That Irish songs flourished not only on the European side of the Atlantic but also the American was due especially to the tenor Chauncey Olcott. Like his contemporary Eugene Stratton, Olcott was born in Buffalo, was educated by the Christian Brothers, and became a performer with Haverly’s Mastodon Minstrels. Whereas Stratton settled as a black-face performer in Britain, Olcott (who was brought up by his Irish-born mother after his father’s early death) became the archetypal American Irishman, writing and performing sentimental songs evoking Ireland and its people. These included ‘My wild Irish rose’ (1899) and ‘When Irish eyes are smiling’ (1912), as well as ‘Mother Machree’. He introduced this last in a romantic drama Barry of Ballymore by Rida Johnson Young, a former actress who had been Victor Herbert’s librettist on Naughty Marietta. Olcott’s musical collaborator was Ernest R Ball, a vaudeville pianist who was staff arranger for the Witmark publishing company.
from notes by Andrew Lamb © 2003