Howard “Sandman” Sims (1917-2003) got his nickname from his long association with sand dancing, that is dancing on scattered sand so that sustained musical shuffling, scraping sounds can accompany the taps. He performed for several years in black vaudeville, culminating with his debut at the famous Apollo Theater after the Second World War. He was a popular fixture there as a dancer for two decades; he also worked there for many years as the “executioner”, the guy who would humorously get the bad acts off the stage. Thanks to the support of admirers like Gregory Hines and Bill Cosby he enjoyed several shots at national limelight during the 1980s, when he got to dance and speak in The Cotton Club (1984), Tap (1989), Harlem Nights (1989) and on the tv show Cosby (1990).
Here’s how he got his name:
To find out more about vaudeville, and performers like Sandman Sims, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.