You Better Recognize!

Everyone can enjoy music. Any race or gender. It’s not normally about who is playing it. It really does not matter who is performing the music, only the notes matter. I think, however, what does matter is, who writes the notes and the lyrics. Who gets the recognition. I am happy that despite the fact that my father wrote his first song way back in 1917 his name is still listed as the writer. It’s pretty much a well known fact. And many, many people have recorded or performed Eddie’s song. Just recently a friend played it in a hotel where he works as a pianist. He was surprised how many people recognized the song, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is still being played by someone, somewhere in the world.

The song was made popular in 1919 by a White woman, Marion Harris, the first widely known White woman to sing jazz and blues. Then Sophie Tucker (the Red Hot Mama) fell in love with the song and sung it night after night in her nightclub act. Alberta Hunter took it after that. Bessie Smith, Louie Prima, and on and on. It’s been a fox trot, it’s been played with a ukulele. It was sung by Frank Sinatra in a movie joined by Shelley Winters. However, until I wrote Eddie’s biography most people were unaware that the writer of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” was a Black man.

What I have known for a long time is that there are many songs written and/or performed first by African-Americans that became widely popular through White singers who wound up getting the kudos (think Elvis and “Hound Dog”).

John Turner Layton, Jr., was an African-American songwriter, singer and pianist. Born 1894, he died in 1978. Turner Layton’s buddy, Harry Sterling Creamer, born 1879, died 1930, was also an African-American song lyricist. He co-wrote many popular songs in the years from 1900 to 1929. These men were talented, dedicated, and also patriotic as you can see by their first album. And like my father, Eddie, also appeared in vaudeville.

These two men wrote the song “After You’ve Gone” in 1918. Like Eddie’s song, Marion Harris helped make this song popular, as did Sophie Tucker. Edyie Gorme has sung the song, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.

“Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” was also a popular song with music by John Turner Layton, lyrics by Harry  Creamer. Sung by The Andrews Sisters (1950) Freddie Cannon, Bing Crosby, Jan and Dean (1963!) among others. Yet, how many people are aware of the fact that these songs were written by African-American men? Where is their recognition?

Layton and Creamer were even commissioned to do a play. ” COBURNS PLAN MUSICAL SHOW: Mr. and Mrs. Coburn. it was learned last week, have practically completed negotiations for a new musical play which they plan to produce. The play is called “The Three Showers,” and the book, lyrics and music were written Jointly by Harry S. Creamer and Turner Layton. If George M. Cohan consents to fix up the book of “The Three Showers,” as is contemplated by the Coburns.”

About 1924 Turner Layton went to Europe. He teamed up with a Mr. Clarence “Tandy” Johnstone and enjoyed a great deal of success. Per the Pittsburgh Courier, 1927: “Turner Layton, Clarence Johnstone Are Playing To Big Crowds In London.”

Like Eddie, Turner Layton was often mentioned in the Black newspapers even as late as 1950, Pittsburgh Courier, 1950: “The Turner Laytons with daughter Alelia vacationing in usual swank style on French Riviera. Turner Layton happy at relief of gas rationing . . . Rolls Royces do less than 8 miles to the gallon. ” The man had a Rolls Royce.

We hear the songs and even recognize the people who sing them and that’s cool. But the recognition of the fact that there is much widely popular music that was written by African-Americans is absent in America. There, I’ve said it. Which is why who wrote the music matters, today. Music is universal. As is the African-American contribution.

Hey, thanks, for stopping by.

Check out my book: Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer.

 

 

 

 

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Smiling & Twirling & Laughing & Caring

I like to think I am like my father. He was a happy man. He had a great smile. He loved to make people laugh. He was a good friend, with a helpful attitude. And he liked people, period. He was a family man, too. He was married 4 times. Had two daughters, one in 1911 and then me in the 40s. He told the Brooklyn Eagle in 1939 that “the depression doesn’t worry him. He’s happily married (3rd wife), Daughter Hilda is grown up and starting to follow him in show business. He’s got his work, his radio to tinker with and he’s the proud possessor of the first television set in Harlem.” At the time of this interview he was appearing in Mike Todd’s Hot Mikado. As Koko he sang “Titwillow” (Stars Over Broadway, Star Tone (M) ST 214 (Eddie Green with orchestra conducted by William Parson) The Brooklyn Eagle article said he had a “perpetual beaming smile.”

