Almost as famous as Ebby Halliday was Ebby Halliday’s ukulele. Whether she was the recipient of an award or welcoming a new class of real estate agents to Ebby Halliday, Inc., Ebby channeled charm and humor through her ukulele. She had a penchant for changing lyrics to well known songs to suit her topic and audience. She assured the audience “You know I really can’t play the ukulele or sing, but it helps to have a shtick, everybody needs a shtick.”
She rewrote the lyrics to well-known songs of the time and drew inspiration from songbooks such as the Community Sing Session songbooks which provided a collection of songs for group singing for all occasions. These community songs had a simple chord structure, a melody that was recognizable, simple rhythm and a memorable chorus. Ebby would take classics and make them her own by changing the lyrics to suit her audience.
She used the tune to “Happy Days Are Here Again” to celebrate the economic impact of low interest rates, Fannie Mae loans, and eager homebuyers. The songs weren’t always the same. They changed over the years and with the times. Listen to Ebby sing “Happy Days Here, Again” (timecode 1:26) to a group of real estate agents in training.
She even took the popular song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” most famously known as a Coca-Cola commercial during the 1980s and used it to promote Ebby Halliday’s Relocation services, known as RELO.
Ebby used the Ragtime-era song “Five Foot Two and Eyes of Blue” to promote the town of Irving as the place to be.
Ebby’s collection of songbooks includes this one by Pinky Hull who was a Ragtime piano player and magician. It folds out to reveal the lyrics to over 50 popular songs such as “Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey”. Ebby’s magic was knowing how effective a funny lyric, a familiar tune, and the occasional off-beat note could be in winning over admirers in business and in friendship.
Project archivist Krishna Shenoy will be working on processing the Ebby Halliday papers thanks to a generous gift of the Ebby Halliday foundation, to preserve and make accessible the work of the first lady of real estate.
Contact Samantha Dodd, curator of the Archives of Women of the Southwest for additional information or assistance with accessing the collections. For access to these collections or to learn more about the women of the southwest, be sure to visit the DeGolyer Library and check out our books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and photographs.