Clara Edwards' Life

Clara Edwards was a successful singer, pianist, and songwriter. Etude Magazine called her "One of America's most famous and best loved living song writers" in 1948. She published at least 76 songs, a few of which became enormously popular.

Clara Gerlich was born in Mankato, Minnesota. The birthdate given in the literature varies wildly; I obtained a certified copy of her birth certificate which says that she was born in 1880.

She is reputed to have taught herself to play the piano, and to have performed in a concert at age nine. This information, however, comes from sources of questionable scholarly integrity. (This is a common problem - anyone researching Edwards should be prepared for typos, contradictions, and some suspiciously romantic stories.)

Ms. Gerlich graduated from the Mankato State Normal School, and later attended the Cosmopolitan School of Music in Chicago, where she did not finish her degree because of her marriage to John Milton Edwards, a physician.

John and Clara moved to Vienna, where Clara continued her musical studies. She also toured Europe, and the Queen of Sweden was impressed enough with her singing that she was invited to join the Royal Opera. (The invitation was declined.) The cities where she performed are known to include London, Paris, Vienna, and Stockholm, and the dates spanned here seem to be 1911-1913. She also toured the west coast of the United States in 1914. Somehow she also found time to have a daughter, Jane. (Jane is listed as Jane Ann Rand and Jane E. Rand in different sources.) In 1916, when Jane was very young, John died and Clara moved to New York City.

Ms. Edwards joined ASCAP in 1925, toured Vaudeville in 1925 and 1926, and organized her own Chautauqua Concert Company in 1934. The earliest song that I have found that she published was from 1921, and the latest was from 1960. She wrote the texts for many of her own songs, but sometimes used the pen name Bernhard Haig. (It is interesting to note that her father's name was Bernhard H. Edwards.)

Ms. Edwards passed away on January 17th, 1974. Her obituary mentions three grandsons and three great-granddaughters.