Songs in the Key of Los Angeles: Sheet Music from the Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library

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Long before MP3 files and ringtones dominated the music realm of pop culture, sheet music was all the rage. From the 1850s through the 1950s, stores cropped up selling nothing but the stuff, with institutions like the Los Angeles Times giving away free printed songs as special supplements to its regular newspaper. The Los Angeles Central Library has since amassed the now-rare items into a sheet-music collection 50,000-pieces strong, providing a huge resource for professor Josh Kun, director of the Popular Music Project at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center, and his students to research material for a new book from Angel City Press: Songs in the Key of Los Angeles: Sheet Music from the Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library .

In conjunction with the book’s recent release, the Library Foundation of Los Angeles highlights some of the most vivid sheet-music samples in a related exhibition at the Los Angeles Central Library; Songs in the Key of LA kicks off July 1, followed by a musical conversation with author Josh Kun and Quetzal July 18 and two special programs at Grand Performances: Off the Shelf: Creating LA’s 21st Century Library July 25 and Songs in the Key of LA with Ozomatli and Friends August 2.

Los Angeles City Librarian John F. Szabo says, “We are pleased to bring this incredible collection to light, as it demonstrates this important fact: Public libraries are every-person institutions, where everyone, from scholars to middle schoolers, can unearth treasures that can teach, inspire, and even change their lives.”

“This unprecedented collection would be lost to us if not for the intrepid public librarians who recognized its importance in the building and defining of Los Angeles,” says the Library Foundation’s Ken Brecher. “It is our pleasure to work with the Library to unveil these songs — some for the first time in 100 years — to the people they belong to, the people of Los Angeles”

Check out some of the amazing items from Songs in the Key of LA below.

“I’m Going Back to California, That’s Where I Belong,” 1916 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“California Here I Come” by Al. Jolson, Bud De Silva, and Joseph Meyer, 1923 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“California” by Cliff Friend and Con Conrad, c. 1930 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Shoot Me Back To California Land” by Byron Gay, 1915 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Make Your Mind Up to Wind Up in California” by Fred Howard and Nat Vincent (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“California” by Arthur Kay, 1918 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“I Love You California,” 1913 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“California and You,” 1914 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“California Kids” by S. Seiler, 1912 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“California Sunshine” by Harry Jentes, 1913 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Glorious Southern California” by G.T. Fallis and N.L. Ridderhof, 1907 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Los Angeles, Los Angeles, I Wish I’d Come Before” by Mrs. Olla Hewitt (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Way Out West in Hollywood” by Earle Foxe and Lynn Cowan, 1939 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in LA)” by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, performed by Glen Campbell, 1975 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Hollywood Rose” by George Whiting and Ernest R. Ball, 1925 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Los Angeles Hurrah!! (The Place for You and Me)” by David G. Del Valle, 1918 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“Los Angeles The Beautiful” by Jennie A. Abbott Egan, 1958 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“San Fernando Valley” by Gordon Jenkins, 1944 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection)

“The Wines of Los Angeles County,” 1876 (Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection, from Book Club of LA)