Due to a recent podcast I realized I needed to gain a greater degree of knowledge in regard to how my father, Eddie Green, got into the field of radio. In his words: “Radio for Negroes is a very hard field to get into . . . very hard! But the returns are so great that it’s worth the try.” Eddie was a living example of how one gets ahead in life. He stayed busy, he knew his talents and dedicated himself to making them pay off. His biggest break was in 1929.
I found an article from about 1928, by Chappy Gardner, “Along the Rialto”, in the Pittsburgh Courier: “ Eddie Green, well-known songwriter, electrician, motion picture operator, famed comedian, opened on the Burlesque wheel this season. Played at Newark last week in A Perfect 36. Eddie appeared with the regular cast, being the only race performer, but was at his best in his single that wowed the customers”.
It took him a minute to realize his popularity. In his own words “In the meantime, I was so busy working here and there and doing a bit of writing on the side that I did not notice my own advancement. One indication of the change, I should have noticed, was the fact that I could see my name very frequently in the various trade papers”. Then along came George Immerman and opened a show called Hot Chocolates. I became the featured comic in this show. It turned out that none of the various scenes written for the show were good enough, so I was engaged to write the scenes”.
Hot Chocolates was a musical revue that opened at the Hudson Theater in New York on June 20, 1929. The show was staged and directed by Leonard Harper, with songs by and Thomas “Fats” Waller and Harry Brooks and book by Andy Razaf. The revue was touted as being fast, funny and frank. Hot Chocolates had a run of 219 performances.
Eddie double as a performer in the show along with these two gentlemen
- Louis Armstrong Ensemble (Armstrong made his Broadway debut with his role in the ensemble as part of the pit band for the show)
- Jimmie Baskette Ensemble (Baskette later became well-known as the zip-a-dee-doo-da man, Uncle Remus, in Walt Disney’s movie “Song of the South” (1946)
A big hit from Hot Chocolates was “Big Business” written by Eddie. It was a “talking song,” with Eddie, Billy Higgins and Company, and “Fats” Waller on piano.
Then there was the record that was produced from one of Eddie’s skits titled “Sending A Wire” on the Okeh record label:
And the Warner Bros Vitaphone film “Sending A Wire” (directed by Murray Roth) (courtesy IMDB) that featured synchronized sound. It was said to be the funniest Vitaphone comedy act “which has yet been produced,”, and that it “kept thousands shaking with laughter.”
At about the same time in another part of town, Gannett Newspapers decided to put together a stellar list of entertainers to perform over radio stations WGY and WHAM, to be broadcast to “Little America” for the enjoyment of Commander Richard E. Byrd, an America Naval Officer, and his explorers, who had set up the “Little America” base camp on the Ross Ice Shelf. Radio remained a primitive and exciting medium in 1929, and when the stations contacted Little America directly and spoke with Byrd or Hanson, it caused a worldwide sensation. They chose Eddie to be added to the broadcast to perform his “Sending a Wire” skit.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said: “The whole town is talking about Eddie Green, prime colored comic, who will put on one of the funniest skits on the stage”. The “whole town” (New York) was talking about my father!! He was Big Time! Of course the radio people wanted him. He was Hot!! The “stellar” cast in this radio show also included: Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rudy Vallee one of the first modern pop stars and Ted Healy, the creator of the Three Stooges.
Eddie had to perform in both of these venues on the same night. Problem was he had to be on stage at the Hudson at almost the same time the radio broadcast would begin. This was a predicament. In his words this is what happened: “The Police Department solved the problem by giving me a motorcycle escort from the theater to the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) studio”. He said that they went up Broadway on the wrong side of the street with the police sirens screaming. Can’t you just picture it? The police escorting Eddie through traffic trying not to hit the theater crowd, zigging and zagging!! Just to get him on that radio program so Commander Byrd could laugh his head off and forget about the cold in Antarctica!! I salute the New York Police Department!
Eddie was Hot!! They had to have him! If he were alive today he’d be on Ellen, Oprah, Steve, National Public Radio (NPR), Twitter, Internet. Because he was one of the best comedians of his time. THAT is how Eddie got into radio.
Hey, thanks for stopping by.