Today is the birthday of Big Joe Turner (1911-1985). His existence makes it hard to see what all the fuss about rock and roll was in the mid 50s. His brand of boogie-woogie and jump blues goes back to the 1930s…there’s a straight line from big band to Bill Haley and the Comets, and I’ll lay dollars to donuts your kids can’t even tell the difference. I can, but that’s a different story. It was Big Joe Turner who had the first hit record with “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, which Bill Haley essentially covered to have the bigger (whiter) hit. “Flip, Flop and Fly”, later covered by the Blues Brothers was another of his hits. But his career went all the way back to the roadhouses and night clubs of Kansas City in the 30s, and he had plenty of big band and rhythm and blues hits in the decades prior to the rock and roll craze. He continued playing until he passed away during the second blues revival in 1985.
To find out about 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.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out 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