Eubie Blake grew up to the sounds of ragtime music, and before the turn of the century was playing piano in sporting houses and other similar establishments. He was a composer too, and in 1915 joined forces with Noble Sissle; they played in vaudeville as a double act and wrote together extensively. In 1921 Sissle and Blake wrote the score for a Broadway show — a remarkable accomplishment for blacks at that time. “Shuffle Along,” which starred Flournoy Miller, Aubrey Lyles, Gertrude Saunders, and Sissle himself (with Blake on the piano), included several admirable songs, including “Bandana Days,” “Gypsy Blues,” “Love Will Find a Way,” “Everything Reminds Me of You,” “Shuffle Along,” and “If You’ve Never Been Vamped by a Brown Skin (You’ve Never Been Vamped at All).”
There was also one enormous hit, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” which became popular at the time for artists such as Marion Harris, Ray Miller, and Paul Whiteman, among others, and gave a boost to Harry S. Truman’s election campaign in 1948. Blake contributed to other Broadway musicals and revues such as “Elsie,” Andre Charlot’s “Revue of 1924,” and Lew Leslie’s “Blackbirds of 1930.” For the latter, he and Andy Razaf wrote “Baby Mine,” “That Lindy Hop,” “My Handy Man Ain’t Handy No More,” and another substantial hit, the lovely reflective ballad “Memories of You.” After one more Broadway musical, “Swing It” (1937), Blake reunited with Sissle for a time, and then spent much of World War II entertaining troops with the USO.
- "Chocolate Dandies"
- "Lew Leslie's Blackbirds"
- "Shuffle Along"
- "Swing It"
- Irving Berlin
- George White
- Noble Sissle
- Ethel Waters
REMINISCING WITH SISSLE AND BLAKE, Robert Kimball and William Bolcom.
EUBIE BLAKE, Al Rose.
EUBIE BLAKE: KEYS OF MEMORY, Lawrence T. Carter.
Source: Biographical information provided by MUZE. Excerpted from the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC, edited by Colin Larkin. © 2004 MUZE UK Ltd.
Photo credits: Photofest, Getty Images, and the New York Public Library