Today is the birthday of George “Honey Boy” Evans (1870-1915), Welsh-born minstrel ** man, comedian and songwriter.
Evans immigrated to the U.S. in his youth. He started out in singing in quartets in vaudeville and burlesque in the early 1890s, and is said to have debuted with the Columbia Quartet at Balser’s Music Hall, Canton, Ohio in 1891. Staring in 1892, he began appearing in minstrel shows, including Haverly’s, Cleveland’s and Primrose and West’s. His vaudeville nickname came from his self-penned tune “I’ll Be True to My Honey Boy”. He was also co-author of the song “In the Good Old Summertime” (his most famous), among countless others. He also became famous for introducing W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues” to the public on the vaudeville stage. In 1908 he joined the Cohan and Harris Minstrels, purchasing the company two years later and renaming it the Honey Boy Minstrels.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.