Butterbeans and Susie were an African American male-female comedy team whose material was the same stuff that makes up the content of the blues: tales of infidelity, domestic violence, misery and drunkenness — only, when they did it, it was funny. The team consisted of Jodie Edwards (“Butterbeans”, born this day in 1895) and Susie Hawthorne Edwards (born the following year). They met in the teens when both had been performing separately in TOBA (segregated all-black vaudeville) for a number of years. In the late 20s, when one “Stringbeans” May of Stringbeans and Sweetie May passed away, Jodie was urged by a promoter to take on a similar name and character. Susie dressed in classy, sexy clothes; Butterbeans was extremely clownish. Most of the plots had him being cuckolded by the sassy Susie, with verbal fireworks (reminiscent of the perennial “dozens”, to follow). For decades, the team worked TOBA, minstrel shows, tent shows, night clubs and revues. Bookings fell off in the post-war period (after their all, their act was VERY Ma Rainey for the era of zoot suits), but started to pick up some in the 50s and early 60s, when the Apollo Theater was their main base. Susie passed away in 1963, Butterbeans in 1967.
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of 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.