Personalities | Eubie Blake | Twenties | Jazz & Blues
(Piano, composer, 1883–1983)
A long-surviving link to the ragtime era, James Hubert Blake wrote his first piece, ‘The Charleston Rag’, in 1899. The Baltimore native started out playing piano in sporting houses and with travelling medicine shows in the early 1900s. He also worked with bandleader-composer James Reese Europe before teaming up on the vaudeville circuit with lyricist Noble Sissle in 1915 – they were billed as ‘The Dixie Duo’. In 1921 they collaborated on the first all-black musical, Shuffle Along, which produced the hit song ‘I’m Just Wild About Harry’ and paved the way for several other all-black productions during the 1920s and 1930s.
After three decades of inactivity, Blake emerged with a triumphant two-record set on Columbia, The Eighty-Six Years Of Eubie Blake (1969), which sparked a Blake revival and led to the highly successful 1978 Broadway musical revue, Eubie (which subsequently travelled to London). Blake continued performing until he was 98.
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