Editor, Webmaster: Phil Cartwright Editor@earlyjas.org
|In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
Additions, comments, corrections,
contributions to Bill Fuller %Earlyjas, or
From the early 1880's to the 1930's (thus spanning the "jazz age") there was an infatuation in
America with a form of variety entertainment called "vaudeville." The name probably
derived from the French voix de ville meaning "voice of the city," and came into popular
usage in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century when Grant's Great Vaudeville
Company of Louisville, Kentucky was formed.
In the infancy of vaudeville New York promoter, Tony Pastor, wishing to tap the city's great
middle class audience, put together stage shows featuring "polite" variety acts in a number of
his New York theaters. His experiment in the big city proved wildly successful and other
entertainment impresarios quickly followed suite. In Boston, B.F. Keith began building an
empire of theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada. By the turn of the century there were
vaudeville circuits and circuit houses all across the country. A typical vaudeville
performance consisted of a number of separate, unrelated acts such as: instrumental music,
dancers, singers, animal acts, jugglers, acrobats, magicians, comedians, ventriloquists, etc.
A number of tunes in the jazz cannon received big boosts in popular recognition from their
use in well-known vaudeville acts of the times. Reciprocally, such boosts in popularity
provided fodder for a burgeoning recording industry in the teens and twenties of the new
HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO? was written in 1924 by the vaudeville comedy act
of Gene Austin and Roy Bergere. This duo performed as Austin & Bergere in the East and
Midwest. The tune became a national hit. Roy Bergere achieved even greater fame with his
recording of "My Blue Heaven" 1927.
ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND written in 1911 by Irving Berlin. This song, which is
about ragtime but not a rag became Berlin's first big hit after it was made a part of Emma
Carus' vaudeville act in Chicago. It sold over a million copies of sheet music largely because
of her, and when it hit New York, was incorporated into the vaudeville act of Al Jolson.
MIGHTY LAK' a ROSE was written in 1901 by Ethelbert Nevin and Lebby Stanton. It's
sentimental lyrics in African-American dialect became a standard on vaudeville circuits and
was later recorded by trombonist, Jack Teagarden, a number of times.
PUT ON YOUR OLD GREY BONNET written by Percy Wenrich and Stan Murphy in 1909,
this song about a midwestern couple's celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary became
a "standard" on a number of vaudeville circuits as did Wenrich's other big hit "When You
Wore a Tulip."
RED ROSE RAG also by Percy Wenrich in 1911. Wenrich married a vaudeville performer,
Dolly Connolly and he wrote this tune with Edward Madden for her. Percy and Dolly toured
the Loews and Keith vaudeville circuits together for many years.
BROTHER LOWDOWN written by Al Bernard with Larry Briers (Mamie Smith's pianist) in
1921. It was recorded for Columbia by famous vaudevillian , Bert Williams, and became a
widely used hit in vaudeville thereafter.
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