My Father and the New York Police Department 1929

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!

Broadway about 1926-1929

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.

 

 

I will not be a “Droopy” Dog

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Okay, I’ve had enough. I am tired of reading words such as divisive, feud, and slur when reading about current political events. I do not want to buy into the idea that I should now be fearful of the future of my country or the world for that matter.

I will not look forward to “Doomsday.” I will not live my life by a “Doomsday Clock.” And the Doomsday Clock is trending on Facebook. A New York Times op-ed piece stated the members of the Chicago based bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have moved the Doomsday clock closer to midnight than ever before. They site nuclear weapons, climate change and certain statements of a single person. (Guess who.) We, people, got the idea for this clock back in 1947. A symbolic clock face representing a countdown to disaster. When I opened a page on Facebook I saw an atomic bomb mushroom cloud. What the?

I know there is doom and gloom upon the land, but that does not mean I must give up all hope. Maybe I get this outlook from my father. Who, after living through the dropping of the Atom Bomb decided to make a movie about it from his own frame of mind. Eddie liked to see people laugh. So in 1949 he decided to write, produce, direct and star in a movie that depicts a Black family’s reaction post-bomb but with humor and entertainment thrown in.

The movie begins with the husband and the maid dancing to the latest jive record that they intend to play that evening for the daughter’s coming-out party. Mom comes out and after making hubby sit down they start to discuss their upstairs boarder’s comings and goings. They have a suspicion he is building a bomb because he sneaks in and out and keeps to himself. So they invite a detective (Eddie) to their party that night and ask him to check out Uncle Adam. There is a comedy skit and a chorus line at the party and Margaret Westfield sings a song Eddie wrote titled “You Can Always Believe Your Heart” while the detective investigates Mr. Adam’s room. In the end everything turns out hunky-dorey with a kind of sappy closing shot of Eddie

Most recently in 2008 I found this review of the song Eddie wrote “The audience  is asked to get excited about the daughter singing a boring romantic ballad that could easily have come out of a white sing-along movie of the time (1949.” Well!! I also found another review that contained these words “the avuncular old man (played by the only person in this movie who can actually act!)” Well!!! This same person said the main plot was for people to hear the daughter sing the song. Wrong!

Eddie’s original title for this movie was Mr. Atom’s Bomb. He had to copyright it as Mr. Adam’s Bomb. But he, like so many other people, was deeply affected by past events of the war and being an artist and a comedian he made this movie in reference to how Black people were feeling about the use of the atom bomb and as a way to stay positive. Even “Uncle Sam” gets a positive mention. The movie also starred Gene Ware and Jessica Grayson, both veteran actors. Ms. Grayson also appeared in a Bette Davis movie, The Little Foxes. I think Eddie used up all of his money making this last movie.

I am trying to figure out a way to stay positive today. I am planning to find some way to contribute to a more positive community outlook. Yesterday I went to the VA hospital where I used to work and I visited Bldg. 99 where the older veterans live. There was live music in the hall. The veterans are wheeled out or escorted and lunch is served while the musicians play. I actually saw a couple of familiar faces. So between the hugs and the smiles and conversations with the veteran’s and the music “Honeysuckle Rose”, by Fats Waller, and marching music, I felt pretty good when I left.

When I was little my favorite cartoon character was “Droopy”. He always walked around saying “Woe is me, woe is me”. I though he was funny. But I don’t want to be him.

Thanks, for stopping by. KCB

 

 

 

 

49,957 words

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49,957 words.

Need to cross some more tees and dot some more iiiis (eyes). I’m feeling a little silly, cause I’m nervous. It has come time for me to begin my search for readers to proof my manuscript. I could not, for the life of me, come up with an idea for a post, so I decided to post Chapter Two of my tentatively titled book:

 Eddie Green: Star of Stage, Screen, Radio and Television

A Biography

Chapter Two: A Good Man Is Hard To Find

While continuing to perform as a magician, in 1916, Eddie wrote a silent movie titled, Eddie Green’s Rehearsal, which gives an early indication of the direction in which Eddie was heading. This movie was directed, produced and distributed by Eddie, the cast was Eddie. The movie was about a man by the name of Eddie Green, who is desperate to get into show business. Eddie borrows a friend’s clothes and car, and goes to an audition. He tells jokes, sings and generally performs to an encore. This scenario proved to be prophetic.

The movie did not actually make it to the big screen, at least not in its original format, and not until 1939, but it had enough merit to warrant a mention, in the form of a “clipping,” which was placed in a folder at the Margaret Herrick Library, a non-circulating reference and research library devoted to the history and development of the motion picture as an art form, where I found it in 2015, sixty-five years later.

