The Will S. Hays Collection in the University of Louisville Music Library contains more than 100 published pieces of music by Hays. The collection has been fully digitized, and scores are available for viewing on the International Music Score Library Project website.
Scores are also available for viewing in the music library. Please get assistance at the first floor help desk or email us.
William Shakespeare Hays (July 19, 1837-July 23, 1907) was born in Louisville, where he resided most of his life. Hugh Hays, his father and a native Pennsylvanian, migrated to Louisville in 1832 where he married Martha Richardson. Will showed signs of musical talent at an early age and took a few violin lessons, but that seems to have been all of the musical training that he received. During 1856 and 1857, Will attended colleges in Hanover, Indiana; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Georgetown, Kentucky. While at Georgetown, he became known as the "boy poet." His first published song was "Little Ones at Home," which was written while he was at Hanover. This incident ignited a prolific writing career which resulted in Hays penning innumerable poems and newspaper columns in addition to approximately five hundred songs. He signed his manuscripts as "Will S. Hays." Some of his poetry was written to his future wife, Belle McCullough of Louisville. They were married in 1865.
Hays always had a love for the river, and his newspaper columns were based on river happenings and occurrences. During the Civil War, he commanded a river transport on the Mississippi, between Vicksburg and New Orleans. He continued to work on riverboats periodically during the 1860s and the early 1870s.
Hays began his newspaper work in Louisville in the late 1850s and maintained a position with the Democrat, and later, with the Courier-Journal and Times until his death. He served as marine editor for several years.
When he died in 1907, he was survived by his wife and two children, Dr. Samuel Brown Hays (1878-1933), and Mattie Belle Hays [Mrs. Fauche Warren Samuel] (1868-1947).
[Source: Kentucky Digital Library website]