Today is the birthday of Will Marion Cook (1869-1944). He was emphatically not a vaudevillian, although there’s nothing about a serious musical training (he studied with Dvorak among others) that would have prevented that. He rates a shout-out here for composing several seminal African American musical theatre shows, many starring important artists like Williams and Walker. Among them: Clorindy, or the Origin of the Cakewalk (1898) and In Dahomey (1902), the first all African-American show on Broadway.
What’s the “cakewalk”, you say? Why, this is the cakewalk:
Your ancestors would be astounded to learn you didn’t know! At any rate, as it happens, February is Black History Month. Please check in here starting next Wednesday and throughout the month for daily posts on African Americans in vaudeville!
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.