George Poulton

George R Poulton, the man responsible for the music that was eventually used for Love Me Tender was born in 1828 Cricklade, a village located between the towns of Cirencester and Swindon, in the UK.

He was baptised in St Mary's church and remained in the village until the age of seven when he emigrated with his parents to Lansingburgh, New York.

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Cricklade St Mary, Wiltshire (ChurchCrawler) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Poulton grew up to become a celebrated musician. In 1861 he composed Aura Lea. The number was first published and copyrighted in Cincinnati that same year. The American Civil War started shortly after the publication of Aura Lea and the song was a favourite of soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

Aura Lea was written as a minstrel song, but it was so popular with trainee soldiers at the military academy in West Point that in 1865 it was given new lyrics by one L.W. Becklaw to become a graduating class song. These new lyrics referred to the colour of the new uniforms that those graduating would now be allowed to wear, Army Blue, and that was the title given to this new version. 

In 1867, just six years after having written Aura Lea, George Poulton died in disgrace. A relationship he had with one of his female students led to his being accused of conduct unbecoming to a teacher and his subsequent dismissal. Some days later the girl's family tracked Poulton down and submitted their own form of justice by tarring and feathering him.

It seems that he was so affected by the whole affair that his health deteriorated and he died within a couple of years.

(Much of the information here was found in the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard.)

© David Neale 2020