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.

 

 

NETWORKING-A DEFINITE BENEFIT TO MY QUEST

Grandma Norma 1945
Grandma Norma 1945

Hello Family:  Personal, wordpress and FB.  Yesterday I got a chance to attend a mini-fair and community gathering at the William Grant Still Community Arts Center in the West Adams District of Los Angeles, California.  William Grant Still (May 11, 1895 – December 3, 1978) was an African-American classical composer who wrote more than 150 compositions. He was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television.images (12)

The Art Center focuses on the artistic efforts of the community and has a variety of programming throughout the year reflecting the  multicultural diversity of its neighborhood where Still resided for twenty years.  It has been serving the Westside of Los Angeles since 1978. 

My mom, pictured above, had aspirations to become an opera star, and I thought by attending this mini-fair I might be able to hook up with someone who remembered those days, the late 1930s through 1945.  Well, I did.  I also discovered a lot more information about the 1940s and 1950s and what was then a mostly Black neighborhood that was home to many entertainers, architects, doctors and lawyers.

I am focusing on entertainers in this post because that is what my mother and father did.  I chose to go to the gathering at the William Grant Still Center because I also figured I would find people there who had an interest in opera.  My mom used to sing at weddings at the Wilfandel Club on Adams Boulevard, and I found out yesterday that the club is still active.  Possibly I will be able to find more information when I visit them.

I was actually able to provide some new information to the people I met, who were very interested in who Grandma Norma was.  I forgot to mention while I was there that mom was Hattie McDaniel’s protege’, (Hattie McDaniel, first Black female to win an Academy Award,) though I did show them a picture with mom and Hattie, which a couple of people copied for themselves.  I also had the following article, but I didn’t get a chance to share it yesterday.  ” Representing Miss Hattie McDaniel as guest of Miss Lena Horne at her “after theatre,” party closing her Headline Orpheum appearance, was Miss Norma Anne Amato and her mother, Sinclaire White Amato, violinist and pedagog.” The Caifornial Eagle newspaper, June 22, 1944.

I was able to share information about mom’s mother, Sinclaire, who like Mr. Still, played the violin and was the sponsor of the Music Arts Association back in the day.  1931 to be exact.  I was able to become acquainted with someone who would like to begin some type of Art Appreciation club here in L A. again for our kids.

Of course, I also took pictures of Eddie, my father, songwriter, producer, comedian, to share with the people I met. As I suspected, even though there were older people at this function, not one of them remembered Eddie.  However, I found people who knew of people that Eddie worked with.  So I was able to acquaint them with Eddie and I got a chance to exchange cards with other writers of black history.

Bringing Eddie’s accomplishments in the entertainment industry out of the shadows is my quest. I was able to accomplish that, somewhat, at yesterday’s event.   I  found one one-page article with information on it that I could connect to Eddie.  Such as:  The article mentioned Clarence Muse, actor, director, composer. I have this picture of Eddie and Clarence  00001389 Courtesy of L. A. Public Library, donated by Attorney Walter L. Gordon, Jr., my godfather.

The article I saw yesterday  also mentioned Lena Horne, I have an article  from the Pittsburgh Courier, 1945, in which the columnist wrote:   “Last Monday through the courtesy of the NBC broadcasting studios, I witnessed the second production of “Jubilee” to be sent to those fine fellows across the sea:   Eddie Green did a comic script with Santa Claus (Whitman) and Lena Horne.”

This same one page article that I found yesterday mentioned Sydney P. Dones, former actor and producer, well I found an article from The California Eagle, March 20, 1947, that mentioned Eddie and my godfather being at the same function, as  Mr. Dones.:  “Dropped in on the candlelight introduction of Les Dames club Sunday evening, Atty. Walt Gordon seemed to be having a grand time greeting old friends, as did Norma and Eddie Green, Sidney Dones.”

The point here is that though Eddie was a visible, well-known figure in those days, it seem to me that he has faded from view. I hope to rectify that.

These folks lived near each other in the Adams Historical District in the 40s and 50s.  Hattie McDaniel on Harvard, Sidney Dones, on Hobart, Clarence Muse on 24th Street, Rochester, a friend of the family lived off of 37th Street and we lived on Second Avenue, near 36th Street.

I got the chance yesterday to network and share Eddie’s history, and mom’s.  And I will go to great lengths to do that.  It took me 4 hours on the bus to get there, same to get back (MTA and Red Line), but I did it.

