Today is the birthday of Willie Tyler (b. 1940). While not America’s first African American ventriloquist (there have been several stretching back to the early 19th century — do a search on this blog, I’ve written about several of them), Tyler has been the reigning artist in that niche at least since the early 1970s. Born in Alabama and raised in Detroit, he was inspired to take up the ventriloquial art as a youngster by seeing Paul Winchell on television. After performing locally for many years he began to work for Motown Records, going on tour to perform on bills with the label’s musical acts. In 1972 he first gained national attention as a regular on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Throughout the 1970s he was a familiar sight on game shows and variety programs…an intriguing mix of the traditional vaudeville vent act, and then-current jive-speak.
You really wanna wish Willie Tyler a happy birthday? BOOK him! He’s a working vent, he’s waiting for your call right now. All his booking contact info is right here.