Welcome back to 1313 Disneyland Drive! Today we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of looking at what the resort has to offer, we’re going to close our eyes and listen. There are many, many elements that make Disneyland such a special, unique place, but music plays a major hand in our enjoyment and immersion.
Unless you’re entering via Monorail, the first place in Disneyland you enter is Main Street, U.S.A. The area music of Main Street is probably the most iconic and easily recognizable in the whole park—and you may have noticed some familiar tunes mixed in. Sit back and read on to find out the origin of every single song you’ll hear walking right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A.
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Main Street, though not modeled after any one specific time or location, is inspired by American towns at the turn-of-the-century. One of these towns is Walt’s own hometown of Marceline, MO. Restaurants, shops, and decorations may come and go, but overall, Main Street is virtually unchanged from opening day. It still transports guests back to a time when horseless carriages were the next big thing. Music is one of the key ways you’re taken back to the early 1900s. Many songs that play on Main Street are American standards, ragtime classics, or barbershop hits, but there are some other inclusions you might not have expected.
The current area music debuted on January 9, 2012. It was arranged and recorded specially for Disney by Dean Mora and his orchestra. Here is the full loop audio and a compendium of all the songs within. Have you ever sworn you recognized a song you heard on Main Street but couldn’t quite place it? Look no further!
0:00 “Wells Fargo Wagon” from Meredith Wilson’s 1957 musical "The Music Man." Here’s the original Broadway cast recording.
2:10 “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman’s 1964 musical "Hello, Dolly!" The opening number to this musical was also featured in Disney/Pixar’s 2008 film "WALL-E."
3:59 “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin, legendary composer. Like “The Entertainer,” this 1899 song is one of the most iconic ragtime pieces of all time.
7:03 “Married Life” from Disney/Pixar’s 2009 film Up, composed by Michael Giacchino. This is a Grammy-winning song from a Grammy-winning soundtrack!
9:26 “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” by Beth Slater Whitson and Leo Friedman. First published in 1910, this is a definitely a standard.
11:33 “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” from the 1943 Roger and Hammerstein (you may have heard of them) musical "Oklahoma!" Hugh Jackman has lent his voice to this song in recent years, but here’s the original.
13:20 “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” by Seymour Brown and Nat D. Ayer. Yet another ragtime classic from the turn of the century, first published in 1911.
15:09 “Old Timers Waltz Medley” was arranged in 1917 by Mayhew Lester Lake. The medley, from what I can tell, includes “The Bowery,” “The Sidewalks of New York,” “Sweet Rosie O’Grady,” “Daisy Bell” (the bicycle built for two song), “Comrades,” “Little Annie Rooney,” “She May Have Seen Better Days,” “The Band Played On,” and “After the Ball.” Phew! All of these songs are waltzes from the late 1800s—hence, in 1917, they would be the favored songs of old timers.
19:29 “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet” by Percy Wenrich and Stanley Murphy. The opposite of putting on your Sunday clothes, I guess. This peppy song is from 1909.
21:29 “The Band Played On” by John F. Palmer and Charles B. Ward. Though the rest of the song is not, the chorus of this 1895 song is in waltz time and is also featured the “Old Timers Waltz Medley.”
23:08 “Alexander's Ragtime Band” by Irving Berlin. This 1911 song was the composer’s first hit—around thirty years later, he would pen the iconic “White Christmas.”
25:03 “Before the Parade Passes By” is another tune from Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman’s 1964 musical Hello, Dolly! This uplifting song was originally sung by Carol Channing.
26:26 “Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby” by Les Applegate. An extremely popular 1948 barbershop quartet song, this tune has frequently appeared in popular culture, most notably on The Simpsons.
28:30 “Dearie” by David Mann and Bob Hilliard. First published in 1950, the two original singers are Ray Bolger and Ethel Merman. That same year, Bing Crosby and Mary Martin sang their own spoofed version.
30:02 “Delirium Tremens Rag” by Frank Henri Klickmann. Back to ragtime, this song is from 1915. ‘Delirium tremens’ are severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, so, um, that’s fun.
32:14 “Hello! Ma Baby” by Joseph E. Howard and Ida Emerson. You know this one. Fun fact: first released in 1899, this was the first ever song to make reference to a telephone.
