Black Way Back Radio

“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.”

This is a quote from my father, Eddie Green, the gentleman sitting in the above picture (for those of you new to my blog). This quote appeared in a 1947 newspaper article for which Eddie was interviewed. Eddie had actually started radio work back in the late 20s. He said this in an article from The Negro Digest in 1949 stating, “It was during the year 1929. I was living in New York and trying every kind of theatrical job that was available. I had already played all kinds of vaudeville, burlesque, musical comedy and a few small radio programs.”

His radio popularity started, however with the Fleishman’s Yeast Hour Rudy Vallee Show, as shown here in this line from a local newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier, the article is about Eddie’s inclusion into yet another radio program in 1935, it said, “this was nothing new to Eddie Green, who worked several seasons very successfully with Rudy Vallee, in fact, so successfully he was returned three times by popular demand.” Eddie  went on to become Eddie the waiter on the very popular Duffy’s Tavern Radio Program from 1941-1950.

When I started this blog and began writing a biography of my father, until about 2 weeks ago, it hadn’t sunk in just how rare a Black man’s performances or contributions to radio in the early 1900s were. Probably because I wasn’t coming from a Black point of view but from a personal inspirational and hopefully, motivational point of view. Using Eddie to show my grandson how one can accomplish their goals despite obstacles, and then to show the same to anyone who is doubting their abilities. I have been sharing on Old Time Radio (OTR) blogs with much success in regard to meeting people who are genuinely interested in Eddie’s OTR life. However, what dawned on me is that yes, he was on the radio, but the radio show’s themselves were White produced programs.

Duffy’s Tavern and Amos n Andy. Today these two programs are not talked about a lot on the groups I follow. These groups talk about the Gildersleeves, The Shadow, the Gildersleeves (no, this is not an error), Jack Benny, Johnny Dollar, Groucho Marx and other similar programs. While sharing about my father’s appearances on the first two programs I realized interactions with those other OTR fans is very limited because there were not many Blacks on the radio back then. Period. My brain said “as a matter of fact, how come no one ever talks about Black old time radio?” That’s when I woke up.

I began to research African-American OTR. I found a lot of articles, such as this one from J. Fred MacDonald that says: “Certainly, there were black radio performers like Eddie Anderson, Lillian and Amanda Randolph, Eddie Green, Hattie McDaniel, Ruby Dandridge, and Juano Hernandez, but their roles were either stereotypically comedic or insubstantial. And there were so many areas where African Americans never participated: No black men or women reported the news; there were no black sportscasters, no black soap operas; and no substantial black roles appeared in romances or dramas or Westerns or detective shows.

Tens of millions of citizens tuned in thousands of stations to hear news, sports, drama, comedy, and the various other formats by which broadcasters had adapted radio to aural entertainment. To staff such operations, moreover, the stations and networks employed countless numbers of writers, directors, actors, and technicians. Thus, aside from its popularity, the radio industry was a massive commercial operation. Despite its tremendous need for personnel, however, the industry in its so-called Golden Age offered only limited opportunities for black men and women to develop.”

This was borrowed from J. Fred MacDonald who died while I was writing my book in 2015 and whose archives by the end of the 20th century, were termed by the Library of Congress to be “the most important archive in private hands in the United States.”

I did find Richard Durham. Richard Durham was born September 6, 1917 in Raymond Mississippi and was raised in Chicago. He died April 24, 1984. Durham developed an interest for radio during the depression as a young dramatist with the Writers Project of the WPA. Durham studied at Northwestern University in Chicago and was the editor of the local black newspaper, The Chicago Defender. His first major radio experience came in Chicago with the series “Democracy USA”, which he wrote for the CBS station WBBM and with Here Comes Tomorrow, a black soap opera he wrote for WJJD. His radio program Destination Freedom premiered on June 27, 1948 on Chicago radio WMAQ and consisted of 91 different scripts produced solely by Richard Durham. Destination Freedom was a provocative half-hour show that showcased the lives and accomplishments of prominent African Americans. Did you notice he wrote a Black soap opera?

My father obviously knew what he was talking about when he said radio for Negroes was a very hard field to get into way back in the day. I am beginning to understand how much effort it took for my father to achieve his dream of becoming a show business personality, as a Black man. How truly difficult it was for a Black person to step into certain positions in the early 1900s in America. Eddie’s success was unusual, then. And it is still unusual for some to discuss today. This is just a reality. I am going to delve a bit more into this Black radio thing because it interests me very much.

It fits right in with my decision to become a Cheerleader for Trailblazers (this is going to be my twitter hashtag). So many people have done so much in this world that no one talks about or acknowledges. Not just Black trailblazers, though we have become more of a priority for me-but also of young trailblazers, female trailblazers, piano-playing trailblazers. Send me a trailblazing subject, I love research.

Thanks, for stopping by

Title of this post provided by Brian Beasley, my brother 🙂

My Book: Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer

 

 

 

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I didn’t think he’d go this far!

mygrandsonegforfacebook

My Grandson, Edward and my father. The idea to write my book came about through my desire to present to my grandson, Edward,  an example of what can be accomplished regardless of obstacles. I didn’t know he was gonna go this far!! The man has no fear. I turned on my computer, clicked on Facebook and here is a picture of Edward at an Alligator Park in Florida. What the!!. I am a grandmother so my first thought is What the!! Edward has lost his mind! My daughter’s reaction was that he is afraid of nothing. Like his great-grandfather.

Edward’s grandfather, Eddie Green despite being born in 1891 in Baltimore during an era of blatant racism to poverty-stricken parents,  rose to become a filmmaker, Broadway and movie star, composer, OTR icon and one of the most beloved comics of his time. Talent, determination and courage propelled Eddie to achieve the life he wanted for himself and those around him.

The idea of writing the biography of my father came to me when Edward was about six years old.  He is twenty-six now. Edward has told me that the story of Eddie is indeed inspiring to him now as an adult because he can identify with some portions of the story.  He also told me the fact that I wrote a book is very inspiring to him now, showing him that if a person sets their mind to do something, they can.

One thing I have noticed is that through the years it took for me to write this book, Edward developed into a person who has chosen to be successful in life. He has had the courage to pursue that which he is excited about. He is a good citizen. His job appreciates him. He cooks for his mother when she visits. He likes cats and treats his lady respectfully.  And he is not afraid to pick up alligators. He really did not need this book to become who he is today. It’s probably in the genes.

Maybe a young person you know would be inspired by this biography Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer. Though it is written also for anyone looking for motivation.

Thanks, for stopping by. KCB

http://www.bearmanmedia.com (publisher)