From The Kentucky Encyclopedia
Born in Louisville on July 19, 1837, the son of Hugh and Martha (Richardson) Hays, William Shakespeare Hays wrote as many as five hundred songs. Sales of sheet music copies of his tunes reached about 20 million -- an extraordinary number for his time. Educated at Hanover College in Indiana and Georgetown College in Kentucky, Hays was devoted to the southern way of life and had a lifelong attachment to riverboating, the subject of his regular columns in Louisville newspapers during the last half of the nineteenth century.
Will S. Hays, as he signed his manuscripts, composed patriotic, religious, and sentimental songs. Perhaps his most popular piece was " Mollie Darling," which sold as many as 3 million copies in the 1870s. Other notable tunes included " My Sunny Southern Home," " Evangeline," " We Parted By The River Side," " The Drummer Boy Of Shiloh," and " Nora O'neil." Late in life Hays claimed to have written " Dixie," but credit for this tune must in fact go to Ohio's Daniel Decatur Emmett.
Contemporary writers lavished praise upon Hays and his songs. S.J. Clarke claimed that "in America his songs were more deeply admired and cherished than those of any other composer." Hays was described as "one of the gentlest men in all the Southland" in spite of his "rough ways and his profane language." A music critic credited the success of his music to "charming melodies, easy and effective accompaniments, and a genuine feeling... written for the masses and by the masses appreciated." Hays died on July 23, 1907, and was buried in Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery.
NICKY HUGHES, Entry Author
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