Archive for the Ragtime Category

J. Russel Robinson: Eccentric

Posted in African American Interest, Ballroom/ Big Band/ Swing, Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, Ragtime, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2013 by travsd

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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 vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Tony Jackson: Father of “Pretty Baby”

Posted in African American Interest, Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, Ragtime, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , on June 5, 2013 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Tony Jackson (1876-1921). This seminal musician came up in the Storyville section of New Orleans, where from his teenage years he was to be one of the most sought after piano players in town, and an influence on the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Clarence Williams. He played in honky tonks, bordellos, saloons and vaudeville houses, and was one of the key figures that helped bring what came to be known as jazz northward when he moved to Chicago in 1912. The most famous song to come from his pen was the standard “Pretty Baby”, the original lyrics to which, legend has it, were written to his male lover. He died without having made any recordings.

To find out about  the history of vaudeville and jazz giants like Tony Jackson consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Scott Joplin Memorial Tomorrow

Posted in African American Interest, Music, Ragtime with tags , , , on May 24, 2013 by travsd

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May 25 in Queens, New York  2:00 pm

MEMORIAL CONCERT AT JOPLIN’S FINAL RESTING PLACE

Featuring the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra
St. Michael’s Cemetery, Queens, New York  ~ FREE! ~
Telephone: 718-278-3240
Email: edberlin@optonline.net
Produced by noted Joplin biographer Edward A. Berlin, author of  King of Ragtime
Website: www.stmichaelscemetery.com
Pre-concert presentation by Dr. Berlin at 1:15 pm in the Chapel

Will Marion Cook

Posted in African American Interest, Broadway, Dance, Music, Ragtime, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2012 by travsd

Today is the birthday of Will Marion Cook (1869-1944).  He was emphatically not a vaudevillian, although there’s nothing about a serious musical training (he studied with Dvorak among others) that would have prevented that.  He rates a shout-out here for composing several seminal African American musical theatre shows, many starring important artists like Walker and Williams. Among them: Clorindy, or the Origin of the Cakewalk (1898) and In Dahomey (1902), the first all African-American show on Broadway.

What’s the “cakewalk”, you say? Why, this is the cakewalk:

Your ancestors would be astounded to learn you didn’t know! At any rate, as it happens, February is Black History Month. Please check in here starting next Wednesday and throughout the month for daily posts on African Americans in vaudeville!

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Brooke Johns: Jazz Banjoist

Posted in Music, Radio (Old Time Radio), Ragtime, Stars of Vaudeville, Television, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , on December 24, 2011 by travsd

Vaudeville’s premiere jazz banjoist Brooke Johns (born this day in 1893) was already playing and singing in small time when the First World War broke out. He entertained in the Navy during the conflict, then came back to play night clubs, big time and presentation houses, through 1934 when he retired (for a time) to run a restaurant in the Washington DC area. For a time during his peak years he was partnered with Ann Pennington. In later years he was to host local radio and tv programs. He passed away in 1987.

Here he is with his orchestra performing “Take Oh Take Those Lips Away”

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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James Reese Europe and His Orchestra

Posted in African American Interest, Marches, Music, Ragtime, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , on February 22, 2011 by travsd

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“No inconsiderable part of our success was due to his wonderful playing…”

— Irene Castle

James Reese Europe (born today in 1880) can be thought of as the W.E.B. DuBois of American music, not just an accomplished musician, but a relentless teacher, theorist and advocate for the cause of widespread acceptance of African Americans as the equals of whites in the field of serious music.Europe had studied music seriously as a youngster in Washington, D.C., moved to New York, and quickly made a name for himself organizing bands for society parts, which is where he met Vernon and Irene Castle, who hired him to be their musical director.

Not surprisingly, the Europe Orchestra and their alumni were among the first African Americans to tread the vaudeville stage without the mask of burnt cork. Dressed in evening clothes, this crack ensemble of highly trained musicians infused their music with elements of ragtime and what was then coming to be known as jazz. Two of its more sophisticated alumni, Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake (author of “I’m Just Wild About Harry”) would form their own team called the “Dixie Duo” and become Palace headliners themselves, in addition to creating the seminal Broadway show Shuffle Along. Others he collaborated with included Walker and Williams, Cole and Johnson, Will Marion Cook and Ernest Hogan.

When the U.S. entered the World War in 1918, Europe further distinguished himself by organizing an all-black regimental band. This patriotic group bravely entertained doughboys throughout the theatre of war until the armistice, at which point they returned home for a triumphant U.S. tour. It was on the last performance of that tour in 1919 that one of his own musicians, over some perceived slight, stabbed Europe to death.

For more on Europe’s incredible contributions, go here.

And here he is with his orchestra playing the Castle House Rag (named of course in honor of the dance team who helped put him on the map). The Castle House was the name of their dance school:

To find out more about the history of vaudeville, please consult my critically acclaimed book No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other fine establishments.

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And don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Ernest Hogan: A Transitional Figure

Posted in African American Interest, Broadway, Music, Ragtime, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by travsd

His real name was Reuben Crowders; he took the name Ernest Hogan during his minstrel days because it sounded Irish – -in emulation of the leading minstrel men of the era (Christy, Dixon, Rice). Born in Kentucky during the Civil War era (date and even year unknown), he started out as a child performing as a “pick” with Black Patti’s Troubadours.

Today he is unfortunately best known as the author of the 1896 hit song “All Coons Look Alike to Me”, which was such a smash hit that it set off a national craze for so-called “coon songs”. While the content of the songs is today (and was even then by some) considered racist, a broader view shows that Hogan was also one of the key figures responsible for the popularity of ragtime in general — the sword, as it so often is, was double-edged. The crowning irony is that, despite his complicity in the perpetuation of certain stereotypes (his stage name was “The Unbleached American”) , he was still hated and resented by angry whites to such an extent that he was nearly lynched along with Bert Williams in a New York race riot in 1900. He apparently couldn’t win!

Yet there had to have been satisfactions. After all, the mob of animals was after him for having been so successful. Hogan was the first African American to perform on a Broadway stage (albeit in shows like The Octoroons, Jes’ Lak White Folks and Rufus Rastus), one of the first to play “white vaudeville” (at such prestige houses as Hammerstein’s Victoria and the Winter Garden), and he made thousands in royalties from his songs and the shows that he penned. He passed away in 1909.

To find out more about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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