I will leave you with a few lines from the Eddie Green, Ernest Whitman, Lena Horne skit.

SANTA(Ernest Whitman): Well, my boy, I brought you something that you’ll like. This is your package.

EDDIE: I guess I’ll open it. Well, looka here, it’s a Lena Horne mamas doll, ain’t that nice. It’ll be good if when I squeeze it, it says mama.

LENA (seductively): Oh daddy.

EDDIE: Well, That’s good enough!

By folks, thanks for stopping by, and thank you Kristina, for giving me the idea to research Grandma Norma’s singing career.

Peace and love

.

HOOKUPS

 

Times Square 1935
Times Square 1935

 

 

EDDIE GREEN SIGNED FOR NBC HOOKUP

Eddie Green-Getty Image

NEW YORK

Billed on Broadway and elsewhere as an ace black-face comedian, Eddie Green has been signed for twenty-six weeks to co-feature on a bill with Ernest Whitman and Charles Winnenger.  The program will be aired every Sunday from 10 o’clock to 11:00 over WEAF NBC national hookup.  Nothing new to EG who worked several seasons very successfully with Rudy V., in fact so successfully he was returned 3 times by popular demand.  Leaving the Vallee hour a year ago, he worked through a long term contract engagement at the Apollo, where with his original style of getting laughs won an uncountable following.  June 22, 1935, Pittsburgh Courier.

The program for which Eddie was signed was “Uncle Charlie’s Tent Show”.  Charles Winninger was “Uncle Charley”.   Charles Winnenger  (May 26, 1884-January 27, 1969), was a stage and film actor, who began in Vaudeville, and became known for his role in a Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II musical “Show Boat” in 1927, 1932 and in film in 1936.  Mr. Winninger would go on to appear in over 20 films.

charles winnnger charles-winninger-02

Each Sunday night Uncle

Charley’s Tent Show parades into your loudspeaker

amid a blare of parade revelry as the performers meander down

the streets of a designated city and come to a

stop in front of the canvas top which houses their act.

imagesFXV126IJuntitled (7)

 Two of those performers were Eddie Green and Ernest Whitman, who were cast as Sam and Jerry,  were the  only Negro comedians on a network , according to the August 3, 1935 issue of Radio Guide magazine.

Eddie Green, (left), my father, was at this time, a stage and radio performer, who had performed in Vaudeville,  and Ernest Whitman (February 21, 1893-August 5, 1954), was a stage and screen actor who had appeared in a number of films, including “Green Pastures”, “, Gone With The Wind”, Stormy Weather and “The Lost Weekend”.

Eddie and Ernest would team up later and record  a song together, and Eddie also went on to Hollywood to join the cast of the Showboat Radio program, starring Charles Winnenger as  (Cap’n Henry), see above picture.

It was on the “Show Boat” radio program that my father and Hattie McDaniel (first Black female Oscar winner, for her role in the movie “Gone With The Wind”), performed the comedy skit, “Ulysses and the Siren”, which was a poem, written by Samuel Daniel 1562-1619 (who knew?).

Here is a picture of two versions of “Ulysses and the Siren”.

ulysees and the

Neither one the these pictures look anything like Eddie and Hattie.  Of course, looks don’t really matter when you are broadcasting over the radio, do they?  Hattie actually went on to be cast in the 1936 film version of “Showboat”.

These people worked together and I believe they looked out for each other.  During the 30s times were hard for everybody, but the entertainment industry was there to provide a bit of relief.  Radio was going strong.

Of course, there is always somebody with a different opinion.  One was a writer with the Knickerbocker News.  I found this article but I have not been able to print it all because the type just won’t act right, but she started out by saying “What that Eddie Green is doing in radio I don’t know.  I still can’t see his type of comedy.”  Good thing she was not in the majority.  Anyhow, they say even bad publicity is good, cause it means people are talking about you, you are causing a stir, people are noticing you.  In Eddie’s case it was a good thing.  Find what you do best and go out there and get noticed.  Have fun and spread the love.

I have a picture of Eddie and Hattie, after she won her Oscar.eddieandhattieFor those of you who don’t know, Hattie is the fifth person from the left, and Eddie is the second man from the left.  My mom is here also, first lady on the left.  She told me she could not remember whose house they were in at the time, but it was definitely in Los Angeles.  Thanx for stopping by.