St. Louis Jewish jazz musician seeks ancestor’s Tin Pan Alley compositions

Ethan Leinwand

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Last year, frequent Jewish Light contributor Bill Motchan introduced readers to Ethan Leinwand, a gifted St. Louis Jewish pianist who specializes in jazz and a rollicking genre of music known as barrelhouse blues. Motchan recently checked in with Leinwand and learned that when he’s not performing with one of three local bands, he collects vintage sheet music. While at a family reunion in Boston, a funny thing happened. His grandmother and father mentioned that Ethan’s great great uncle Charles Weinberg was an accomplished pianist and composer. That set Leinwand on a mission to acquire some of Weinberg’s compositions.

“Charles Weinberg was a composer on Tin Pan Alley in the 1920s,” Leinwand told Motch. “I started searching out his work and got my first shipment.” He held up one Weinberg work called “That’s Why Girls Go Wrong” and declared that it’s now one of his favorite tunes to play.

Weinberg was born in New York City on Sept. 19, 1889. He had his first song published at age 12. In addition to composing, he was a sought-after accompanist in vaudeville shows. In addition, he played piano for motion picture scores. Leinwand’s research revealed that his great grand grandfather (Weinberg’s brother) was also a very gifted piano player. Right now, Leinwand is looking for more information about Charles Weinberg. 

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“I’ve been getting some biographical information and trying to find more sheet music. I did find a really funny review. He wrote the score for an all-black musical revue on Broadway in 1932. It got absolutely panned in The New York Times. It turned out to be the shortest-running show of the year. It opened on a Thursday and closed on a Friday.”

Leinwand and his Bottlesnakes band will be releasing a new album before the end of the year with all original blues and jazz songs. He’ll also be featured with an original solo performance on the St. Louis Blues Society’s annual compilation CD of notable St. Louis artists, which will be released in January.