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The Coleman Dowell Songbook
ISBN: 978-0-9911211-6-8
Publication Date: November, 2016

Price: $18.95

Pages: 48


Coleman Dowell composed most of the songs in this collection between 1942-1962. Although best known as a novelist, Dowell’s early career in music spanned two decades, first as a composer for the Dumont Television show “Once Upon a Tune”, and later as the composer of the musical The Tattooed Countess, based on the novel by Carl Van Vechten. Though the songs were highly praised when the musical opened on Broadway at the Barbizon-Plaza Theater on May 3, 1961, the show folded within a few weeks.

Now housed in several archives, including the Fales Library at NYU and the New York Public Library, this collection brings many of Coleman Dowell’s songs together in print for the first time.

The Coleman Dowell Songbook

  • Coleman Dowell was born in Adairville, Kentucky on May 29, 1925. He spent his last two years of high school at Simpson County High in Franklin, Kentucky, where he composed the alma mater and worked on the school newspaper. From 1944–45 Dowell served in the U.S. Army, Medical Corps and as an assistant to the prosecution in war crimes trials in Manila. During this period he also attended the University of the Philippines. When he returned to the U.S. in 1946 he settled for a short time in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was a full-time member of the National Guard. Here he wrote the musical Haymarket, the play that brought him to New York City.

    In 1950 Dowell moved to New York, initially finding work as a model for automobile and airline ads and as a typist. From 1950-53 he was employed as a songwriter and lyricist for the Dumont television show, “Once Upon a Tune,” which featured Bea Arthur, Elaine Stritch, Alice Ghostley, and Charlotte Rae in skits often based on fairytales. Dowell claimed to have composed nearly 1,000 works for the weekly broadcast. He also worked as David Merrick’s protégé and with John La Touche on the abortive Broadway musical version of the 1933 play Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O’Neill.

    Dowell gave up dreams of being a composer when his musical, The Tattooed Countess, failed to achieve critical success. Over a fifteen period he wrote five novels: One of the Children is Crying (1968), Mrs. October was Here (1974), Island People? (1976), Too Much Flesh and Jabez (1977), and White on Black on White (1983). In the early morning hours on Saturday August 3, 1985, Dowell, disillusioned by his lack of success, jumped from his 15th floor apartment balcony overlooking Fifth Avenue.

    The Coleman Dowell Songbook will be available from Baker & Taylor, Follett Library Services, YBP, Brodart, and Ingram Book Distributors.