What!! another news source?!

Hello and Welcome.
I am tired of the flood of information, tired of the voices pushing and pulling me in all sorts of directions. News sources inevitably become propaganda machines for whoever controls them. The flood keeps me searching for silence and the absence of news, a breath of non information.
so Why Am I starting a blog about the news? to add another ignorant, malignant voice to the flood of useless information?
Gosh, I hope not.
what I will try to do is post articles about things that interest me, increase my own understanding of these things and then share them with whoever would like to know. In this I will attempt to add another voice, without any pretense at decency or authority, but a voice of one person, flawed and bigoted as anyone.
I'll promise to be honest.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Not exactly Breaking but...

Ever wonder how black folks broke into broadway? I found a firsthand account by Will Marion Cook on this very subject. I'll let him tell the tale though, he tells it so well.

Will Marion Cook, "Clorindy, the Origin of the Cakewalk" (1944)

Will Marion Cook, "Clorindy, the Origin of the Cakewalk" (1944). Printed in Theatre Arts (September, 1947), pp. 61-65.

"When Bert Williams and George Walker met in California, the Negro god of comedy and drama must have opened his thick lips and wide mouth and laughed loud, long, raucously! After failures around the country in medicine shows and cheap vaudeville houses, the team found themselves at French Lick Springs where Canary, George W. Lederer's partner, happened to catch their act. Immediately he put them on a train for New York and Lederer's Casino Theatre, where the famous producer introduced them between the acts of The Gold Bug. They swamped New York and then went on to one of the longest runs that had ever been made at Koster and Bial's. That was where I came into the picture.

Since I had come to New York to learn to write good music, I met Williams and Walker and gave them my ideas creating a story of how the cakewalk came about in Louisiana in the early Eighteen Eighties. Clorindy, the Origin of the Cakewalk was the result and though, when the time came, Williams and Walker were unable to play in it, it was for them that I wrote the show.

But all that came later. At our first meeting Williams and Walker made a few suggestions to me and then introduced me to their manager, Will McConnell, who lent me ten dollars to go back home to Washington. I was barred anyhow from the classes at the National Conservatory of Music because I wouldn't play my fiddle in the orchestra under Dvorak. I couldn't play; my fingers had grown too stiff. Dvorak didn't like me anyway; Harry T. Burleigh was his pet. Only John White, the harmony and counterpoint teacher, thought I had talent, and insisted that I attend his classes.

With McConnell's ten dollars I returned home with my tremendous idea. After a long siege of persuasion, I finally got Paul Laurence Dunbar to consent to write the Clorindy libretto (which was never used) and a few of the lyrics. We got together in the basement of my brother John's rented house on Sixth Street, just below Howard University, one night about eight o'clock. We had two dozen bottles of beer, a quart of whiskey, and we took my brother's porterhouse steak, cut it up with onions and red peppers and ate it raw. Without a piano or anything but the kitchen table, we finished all songs, all the libretto and all but a few bars of the ensembles by four o'clock the next morning. By that time Paul and I were happy, so happy that we were ready to cry "Eureka!" only we couldn't make any noise at that hour so both of us sneaked off to bed, Paul to his house three blocks away and I to my room.

The following morning or rather later that morning I was at John's piano trying to learn to play my most Negroid song, "Who Dat Say Chicken in Dis Crowd?" My mother, who was cooking my breakfast, came into the parlor, tears streaming from her eyes, and said:

"Oh, Will! Will! I've sent you all over the world to study and become a great musician, and you return such a nigger!" My mother was a graduate of Oberlin in the class of 1865 and thought that a Negro composer should write just like a white man. They all loved the Dunbar lyrics but weren't ready for Negro songs.

After the writing of Clorindy many days are to elapse before I get any kind of action. Williams and Walker come through Washington with the Hyde and Behman show, on their way to the coast. They listen to my music and, after praising it highly, again get McConnell to lend me ten dollars so that I may go to New York and play it for Isidore Witmark, the head of Witmark and Sons, then located in Thirty-seventh street just beyond Broadway.

That weekend I go to New York. McConnell makes an appointment by telephone for me for Saturday aftemoon at one o'clock, which was the Saturday closing hour. After keeping me waiting for two hours, the cooling-off process, Isidore Witmark comes into the large front professional office and curtly says, "Go ahead! What's you got?" I am not now and never have been a great pianist, and I could sing only a little bit, but for forty minutes I struggled to give some idea of the songs and ensembles. At last, starting for the door of his private office, he interrupted me long enough to say that he thought I must be crazy to believe that any Broadway audience would listen to Negroes singing Negro opera.

There I was, on a Saturday afternoon in New York, with only a few pennies in my pocket, and no place to eat or sleep. I walk to the Twenty-third Street ferry, hoping for some good luck and found it. An old pal of mine, Sol Johnson, was on the same boat, on his way to the Penn Depot in Jersey City, where he was a porter on the Washington train. As his train did not leave until night, I loafed about for a while. Later he locked me in a closed dining car, telling me to be quiet until we reached Washington.

