Theatre Songs

Spreadin' Rhythm Around


The black Afro American influence if not performance was total in Minstrelsy and black performers were the strength of Vaudeville but the Broadway Theatres were white and a resisting bastion. 

The original popular Musicals were perhaps, Gilbert & Sullivan from 1878. And there was music in plays. 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' from the play 'Little Johnny Jones' written by George M Cohan. The play opened at the Liberty Theater on November 7, 1904.

Broadway did 'shows' but the theatre songs and music came out of Vaudeville ... there were 'Music Halls', 'Burlesques', 'Revues', 'Follies', 'Scandals', 'Gaieties', 'Hitchy-koos' and 'Passing Shows' ... 

By 1900 Broadway was a glittering prize for all musical aspirants and a few blacks dared. Nobody could stop spreadin' rhythm around ...

Prior to 1920 Bert Williams was the only 'crossover' star, he was co-opted by Ziegfeld in 1910. And only three black composers were know to the general public; James Reese Europe, Will Marion Cook and W C Handy. There were no black equivalents to Jolson and Cantor but there were delights. A charming graceful era.

The black shows had - zest, verve, snap, jazzy music and hot dance; 'speed shows'.

A Trip to Coontown (1898) was the first musical comedy entirely produced and performed by African Americans in a Broadway theatre (largely inspired by the routines of the minstrel shows). bob cole & Billy Johnson produced this the first all black review-like musical, an evening of coonery.

Bob Cole (1868-1911) and J Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) providers of great songs for Broadway for 10 years. Cole produced 120 songs working with Broadway producers and Tin Pan Alley publishers.

Clorindy the Origin of the Cakewalk (1898) followed and was a hit at the Casino Theatre Roof Gardens, a will marion cook (1869-1944) show tinged with ragtime and highly successful. 'Hottest Coon in Dixie', 'Who dat say Chicken in dis Crowd', 'Darktown is Out Tonight', 'I'm Coming Virginia'. A big orchestra played syncopated music with Ernest Hogan in the lead. Williams & Walker included the song 'Senegambian Carnival'.

In Dahomey (1902), a success with williams & walker, was a full length Broadway show. 'Swing Along'.

Hits - 'Bon Bon Buddy', 'Rain Song', 'Exhortation', 'Lovie Joe'

Shuffle Along (1921) eubie blake and noble sissle with Josephine Baker in the chorus; 'I'm Just Wild about Harry'

Chocolate Dandies (1924) - 'Dixie Moon'

Plantation Days (1922) james p johnson was musical director, then 'Raisin' Cain'.

Runnin' Wild (1923) with Cecil Mack and 'Charleston'! The rest is history!
'Snowy Morning Blues' 1927. 'Keep Shufflin'' 1928 with Fats and Andy Razaf. 'Messin' Around' 1929.

fats waller and Andy Razaf (1895-1973) was a flip and jaunty lyricist with Fats. 450 songs to his credit. 'When You're Tired of Me', 'Squeeze Me', 'Louisiana', 'Dusky Stevedore', 'Keepin' Out of Mischief Now', 'The Joint is Jumpin''.

Were 'I Can't Give You Anything but Love' and 'On the Sunny Side of the Street' written by Waller/Razaf??

1929 what a year! 'Hot Feet', 'Hot Chocolates', 'Ain't Misbehavin'', 'Black and Blue', 'S'posin'', 'Honeysuckle Rose'. 
With Joe Davis, 'Blue Turning Grey Over You'. With James P 'A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid'. Lyrics were written to Big Band songs like 'In the Mood' or 'Tar Paper Stomp' or 'Hot and Anxious'.

1922 'Birmingham Blues', 'Muscle Shoals Blues', 1923 'Wild Cat Blues' with Clarence Williams, 1924 'In Harlem's Araby'. Organist at the Lafayette. With Spencer Williams 'Charleston Hound', 'Senorita Mine'. 1927 'Brown Sugar' revue. 1928 'Keep Shufflin'' with Andy Razaf, 'Sippi' piano duet with James P. 1929 'Connie's Hot Chocolates', 'Ain't Misbehavin'' with Louis.

1929 'I've got a Feeling I'm falling'. 'Load of Coal' and 'Honeysuckle Rose'. 1930 'Blue Turning Grey over You'. 1931 Fats sings 'I'm Crazy 'bout My Baby'. 1932 'Keepin' Out of Mischief Now'. 'Jitterbug Waltz', 'Black & Blue', 'Squeeze Me'. The Fats Waller Rhythm Club and The Ink Spots! Recording with 'His Rhythm'. 1942 after European tours finally Carnegie Hall. And 1943 Hollywood 'Stormy Weather'. Radio and Hollywood had taken over ... 

In 1920 there was only Bert Williams, by 1930 there were 10 leading black showmen, singers and dancers who put zip into the 'revues'!

Williams was followed by Florence Mills, Ethel Waters, Adelaide Hall and Edith Wilson. Fats dominated the 'black' 'Indian Summer' on Broadway but his fame came from recordings ... and radio. 

But by 1929 the industry was ailing, there was free music on National Radio from 1928 which contributed to the demise? Or was it the movies?!

A new Golden Age started with 'Showboat' in 1927. The great Jewish songwriters hd taken over!

Victor Herbert
Rudolf Friml (1879 - 1972)
1924 'Rose Mari', 'Indian Love Call'
1925 'The Vagabond King'
Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951)
1920 'Sinbad'. Jolson had to sing 'Swanee' not a Romberg song!
1924 'The Student Prince'
1926 'The Dessert Song'
1928 'The New Moon', 'Lover Come Back to Me'



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