My Experience of Continuous Positivity

Well, here we are all quarantined together. A good time to take a look back into the past. The first picture on this post is a copy of a financial document from my father to Joe Seiden from about 1939. Eddie had his first movie studio in Palisades, New Jersey as did Seiden (Seiden Cinemas). Seiden edited Eddie’s films and helped with sound and the making of prints. Eddie made his first four films here from 1939-1941. What is now Fort Lee, New Jersey was, at one time, the “movie capital” before there was “Hollywood”. Fox, Universal, Biograph studios all began here. Oscar Micheaux was at Metropolitan Studios at this site. The last movie Eddie made here was “One Round Jones”, a movie about a nightclub owner who comes up with the idea to pay $50 to anyone who can go “one round” with his mystery fighter, who of course turns out to be Eddie.

When I wrote the biography about my father I discovered one thing. The more I searched for information, the more I found. This has carried over until today. When I first received this press sheet I was overjoyed. I had to have permission to use it in the marketing of my book which was fine with me. What I didn’t realize was that this sheet held a font of information that would eventually hook me up with more information four year after publication of the book. My first example is in the lower portion of the 4th column of this article a Mr. Lorenzo Tucker is mentioned as part of the cast. I did not expand on this in the book, mainly because I had no idea exactly who he was and how he would pop up in future. About a month ago I heard from an Eddie Green fan who had some original photos of my father that he wanted to gift to me. One of the photos is of Eddie and Louis Jordan and a woman name June Richmond. Louis and June had starred in the 1947 movie Reet, Petite and Gone. I decided to research this movie and learned that  Lorenzo Tucker appeared in this movie as the shyster lawyer, Henry Talbot.

Reet, Petite and Gone is about an Old-time musical star Schyler Jarvis, now wealthy, who is dying; his last act is a visionary plan for the future happiness of his son, swing bandleader Louis Jarvis, and Honey Carter, daughter of his long-lost love. But crooked lawyer Talbot has a nefarious scheme to get his hands on the Jarvis money. There is also plenty of swing from Louis Jordan’s Bands. Lorenzo Tucker also appeared in 18 of Oscar Micheaux’s films. He eventually went totally off the movie track and became an autopsy technician for the New York City medical examiner, where he worked on the body of Malcolm X. That original photo that is being gifted to me shines more light. Lorenzo seems to have started out with my father’s movie studio.

Then I noticed that Mr. J. Louis Johnson was also in the 1947 movie Reet, Petite and Gone. He played Senator Morton’s Butler. Well, J. Louis Johnson was a cast member in my father’s Sepia Art Pictures Company, Inc. in 1939. I did mention him in the book but I just did not see the connection. Mr. Johnson was in a lot of great movies. Mostly bit parts, but hey, he must have been a good actor because he worked with such stars as Clark Gable in Homecoming (1948), Lena Horne and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson in Cabin In The Sky (19400, and he had parts in Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train and Orson Welles The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). But he was with Eddie before these others.

One last thing I discovered so far from researching Reet, Petite and Gone from 1947 is that the cinematographer used in the movie is the same cinematographer Eddie used in One Round Jones in 1939, Don Malkames.  I even have a quote from Eddie about Don: The cameraman he uses most of the time is “Don Malkames, a veteran when it comes to cameras”. Eddie noted that “an important attribute in the making of any motion picture is an experienced cameraman, particularly in photographing Black actors as there is a wide variety of skin colors and tints to be found in the colored race.” Eddie was working early on with some of the best in their fields. He knew talent when he saw it.

Because I began the process and wrote the book more and more information is being found and revealed to me four years later from people who have had an interest in Eddie Green before I wrote the book and who are now able to share their interest with me because of the book. This has been an expanding learning event for me. The book, this blog, the people I have met have been a continual source of positivity, and I really only started this writing thing to pass on some information to my grandson. I have found that I love bringing to light people who have contributed to this world in a positive manner but who have been overshadowed. Blacks, yes, because that is where my roots are along with my Italian roots. So when I say “people” I mean anyone, really. I just like to acknowledge people who deserve acknowledgement, in my opinion.

I want to thank all of my followers here at WordPress for hanging in here with me. My next book, tentatively titled The Jeffersons – A Fresh Look Back is just waiting for me to complete a couple of interviews, fill in a few more kudos to the crew and I’ll be afraid to, no, I mean I’ll be ready to show it to my publisher.

Thanks, for stopping by.

And thank you, Dan H. for keeping me continually proud of my father.

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

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.