My father liked two things for sure: Pretty women and he liked being happy. From the first time he went out on the road with his first song in 1919, through his movie making days in 1939, ’40 and ’41 his ensemble included chorus girls and comedy. He even incorporated dancing girls, tap dancers, singers and comedic skits in his last 1949 movie that depicted Blacks and how they dealt with life after the Atom Bomb. For those new to this blog you can see his last movie on YouTube-it’s titled Mr. Adam’s Bomb. A young lady (Margaret Westfield) sings a song called “You can Always Believe Your Heart” which Eddie wrote. I am still looking for information on Ms. Westfield.
Eddie became a household name as Eddie, the waiter in the radio program Duffy’s Tavern, during the last ten years of his life. Everyone loved Eddie. February is Black History Month. I am going to inundate social media with “fun Eddie stuff”. I want to get him as much exposure as possible. I want to get as many people as I can to experience Eddie’s good nature and for them to get a few laughs as well. I think our world could use uplifting right now. Eddie’s life story is truly inspiring. I will also be pushing the biography I have written about him, “Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer“, it’s much more fun that that “other” book everyone is talking about these days.
In this still from Eddie’s 4th movie you can see that Eddie (in the striped shirt) liked being silly (which is why, I am sure I like silly jokes: What kind of flower is that on your face? Tulips!!! Hahahahaha!) There were even chorus girls in this movie.
When I began writing the biography on my father, Eddie Green, I wanted to use a quote from Langston Hughes in the foreword but had to forget that idea as I could not get permission. I can, however, use a portion of an article Mr. Hughes wrote which mentioned my father. James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.
In the Hughes article (not the one pictured here) he was writing about “sympathetic outlets to new Negro playwrights”. He wanted to stimulate growth of a real Negro theater. He believed that while White playwrights could be skilled or sincere they could not catch “the little graduation that give a negro life its drama.” He links the comedy stage thus: “Perhaps comedy is the pitfall of the theater. Exaggeration of racial types the overstressing of eccentricities of regional speech frequently dominate comedy especially in music halls”. He goes on to say, “Nevertheless just as out of serious plays has come a Robeson, so from the minstral vaudeville musical stage have come some very talented Negro comedians, Bert Williams, Pigmeat, Jackie Mabley, Eddie Green.” (New York Age May, 1953). Notice in the article to the left Eddie, Jackie, and Pigmeat are all listed as appearing with the sixteen Apollo Rockettes back in the early 1900s.
Here is a compilation of some of the scenes from Eddie’s movies in 1939. In a 1940 Baltimore article written by Lillian Johnson she headed the article with: As a Comedian, He’s Very Funny; As a Business Man, He’s Very Sensible and Comedy is a Business. Lillian said “The fact that Eddie is so funny on the screen, stage, and radio is due to the highly intelligent and efficient manner in which he conducts his work.”
Now that the book has been written and published I am learning who my audience is (?). Old time movie buffs, old time radio lovers, musicians, people from Baltimore (Eddie was born there, they love their history), history buffs, young people who love nostalgia, people who loved Eddie and who are so happy I wrote the book, people in the UK, people who love the blues (Eddie was a composer), people who like inspirational stories. But I am having difficulty attracting younger people, especially Blacks. Langston Hughes had this problem at one time. According to Wikipedia: “Hughes’ popularity among the younger generation of black writers varied even as his reputation increased worldwide. With the gradual advancement toward racial integration, many black writers considered his writings of black pride and its corresponding subject matter out of date.” And a lot of younger Blacks today (as young as 50 like my brother) consider Eddie’s era waaay out of date. Never mind the fact that he was successful, highly thought of, and funny.
So, these days I am searching for a way to get people to take notice of Eddie’s work ethic, his love of people and his pride as a Black man in order to promote the idea that those successful Blacks who came before us, even though they seem outmoded, added to and continue, through us, to add positive vibes to the Universe that elicit messages like this: LOVE YOUR FATHER’S WORK. HE REALLY MOVED ME WHEN I WAS ROCK BOTTOM God Bless.
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 Burlesquewheel 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 byand 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 funniestVitaphone 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.
It has been eleven days since my last post. Now that I have finished writing the biography of my father’s (Eddie Green) life and signed with a publisher I have been concentrating on the book cover design. Actually, I have been obsessing over it. Morning, noon, and night. Today I went out to the dentist and I was so anxious to get back home to my computer, I forgot to bring home something for dinner. I have been wracking my brain over what pictures to use.