And so I, hungry, mad with the world and heartbroken at such a failure. It took me some months to recover my spirit and by this time my brother John, who worked at the pension office and was always good for a touch, became disgusted with the whole idea and wanted me to work at something that would at least take care of me. What was more tragic, he even refused to lend me any more money! Bill Higgins, secretary to Congressman White, one of the last colored congressmen from North Carolina, lent me ten dollars. Higgins had been a classmate of my brother at Howard University.

This time it's do or die. So I hunt up Sol Johnson again, and again he hides me on his train, but he charges me two dollars for the favor, since I seem to have become a regular passenger. A long struggle and much suffering is to ensue until George Archer, head usher at the Casino Roof Garden, says, "Why don't you go to see Ed Rice? His office is in the Standard Theatre Building at Sixth Avenue and Thirty-second Street. He runs the show up on George Lederer's Roof and needs an outstanding attraction."

For weeks, whenever I could get three or four of my prospective cast together or find a place to rehearse, I had been teaching them the Clorindy music. I taught them with or without a piano; sometimes just singing or trying to sing the different parts. But this was a genius aggregation, Negro talent that had made much of little. And besides, they believed in me. As directed by George Archer, I went to see Ed Rice, and I saw him every day for a month. Regularly, after interviewing a room full of people, he would say to me (I was always the last): "Who are you, and what do you want?" On the thirty-first day--and by now I am so discouraged that this is my last try--I heard him tell a knockabout act: "Come up next Monday to rehearsal, do a show and, if you make good, I'll keep you on all the week."

I was desperate. My feet, with soles worn through, were burnt black by walking on the hot cobblestones of New York Streets. I was hungry almost all the time, except when I could meet Harry Burleigh, who had recently become soloist in St. George's Church. He only made a small salary but always had enough to treat me to coffee and crullers at a little dairy called Cushman's, on the corner of Fifteenth Street and Third Avenue, or to a twenty-five-cent dinner at a German restaurant near Union Square.

On leaving Rice's office, I went at once to the Greasy Front, a Negro club run by Charlie Moore, with a restaurant in the basement managed by Mrs. Moore. There I was sure to find a few members of my ensemble. I told them a most wonderful and welcome story; we were booked at the Casino Roof! And I sent them to contact all the others. Everybody was notified to be at the Casino Roof Garden on Monday at eleven a.m. Only Ernest

Hogan, my comedian, could not be reached because, unless he was working (and sometimes even then), he stayed up all night carousing. Consequently he slept all day. Just to play safe, I sent him a note in care of his landlady. "We were booked!" I exclaimed. That was probably the nost beautiful lie I ever told.

Hogan, whose real name was Rube Crowders [sic], had become my comedian because Williams and Walker, for whom Clorindy had been written, had been delayed on the Coast by the terrific success of the Hyde and Behman show. I had come in contact with Hogan one day in the back room of the Greasy Front where I was playing "Who Dat Say Chicken?" for a couple of unimpressed comedians. Suddenly I heard a full-bellied laugh and a loud but musical voice: "That's great, son! Who are you? Come on and have a glass of beer."

As I went into the front room to join the man who had called me, Charlie Moore whispered: "That's Ernest Hogan, leading comic with Black Patti's Troubadours, and the man who wrote 'All Coons Look Alike to Me.' He's a great comedian and can do lots for you." That same night Hogan learned "Who Dat Say Chicken?" and my "Hottes' Coon in Dixie."

Back to Clorindy. On Monday morning, in answer to my call, every man and woman, boy and girl that I had taught to sing my music was at the Casino Roof. Strange to say, Hogan was the first one to show up.

Luckily for us, John Braham, the English conductor of the Casino orchestra, was a brick. And, still more luckily for us, Ed Rice did not appear at rehearsal that morning until very late. When Braham had finished smaller acts, he turned to me questioningly. There I sat, orchestra books in hand. In two minutes I told him how I had studied under Joachim, a bit of composition under Dvorak, harmony and mighty little counterpoint under John White. I explained that I had some new music, a

Negro operetta. Right then he stopped me, turned to his orchestra men and said: "Gentlemen, a new composer!" He held out his hand for my orchestra parts. Again, I got his ear and told him that my singers understood my direction, they understood my gestures and that I was afraid . . . [sic] He again turned and announced "Gentlemen, a new composer and a new conductor."

By this time my singers were grouped on the stage and I started the opening chorus, an orchestral and choral development of "Darktown is Out Tonight." Remember, reader, I had twenty-six of the finest voices in America, twenty-six happy, gifted Negroes who saw maybe weeks of work and money before them. Remember, too, that they were singing a new style of music. Like a mighty anthem, these voices rang out.

