Born in New York City but raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, he began writing songs in his teens. At the age of 19 he co-wrote his first successful songs, "That Girl of Mine" and "Take Me To My Alabam", with Will Dillon. After serving in the US Army, he returned to songwriting, co-writing the 1922 novelty hit "Oo-oo, Ernest (Are You Earnest With Me?)". He often worked with his brothers Charles and Henry, writing songs with Charles for the Broadway show Earl Carroll's Sketch Book in 1929, and writing Rudy Vallee's hit "Miss You" with both brothers the same year. In 1931, he had success with the song "At Your Command", an early success for Bing Crosby, and also co-wrote "Sweet and Lovely", a hit for Russ Columbo. He wrote or co-wrote the theme songs for many films in the 1930s and 1940s, including One Rainy Afternoon (1936), The Young in Heart (1938), Made for Each Other (1939), If It Wasn't For The Moon (1940) and It's a Date (1940). His many co-writers included Gene Autry.
- Sheet music for "Take me to my Alabam': Come back, they're calling you", New York: M. Witmark & Sons, 1916, from the Alabama Sheet Music Collection