Billy K. Wells was one of the top comedy sketch writers of burlesque, vaudeville and Broadway revues. Starting out as a comedian on one of M.B. Leavitt’s shows in the 1890s, within a few years he was a burlesque entrepeneur himself, writing directing and producing his own shows on the Columbia wheel. By the ninteen-teens, he was writing material for big time vaudeville acts. In the twenties he moved up to Broadway revues, writing for almost every edition of George White’s Scandals between 1923 and 1939, among other shows. Later successes included the Ziegfeld Follies of 1943, amd John Murray’s Almanac (1953-54). Acts he helped devlop and shape with his original material included Smith and Dale, Willie and Eugene Howard, Bert Lahr and Mercedes,Jack Pearl (Baron Munchausen), and Milton Berle. He passed away in 1956.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.