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MTSU Center for Popular Music welcomes songwriter’s works

The Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University has expanded its internationally recognized collection with the works of songwriter, arranger and bandleader Joel S. Herron, who teamed with Frank Sinatra to write one of the crooner’s classics, “I’m a Fool to Want You.”

Composer Joel S. Herron, whose family has donated his collected works to the Center for Popular Music at MTSU, is shown in a recording studio in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of the Herron family/MTSU Center for Popular Music)

The newest collection, a gift from Herron’s youngest son, Roark Herron, includes approximately 40 linear feet of business correspondence, scores, arrangements, contracts, photographs, tapes and other materials from the musician’s professional life.

Herron, who passed away in 2012, wrote the music for “I’m a Fool to Want You,” his best-known song. Sinatra and Jack Wolfe wrote the lyrics.

The 1951 tune, reportedly reflecting Sinatra’s tumultuous relationship with Ava Gardner, turned out to be the most famous from his tenure with Columbia Records. The song also has been covered by Billie Holiday, Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Linda Ronstadt, Shirley Bassey and Tony Bennett, to name a few.

“The center is delighted to receive this valuable collection and to make it publicly available for research by scholars and students near and far,” said Dr. Dale Cockrell, director of MTSU’s Center for Popular Music.

During his career, Herron copyrighted 118 songs and other musical works and worked extensively in both radio and television, serving as musical director for “The Jane Froman Show,” “The Jimmy Dean Show” and “The Jaye P. Morgan Show.”

He led the Joel Herron Orchestra for many years and performed regularly in clubs and hotels in the New York City area, headlining at such renowned sites as the Copacabana Club, the Embassy Club and the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel.

CPM logoThe Herron family gift will join works donated by musicians, scholars and collectors ranging from Grand Ole Opry and Country Radio DJ Hall of Fame member Charlie Walker and former Music City News editor Everett J. Corbin to the Charles K. Wolfe Collection and the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Association Collection, just to name a handful.

The Tennessee Board of Regents established the Center for Popular Music in 1985 as one of 16 Centers of Excellence across the TBR system.

The archive and research center promotes research, scholarship and programs in American music from the early 18th century to the present day, specializing in specialize in rock and roll and its roots, various forms of vernacular religious music and the music of Tennessee and the Southeast.

For more information on the Center for Popular Music and its projects, visit http://popmusic.mtsu.edu.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

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