Eddie’s forte was comedy, but he also sang, wrote songs, ran a string of restaurants, owned a movie picture/television station and was a government licensed ham radio operator. In the early 1900s Eddie was what Bob Hope called “a man of all trades, master of fun.” He was present before, during and after the Harlem Renaissance. So there are photos that I can use on the cover page, but in most of them Eddie was either acting silly, as in the picture from his movie “One Round Jones” (1941), or he is making a funny face in character. Anyhow, what I want to use is a picture that showed Eddie as the business man that he was because even as a comedian he was all business.
So, I have chosen the only photo that I have – a head shot of Eddie in his usual attire when he wasn’t in character – a sharp suit and a snazzy hat. Back east in the 40s and 50s men wore snazzy hats. Once the design is done, I will post it here. I think I will place small images of one or two of the comedies he made on the cover also.
I have realized recently that when I post to this blog I post as if I am sending my stuff out to the whole world, worrying that if I put too much in the blog who will buy this book? But, hello, silly me, the whole world is not following my blog! I have realized that I think of my blog followers as the whole world which is a good thing. Because that means I am pleased and satisfied with the progress of this endeavor.
Once my book publishes of course, I will be making a serious effort to see that it gets out to as many people as possible.
You’ve Screamed at Him on Duffy’s Tavern – In Person – EDDIE GREEN!
This headline was from an article in 1945. Eddie was scheduled to appear at the Orpheum Theater, in Los Angeles, on May 1st, along with The King Cole Trio, and, Johnny Otis and his Orchestra.
In case you are new to my blog, Eddie, my father, is the Black gentleman with the big smile on his face, in the above photo. Kinda like my smile. The gentleman in the hat, is Mr. Ed Gardner, creator of Duffy’s Tavern, the gentleman next to him is Charles Cantor and the lady is Florence Halop.
In the seven years prior to 1945, Eddie had owned two barbeque restaurants in New York (specializing in southern bar-bee-Q), he had made four of his own movies, and, he was on The Executive Board of the Negro Actors Guild of America, Noble Sissle, President, along with Mrs. Noble Sissle, and W. C. Handy.
Eddie had also appeared on the Ben Bernie Music Quiz radio program. Ben Bernie was a jazz violinist, and a bandleader as well as a radio personality, who was born in 1891 (like Eddie.) He originated the term “yowsa, yowsah, yowsah,” that became a national catchphrase, and which was used in the movie, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
I thought They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, was very “deep” when I saw it, a movie about a depression era dance marathon, with contestants desperate to win. I mean, these people stayed on their poor feet a long time. Now, I am writing a book, years later, about my father appearing on a radio program starring a man associated with this movie. It just blows me away. Small world.
Eddie had appeared on many radio programs, including a radio special titled, “All God’s Children,” with Paul Robeson. Eddie was even a guest on The Jell-O Program, starring Jack Benny. In the following episode titled “Columbus Day,” (cause it was), Jack is talking on the phone to Rochester who needs $50 dollars to pay off some debts and he sends his friend, Columbus Smith (played by Eddie), to pick up the money from Jack.
Knock, knock, knock.
BENNY: Come in.
COLUMBUS: Excuse me for intruding, Mr. Benny, but I got a note for you.
BENNY: I’m sorry, I’m busy right now, come back later.
COLUMBUS: I would advise you to take a quick gander at this communique.
BENNY: All right, what’s the note, what does it say?
COLUMBUS: I’m only a carrier pigeon, we ain’t much on reading.
BENNY: Oh, ok, let’s have it.
MARY LIVINGSTONE: Who’s it from, Jack
BENNY: It’s from, Rochester. Listen to this, dear boss, please give bearer, Mr. Columbus Smith – Columbus?
COLUMBUS: Yea, that’s me.
MARY (to Columbus): Happy Anniversary.
Loud laughter from the audience.
Eddie would find his greatest fame, however, through the popular radio show, Duffy’s Tavern.
The show aired March 1, 1941. Once a week, Duffy’s Tavern entertained America’s citizen with the antics of Archie, the bartender, played by Ed Gardner, the creator of the show, Eddie, the waiter played by my father Eddie Green, and the tavern regulars, Finnegan, played by Charles Cantor, and Miss Duffy, (the tavern owner’s daughter), played by Shirley Booth. Duffy of Duffy’s Tavern was never seen or heard, but the show would start off with Archie having a telephone conversation with his “boss”, Duffy. The phone would ring, and Archie would answer: “Hello, Duffy’s Tavern, where the elite meet to eat, Duffy ain’t here, Archie speaking, oh, hello, Duffy.” Usually, the show featured a different celebrity guest each week.
