Thursday, January 06, 2011

Isaac Odell "Lay of the Last of the Old Minstrels" [1907]

"The Lay of the Last of the Old Minstrels: Interesting Reminiscences of Isaac Odell, Who Was a Burnt Cork Artist Sixty Years Ago." New York Times May 19, 1907.

Old Tom Rice was the father of negro [sic] minstrelry in this town. He went on the stage in Kentucky in the thirties and made a hit at Louisville. Whle there he acquired a good negro dialect, and learned to imitate the Southern darky to perfection. Coming to New York he opened up at the old Park Theatre, where he introduced his Jim Crow act, impersonating a negro slave. He sand a song, 'I Turn About and Wheel About,' and each night composed hew verses for it, catching on with the public and making a great name for himself. New Yorkers practically deserted the regular theatrical shows to see Rich in his Jim Crow minstrel act and many comedians in various parts of the country gave up their customary work and picked up Rice's stunt. Rice went away for a while on the road, but returning to New York opened up at the Melodeum on the Bowery. He had set the country minstrel mad, and circuis closns, jig dancers, and acrobats became negro comedians. In nearly all the playhouses at least one minstrel appeared on the stage, but there were no regular bands or minstrel troubes until Dan Emmet, Billy Whitlick, Frank Bower, and Dick Pelham got together and organized the original Virginia troupe, which opened up at the Chatham Theatre. At the same time Ed Christy, who had been in the show business in various parts of the country, organized a minstrel troupe in Buffalo. That was back in 1842. ...

[Odell goes on to reminisce about Rice and, in quote marks, his own days with Christy's Minstrels]

1 comment:

Bruce from Accordion Noir said...

Thanks for posting this, I'm writing about early accordion players and this article was one I was looking for! Yea the internet!