Today is the birthday of J. Russel Robinson (1892-1963). (He spelled his first name without the customary second “L”.) Posterity knows him best as the composer of scores of ragtime and early jazz songs, including “Margie”, “Eccentric” and “Palesteena”. For most of the second decade of the twentieth century the Indiana native toured vaudeville in a duo with his brother called, aptly enough, the Robinson Brothers. In 1919 he joined the Original Dixieland Jazz Band as piano player (adding many of his original compositions to their repertoire), and then worked for W.C. Handy’s publishing company, co-writing many tunes with Handy.
Here’s a player piano roll “Margie” (1920):
To find out more 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.
And 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