About a year after Eddie wrote his silent movie, The United States entered World War I. Eddie was twenty-six years old when he reported to his draft board. I have not found out yet, where he may have been stationed. However, the information on his draft registration card provided me a good source of information. Listed was Eddie’s address at the time, 1405 Ten Pin Alley, in Baltimore, Maryland. Research showed me that Ten Pin Alley was, literally, an alley, located in what was then Ward 5, a part of East Baltimore, which, though dirty and crowded, was basically the only place in which poor blacks were allowed to live. Noted also on the card, was his occupation, actor, his place of employment, the Standard Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the fact that he was married and had a child.

Eddie’s place of employment in 1917, the Standard Theater was owned by a Mr. John T. Gibson, a native of Baltimore, who also ran Gibson’s Auditorium Theatre on South Street and made good money booking Black vaudeville acts on the national “chitlin circuit.” Stars such as Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters, also performed at the Standard. Ticket sales at the Standard helped make Gibson the “richest black man in Philadelphia.”

While at the Standard, Eddie dropped the magic tricks from his act. After catching one of his shows, a stage manager told Eddie to, “Get rid of the paraphernalia and just do comedy, you are really funny.” Eddie took the man’s advice and began performing strictly as a comedian, eventually adding singing and”soft shoe” dancing to his routine.

It was during this time, that Eddie wrote the his first of his twenty-nine songs, “A Good Man is Hard to Find, “ which he copyrighted on December 28, 1917, in Chicago. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is a bluesy type of song, explaining what a woman should do when she manages to get a “good” man. Six months later, Eddie sold his song and on June 2, 1918, the song was copyrighted by Pace and Handy Music Publishers (Home of the Blues), and went on sale as a piano roll in the Fort Wayne Gazette.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” became a hit. January 4, 1919, Eddie got his first top billing as an entertainer, though his name, as the songwriter, was in tiny print. The name of the song was in big, bold letters right at the top of the Billboard page. The Billboard listed the song as “a 1,000,000 copy hit, sure fire applause getter for any singing act or combination on the stage.”

Marion Harris, a popular singer, most successful in the 1920s, the first widely known white singer to sing jazz and blues songs, recorded the song in 1919 for Victor Records. Miss Harris’s recording has been digitized at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.

Eddie decided to put together a company of eighteen actors, which he called the “Deluxe Players,” and as owner and manager of the “Deluxe Players,” he began to tour the south, featuring his song, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” performing in places such as Tampa, Florida and St. Louis, Missouri. Eddie and his company were a sensation in St. Louis at the Booker Washington Theater, as was printed by the St. Louis Argus, January 9, 1920: “Green with his droll humor, and his coterie of performers made a big hit during a previous performance at this house.” The show bristled with tuneful melodies, graceful and eccentric dances and a barrel of side-splitting comedy.”

Eddie’s song caught the attention of Miss Sophie Tucker, one of the most popular entertainers at that time, known as, “the last of the red hot mammas.” While performing in the Sophie Tucker Room in Reisenweber’s in New York, Miss Tucker sang “A Good Man is Hard to Find” every night for ten consecutive weeks, and “will continue to use it until her engagement terminates.” Miss Tucker said that, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is “the best blue number she has ever used.” {Photo 1. Caption: Sophie Tucker Says.}

This song has been recorded as a blues number, a fox trot and a swing number, by such greats as Wilbur C. Sweatman’s Jazz Orchestra, Les Brown and his Orchestra, Louis Prima and his Orchestra, Jess Stacy and his Orchestra, Dorothy Loudon with the Honky Tonks, William’s Cotton Club Orchestra, Muggsy Spanier, the Alabama Red Peppers, “Fats” Waller, Bessie Smith, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Cass Daley, Big Maybelle, Brenda Lee, Nancy Wilson, and Carol Channing, to name a few, and a version of the song has been heard in Woody Allen’s recent film Blue Jasmine, and even more recently in HBO’s 2015 presentation of Bessie. As was Sophie Tucker before her, Bessie Smith was instrumental in popularizing, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

As I write this, I am realizing that, as the years went by, Eddie must have been aware of the impact this song had on people. At the time he wrote this song, though, he probably had a need for whatever money he received when he sold it to Pace and Handy. The popularity of this song, did, however, announce the arrival of Eddie Green, and with his talent for getting laughs, and his willingness to work for what he wanted, Eddie was on his way up.

End of Chapter Two

Hey, thanks for stopping by.