Archie, the bartender, tended to misuse the English language and Eddie would usually call subtle attention to this fact:
EDDIE: Mr. Archie, what happened to the sign?
ARCHIE: What sign, Eddie.
EDDIE: The “watch your hats and coats” sign.
ARCHIE: There it is, only I rephrased the words so Clifton Fadiman would feel more at home here. Read it.
EDDIE: Maintain scrutiny of thy chapeaus and hats, umm, nice and confusing, ain’t it?
ARCHIE: Yes, isn’t it? It’s a quotation from Shakespeare. Did you ever see any of Shakespeare’s
EDDIE: One, As You Like It.
EDDIE: I didn’t like it.
Eddie would appear in every episode until his death in 1950, as well as appearing in the same role in the 1945 movie.
After Eddie got the role in Duffy’s Tavern, he was able to fulfill another dream of his, The Pittsburgh Courier reported “Eddie Green, comedian of radio and stage fame has opened a dramatic training school with services and classes for both amateurs and professionals. The School is called Sepia Artists.”
Thank you for coming today. I hope these stories of my father and his ambitions inspire you to go after your dreams, no matter how unattainable they may seem.
Hello there, today I am going to do a short re-cap of this gentleman’s (my father, Eddie Green) story so far, for those who have just tuned in, or may have forgotten my previous posts, or maybe it’s just for myself while I wrap my head around the fact that I must get back into posting mode, from book writing mode.
This month, if Eddie had still been alive he would be 124 years old on August 16th. Even though I am way past grown, I still sometimes wish Eddie hadn’t died in 1950. I mean, people do live a long time. I know there was a French lady who lived until she was 124, and Jiroemon Kimura became the oldest man in history on December 28, 2012, at the age of 115. So, Eddie could have lived until 2015, if Life’s plan had been my plan.
Eddie was born in 1891 in East Baltimore in a poor neighborhood. He left home when he was nine, became a “Boy Magician” to support himself, and by the age of eighteen, in 1909 he married his first wife.
By 1917, Eddie was living at 1405 Ten Pin Alley and was working at the Standard Theater as a magician, with a little bit of comedy thrown in, and he was also performing handy man chores.
That June, Eddie signed up with the draft board for WWI, I don’t know where he may have been stationed or if he stayed at home because by now he and his wife had a child, my step-sister.
This is a tiny picture of a 2-page draft card,, but notice that a corner has been torn off, which is how the Government kept track of the Black men that were signed up. The document says:
Birthplace:Maryland,United States of America
Birth Date:16 Aug 1891
Draft Board: 05
By the year 1921, Eddie had dropped his magic act and had gone into comedy on the Vaudeville and Burlesque stage.
By 1929 Eddie appears in the play “Hot Chocolates” along with Louis Armstrong, and “Fats” Waller, and Eddie also wrote the comedy sketches for “Hot Chocolates”, as listed on this album cover which you can see if you have really good eyesight.
1939, we find Eddie, as “KoKo”, singing “Tit Willow” in the Mike Todd adaptation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado”, “The Hot Mikado.”
On a tree by a river a little tom-tit
Sang “Willow, titwillow, titwillow”
And I said to him, “Dicky-bird, why do you sit
Singing ‘Willow, titwillow, titwillow'”
“Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?” I cried
“Or a rather tough worm in your little inside”
With a shake of his poor little head, he replied
“Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!”
Eddie is “KoKo”, the little guy with the tall white hat. He was the Lord High Executioner. Isn’t he cute?
And now we are at the place I left off with my last post (does that make sense?).
By now, late 1939, Eddie is on his third wife, they are living on 138th Street in New York, and at the beginning of 1940, Eddie wrote, directed, produced and starred in his third film “Comes Midnight”, which, per some reviews, was his best film yet.
There are some funny stories about the making of this movie, which I will go into in my next post.
I cannot emphasize enough how much pleasure I am getting from researching my father’s life for a book and for this blog. I encourage you to consider delving into the history of someone in your family, because what I have found is that I am learning so much more about the people who came before me, who worked hard day and night to foster progress in this country and in this world. And, I continue to be blown away by new people who come into my life via this blog and who provide me with additional information. Just people who share the same interests. My father’s hobby was ham radio. He would talk to people all over the world and I am beginning to be able to understand his enjoyment of simply connecting with people.