A few tidbits gleaned from the astute guides at the Willson museum and boyhood home in Mason City, Iowa:

• Willson came into the world on May 18, 1902, weighing in at 14 pounds. At the time, that made him the largest baby ever born in Iowa.

• Royalties from "Till There Was You" made Willson more money than all his other songs put together, thanks to a certain quartet of moptops who included their rendition on both the "With the Beatles" and "Meet the Beatles" albums.

• A whole musical could be written about his sister Dixie Willson, whose credits include joining the circus and putting out a children's book with Frank Lloyd Wright's sister. At one point, she claimed "The Music Man" was her idea.

• Warner Bros. wanted Frank Sinatra to play Harold Hill in the film version. Willson insisted they stick with Robert Preston, who originated the role on Broadway.

• Before focusing on musicals, Willson worked in Hollywood, where he contributed orchestral scores for Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" and William Wyler's "The Little Foxes."


The museum is officially closed to the public until April and tours of the home are usually limited to Friday and Saturday afternoons. For information, call 641-424-2852 or visit themusicmansquare.org.