Born: July 19, 1837, Louisville, Kentucky.
Died: July 23, 1907, Louisville, Kentucky.
Buried: Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky.
Hays attended college in Hanover, Indiana; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Georgetown, Kentucky. His first song, Little Ones at Home, was published in 1856, while he was studying at Georgetown College.
After college, he became a reporter for the Louisville, Kentucky, Democrat. During the American civil war, he was jailed in New Orleans for writing songs sympathetic to the southern cause.
After the war, he worked on steamboats on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, and rose to captain of the ship Gray Eagle.
Later, he spent three decades as a columnist at the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Hays reportedly wrote over 350 songs in his lifetime. One of them, Mollie Darling, sold over a million copies, an incredible figure in that day. Among his other popular titles were Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane, Susan Jane and Oh! Sam.