Today is the birthday of Geraldine Valliere (1896-1986). A daughter of a musical family, she studied piano since childhood, and began playing at local churches, movie houses, and with dance bands in small towns in her native Minnesota. In 1919, she premiered Gerry and her Piano Girls at the Lyric Theater in Duluth, a quartet of young ladies playing four baby grand pianos. The theatre manager was so impressed he quit his job to manage them, dressing them in white gowns, wigs and gloves, seating them at four white pianos, and renaming them Jerry and Her Baby Grands. The act moved up to Chicago, where they caused just as much of a stir, then began touring the midwest. This quickly included an annual stint in New York (including, eventually the Palace) and big time vaudeville tours that embraced nearly every U.S. state in the union. In 1929, they embarked on the first of several world tours which would take them across the Pacific and to Europe. In 1936 (with vaudeville dead) she broke up the act and signed to be the pianist on radio’s Major Bowes Amateur Hour. She remained with Major Bowes for two years, then returned to her home states where she played with dance bands, and then played out the balance of her career as a piano teacher.
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 my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc