 • Permalink