In The Beginning....The Vaudeville Years!

Jan. 20, 2010

Vaudeville entertainment for black audiences began in 1909 with an organization called TOBA. Those four letters stood for Theater Owners Bookers Association. Often called by the black entertainers who worked the TOBA circuit: Tough On Black Artists. For many of the artists, trying times to be sure. However, it was an important cog in the machine which brought black entertainment to the rural areas and large cities in the early part of the century. TOBA had more than 100 theaters operating by the end of the 1920s.

Blues and Jazz were an important part of black entertainment in those early years and surely both idioms grew because of the fine caliber of the performers of that era and their ability to reach large audiences throughout most of the country.

Actual recordings started being made in 1914 by Victor, Columbia and Edison though the Edison company finally bowed out of the business. In 1918, the Paramount Record Company (a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company of Port Washington) came into being primarily to make recordings for folks to play on their newly purchased record players which were made by the Chair Company. Paramount is famous today for two things....they were first to record Blind Lemon Jefferson and Ma Rainey and....they made terrible quality pressings of cheap shellac. Were it not for Paramount however, many great artists would never have been heard. Business is business.

The Vaudeville Years highlights some of the dynamic female vocalists of that time, women who set the mark for all other female blues shouters to follow.

John Rhys/

Here's the music:

1)...."Hand Clappin' "....Red Prysock....Mercury Records
2)...."St. Louis Blues"....Bessie Smith....Columbia Records
3)...."Bo Weavil Blues"....Ma Rainey....Paramount Records
4)...."I'm A Mighty Tight Woman"....Sippie Wallace....Okeh (Columbia) Records
5)...."T.B. Blues"....Victoria Spivey....Victor Records
6)...."Coffin Blues"....Ida Cox....Paramount Records
7)...."Texas Moaner Blues"....Alberta Hunter....Paramount Records
8)...."Hand Clappin' "....Red Prysock....Mercury Records

Click here to listen to....In The Beginning....The Vaudeville Years!

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