The name Katie Crippen (Catherine Crippen, 1895-1929) would undoubtedly be better known if she weren’t taken at such a young age, for her career intersected with many legendary performers and was on its own upward trajectory. Originally from Philadelphia, she first attracted notice at Edmond’s Cellar in Harlem in the early 1920s. This led to recording dates at Black Swan Records with Fletcher Henderson (sometimes with the pseudonym Ella White.) In 1922 and 1923 she toured with an outfit called “Liza and Her Shuffling Sextet” , whose personnel also included Fats Waller. This led to her own tour with “Katie Crippen and Her Kids”, whose piano player was a young Count Basie. Her last act was a duo with Dewey Brown, called Crippen and Brown which toured the RKO circuit, the short-lived final incarnation of the old Keith vaudeville circuit, circa 1928. If cancer hadn’t taken her the following year, given the momentum of her career, she’d without a doubt gone on to bigger and better things.
To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.