In a 1939 Press Sheet it was said that “Eddie Green still remains one of the greatest of all funny men. He has an irresistible sense of humor and he can squeeze a laugh from the sourest puss in the country!” When making his movies Eddie said that he builds his stories around incidents that are interesting, never offensive. He also said that when working on the radio show Duffy’s Tavern, “It’s grand, working with this show. The informality of it, the tavern setting and the lines which I never have to worry about, turns work into play.”

The Billboard spoke about him in a 1920 article in regard to having a helpful attitude: Eddie sent a note to The Billboard letting them know that if “the boys playing this town (New York) and having a hard time getting rooms they could stop at the Hotel Francis directly opposite the New York City Depot.” The Billboard said his not was an illustration of the many services to one another that actors may accomplish through their news page.

He and my mother were only married for five years and of that marriage I never heard any bad things about my father from my mother. She seemed to have been proud to have been married to him. Eddie was a comedian and as I grew up I always told my mother (whenever I thought I had said something funny) that I was my father’s daughter.  I find that most people  just want to be happy.  And they want to be acknowledged. I like to acknowledge people. It makes me smile to see another person realize they have been heard.

I am a family person, also. My siblings are like parts of my person. This past week I had the chance to see a nephew that I had not seen in over 10 years. He’s not little anymore. He’s grown up (about 6′ 5″, maybe more-so tall!!!). He’s a grown man. I cannot believe how happy it made me to see him. He visited from New Mexico. I have family all over the United States. Some of us have never met in person. I am “working on” putting together a family calendar. I wish I could hug them all at the same time. I LOVE my family. They totally make me smile.

I am working very hard on paying attention to what makes my happy, what makes me smile. There are so many unhappy people in the world today. So many reasons to be unhappy. So much unrest. I am going to try and take how I felt about seeing my nephew (I felt like twirling around in the restaurant!!!) and spread it around.

Thanx for stopping by and for helping to keep a smile on my face. 🙂

 

Keeping my eye on the Beauty of the World

millicent-and-eddie
Millicent Roberts receiving award from Eddie; with Miss Futter and Miss Graves.

Article in the Norfolk Journal and Guide: Some of Harlem’s most beautiful girls turned out for Eddie Green’s Second Annual “Night of Glamour”, last Thursday night at the Renaissance Casino when the popular comedian offered valuable prizes plus a movie contract with his Sepia Art Pictures Company. Eddie is standing next to the winner Millicent Roberts Miss Glamour.

 

As well as being a filmmaker, stage star, old time radio icon and composer, Eddie was also well-known for holding beauty contests, usually in Harlem, that featured beautiful Black women. He even put together the Miss Sepia America contest which was held at the 1939-40 World’s Fair in New York. There was a pavilion at the fair that showcased exhibits for and about Black people (though today it is difficult to find mention of this). 5814421775_46ea0e10b6_b

As I have mentioned in former posts Millicent (Miss Glamour) is still with us. She is a living testament to the fact of Black beauty contests. I don’t think we have those anymore.

My father believed in promoting Black people. Through beauty contests or in his movie studio and in his office. His letterhead from his movie studio read “Producing the best in Moving Pictures, of, by and with Negroes.” (We were negroes back in Eddie’s day and proud of it.)

Eddie possessed the ability to get along with people though, be they Black or White, men or women. It’s what helped propel him through his career as a comedian. It helped him work at the Apollo drilling white chorus girls for 45 weeks, and this was such a big deal it was written about in the local newspaper.

Lately, I have found it difficult to write upbeat posts because of the recent shootings of Black men. Eddie must have been extremely upset though back in the early 1900s. But he focused on the goals he wanted to achieve. He was a good husband to my mom. He was all-business when he was supposed to be. And he was a funny, if droll, comedian. People liked to see him coming. Eddie lived a good life through hellish times for Black people. Eddie lived through the depression, hellish times for everybody. And he just kept going.

I feel for all those who are losing loved ones to violence. And I know that positivity exists.

Thanx for stopping by and don’t forget to check out my book Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer

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