33:27 “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” by Gus Edwards and Edward Madden. In 1909 the world was gifted with what would become yet another barbershop quartet classic.
36:27 “It's a Long Way To Tipperary” by Jack Judge. Main Street may be located in the U.S.A., but this is a classic tune from the U.K. First written around 1912 and popular with Irish WWI soldiers, the first recorded version is from 1914.
38:01 “In the Good Old Summertime” by George Evans and Ren Shields. Another famous barbershop quartet tune from 1902. Forty-seven years later, Judy Garland would star in a movie with the same name.
39:40 “Fortuosity” by The Sherman Brothers. This song is from the 1967 live-action Disney film “The Happiest Millionaire.” If you’re not familiar with the word ‘fortuosity,’ that’s because it was made up just for this musical film. There are not one, but two “The Happiest Millionaire” references on Main Street: besides this song, there is a store called ‘Fortuosity Shop.’ See if you can spot it on your next trip.
41:21 “Oh! You Drummer” or “The Ragtime Drummer” by James Lent. This song is from around 1913, as far as I can tell. Ragtime may usually conjure up images of pianos, but here’s a ragtime era song that
features a drum solo.
46:06 “Sidewalks of New York” or “East Side, West Side” by Charles B. Lawlor with lyrics by James W. Blake. Another song used in “Old Timers Waltz Medley,” it was composed in New York about New York in 1894. Subsequently, this waltz has been used to represent New York in a variety of contexts.
44:41 “There'll Be a Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight” by Theodore August Metz and Joe Hayden. No, the original had nothing to do with Catherine O’Leary’s cow and the Great Chicago Fire, though that’s the version I sang as a Girl Scout. The exact inspiration for the original, from around 1896, is actually unknown despite how often the song has been used in American culture.
46:06 “Wait 'Till the Sun Shines, Nellie” by Harry Von Tilzer and Andrew B. Sterling. With covers by famous singers like Bing Crosby and Buddy Holly, this 1905 hit is apparently sung by New York Stock Exchange floor traders on Christmas Eve every year.
48:02 “Meet Me in St. Louis” by Andrew B. Sterling and Kerry Mills. Although the Judy Garland song and movie are probably more popular, the original was first from 1904.
49:44 “Elegance” from Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman’s 1964 musical Hello, Dolly! This is the third song on this list from Hello, Dolly!, so clearly someone who is in charge of music at Disneyland is a fan.
51:14 “Kansas City Rag” by James Scott. One of the most influential ragtime composers of his time, Scott composed this tune in 1907. It may not be as popular as his more exciting-named “Frog Legs Rag,” but this song is still classic ragtime.
53:36 “The Yankee Doodle Boy” from George M. Cohan’s 1904 musical Little Johnny Jones. This song is reminiscent of the original “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but with its own spin. This very patriotic American musical about a fictional jockey named Johnny Jones was inspired by real-life American jockey Tod Sloan.
By the Numbers:
There are 28 unique songs if you count “Old Timers Waltz Medley” as one song, and 33 if you count every unique song.
The average year of the entire loop (counting “Waltz Medley” as one song) is 1924. If we remove the outlier of 2009 (“Married Life”), the average is 1921.
The range is 115 years, spanning 1894 to 2009. That’s a massive chunk of American music history!
7 songs are from musicals. The musicals are Hello, Dolly!, The Music Man, Little Johnny Jones, The Happiest Millionaire, and Oklahoma!
3 songs can be found in Disney films. These films are Up, WALL-E, and The Happiest Millionaire.
There you have it! Now you maybe have an idea of how much work goes into curating the perfect atmosphere soundtrack for a Disney resort and choosing exactly the right tunes to complement the area. Many of the songs you’re probably at least vaguely familiar with, even if you didn’t know the exact name. This helps create the feeling that Walt wanted to invoke: that Main Street could be anyone’s hometown—you’re stepping into your own family’s photo album. Imagine walking down Main Street with no music, or with music that didn’t match your surroundings—it just wouldn’t be quite right. Between sights, sounds, smells, and taste, Disneyland is truly an all-immersive experience.