Rice must have heard the voices and the pulsing Darktown rhythm as he came up Broadway, but his only comment when he came was shouted to Braham: "No nigger can conduct my orchestra on Broadway!" And Braham--God bless him! and He must still be blessing him if there is a place for the great-hearted--simply said: "Ed, go back to your little cubby-hole"--Rice had a little pagoda at one end of the roof, where he "entertained" some of his pretty girls after the show at night--"Go back to your little cubby-hole and keep quiet! That boy's a genius and has something great!"

Well, we didn't get on that Monday night after all. It rained pitchforks until about nine o'clock and the Roof, which was uncovered, was in no condition to receive the high-class habitues. We were sent home about nine-thirty. A more disappointed people you've never seen. I was heartbroken. Another failure! Was I never to get going? Only Hogan was in good spirits. He had taken charge of things by now, and had spent the day staging the different numbers. Naturally, he had eliminated Dunbar's dialogue, for a lot of dialogue on an uncovered roof garden after eleven p.m. would have been impossible. Hogan also hurriedly gathered three or four sensational dancers. He seemed to know everybody. In short, it was just as well that we didn't go on that night, for Hogan really needed the extra time to whip the dancers into shape, especially the cakewalk. After all, our subtitle was "The Origin of the Cakewalk" and we mustn't fall down on that part of the performance.

Our opening for Rice was postponed until the following Monday and by then all was ready. About 11:45 Mr. Price, Rice's manager, made the simple announcement that the Negro operetta, Clorindy, the Origin of the Cakewalk, would now be produced for the first time on any stage. Immediately I struck up the introduction and opening chorus. When I entered the orchestra pit, there were only about fifty people on the Roof. When we finished the opening chorus, the house was packed to suffocation. What had happened was that the show downstairs in the Casino Theatre was just letting out. The big audience heard those heavenly Negro voices and took to the elevators. At the finish of the opening chorus, the applause and cheering were so tumultuous that I simply stood there transfixed, my hand in the air, unable to move until Hogan rushed down to the footlights and shouted: "What's the matter, son? Let's go!"

So I started his strut song, which began and ended with an ensemble, "Hottes' Coon." This was hardly Dunbar's finest lyric, but the chorus, the dances and the inimitable Ernest Hogan made that Broadway audience think it was. The rest of the performance kept them at the same pitch, especially "Who Dat Say Chicken in Dis Crowd?" This number (which Rice had thought too slow) had to be repeated ten times before Hogan could leave the stage, and there were encores galore when Belle Davis sang "Jump Back, Honey, Jump Back!"

The Darktown finale was of complicated rhythm and bold harmonies, and very taxing on the voice. My chorus sang like Russians, dancing meanwhile like Negroes, and cakewalking like angels, black angels! When the last note was sounded, the audience stood and cheered for at least ten minutes. This was the finale which Witmark had said no one would listen to. It was pandemonium, but never was pandemonium dearer to my heart as I stood there sweating in Charles W. Anderson's old full dress coat (Charlie weighed 200 pounds; I, 126), Harry T. Burleigh's vest (Harry was very short; I, quite tall) and my own out-at-the-seat and frayed-at-the-cuffs light street pants, and the same feet-mostly-on-the-ground shoes. These, with a clean shirt and tie (thank heaven), completed my evening clothes.

But did that audience take offense at my rags and lack of conducting polish? Not so you could notice it! We went on and finished at 12:45. Boy, oh boy! Maybe, when the pearly gates open wide and multitude of hosts march in, shouting, singing, emoting, there will be a happiness which slightly resembles that of Clorindy's twenty-six participants. I was so delirious that I drank a glass of water, thought it wine and got gloriously drunk. Negroes were at last on Broadway, and there to stay. Gone was the uff-dah of the minstrel! Gone the Massa Linkum stuff! We were artists and we were going a long, long way. We had the world on a string tied to a runnin' red-geared wagon on a down-hill pull. Nothing could stop us, and nothing did for a decade.

taken from this web page,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thriller in the Philippines

Hi everybody,
I have an article I found interesting to read, and a video I found interesting to watch. I'm interested what people think about the policy of Dance for Rehabilitation.
first, the video -
and the article -

The author of both the video and the article has this site on youtube -

Is this the future of penal facilities? of rehabilitation? What other situations could we apply this to? I can see it now, soldiers doing the Electric Slide, the Watootsie, and the Twist into battle. I see the opposing army meet them with Tap and Swing, then Breakdance their way to victory. I am entranced by this thought, it is a magical world, where Frank Sinatra sings and Fred and Ginga dance on roller skates. Couldn't we do with a bit more musical numbers in this world?
But of course, a musical number cannot happen without practice, so I plead with you all now, lay down your guns for one night a week, just one, go to your local dance studio and learn some steps. This is the wave of the future, world. Catch it, or be left behind.