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Sunday, October 9, 2016
Ninety-four years ago today, Edgar James Wood (my late Dad-in-law) was sitting in Selwyn's Theatre on Park Square in Boston, viewing what he knew to be a theater sensation.
Shuffle Along had opened on Broadway the previous year, a groundbreaking all-black "musical melange" that ran in New York for hundreds of performances. In 1922, the show and its talented performers were touring America and Boston got its turn in October and November.
Ed absolutely loved the theater, and he played piano with a jazz band to pay for his college tuition. In the fall of 1922, having enrolled at Tufts, he bought a ticket for Shuffle Along. Shown here is the program he received for the October 9th performance (he punched the holes to keep the program in a binder as a keepsake).
Ed would have heard lots of buzz about this musical, with Eubie Blake at the piano. The program also shows Josephine Baker as one of the "Happy Honeysuckles" (a big break that helped launch her international career) and Blance Calloway as one of the "Jazz Jasmines" (she was Cab Calloway's older sister and this was her pro debut).
A few weeks later, I hope Ed was tuned in to another "first"--when WNAC broadcast the show live to Boston-area listeners in November. It was the first time a Broadway show was broadcast over the radio with its original cast.
Shuffle Along has recently been in the news after a Broadway revival, prompting this Sentimental Sunday entry about Ed seeing the show when he was a college freshman. Music was always an important part of Ed's life. He played piano professionally, working nights and weekends at weddings and other events during his 30-year career as an insurance adjuster.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Ed and his band buddies would board an ocean-liner in New York, receive free passage by playing for guests during the trans-Atlantic voyage, and then criss-cross Europe, playing at clubs and resorts that had booked their services. They would cruise back to New York in the same way, trading music for passage.
Above, Ed (second from right) with his college buddies on the S.S. Rotterdam, looking natty in their blazers and bow-ties, neat white trousers, and stylish shoes. Ed is the only one without an instrument, because his grand piano was in the ship's grand salon.
The 1926 summer band consisted of: Leo Lyons, Norm Mertelmeyer, Jimmie Rosselli, Joe Rosselli, Gil Gilbert, Ed Wood, Al Egerter, and Jack Conant.
Ed's scrapbook of this summer jazz tour includes a clipping from the Boston Herald of October 10, 1926. So 88 years ago this month, 23-year-old Ed was interviewed about his most recent jazz-era summer job. He told the interviewer about an unforgettable gig they played in a palace in Venice:
One of the things I remember best was when we played at a costume ball given by Count Volki, Italian minister of finance--he was at the head of the Italian debt commission to the United States, you know--at his castle on the Grand Canal, in honor of Prince Umberto, the Crown Prince. It was attended by members of the royal family and a host of Italian dukes and counts. It was one of the things that you see only in the movies, unless you are fortunate enough to be a member of the Italian nobility or a jazz musician.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
At least two full pages of Ed's college scrapbook are filled with ticket stubs like those above, with the name of the play and his companion(s), handwritten below. Ed was an avid theater-goer throughout life and passed that love to his children.
I'm certain that Ed took this trip--which would have returned him to Tufts just before his mother, Mary Slatter Wood, died on April 24, 1925, in Cleveland, OH. When my husband asked Ed about whether he returned home for Mary's funeral, Ed replied:
I think I was out playing a job, and came back to the dormitory, and a brother Zate [Zeta Psi, the fraternity] came to the dormitory and told me they'd gotten word that she had died. I think her health had been like [my wife] Marian's, it had not been the best, so it wasn't a big surprise. I had no money, so I went to a guy by the name of _____, one of the professors of music, and a Zate also, and borrowed 50 bucks...Before the summer was over I paid it back. So I had to borrow money and take a train back to Cleveland for the funeral.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Charles Errol Exley, from Trinidad, B.W.I., nickname: Bill, b. August 27, 1903. Ambition: To see Ed pass French.
Fred J. Sanders, from Southington, Conn., nickname: Ted, b. April 22, 1907. Ambition: To see "the Jumboniane" working.
Joseph Harrison, from Newark, NJ, nickname: Joe, b. June 10, 1904. Ambition: To see Edgar with a team that will make Paul & Vinnie look foolish.
Austin C. Robinson, from Fitchburg, Mass., nickname: Ace, b. September 4, 1905. Ambition: To see Ed so tight he can't move.
Robert B. Rice, from Longmeadow, Mass., nickname: Bob, b. 1900. Ambition: To see Ed. dance.
Norman S. Smith, from Brookline, Mass., nickname: Norm, b. June 11, 1903. Ambition: To hear a battle of music between Paul Whiteman and the "Jumbonians."
Austin T. Ropes, from Salem, Mass., nickname: Hemp, b. Jan. 25. Ambition: To go to a dance with Ed.
Russel L. Carpenter '24, from Meriden, Conn., nickname: Bud, b. November 7, 1901. Ambition: To read the banjo parts.
Herbert Edwon Lawson Jr., from New York City, nickname: Pop, b. February 9, 1905. Ambition: To teach Ed to inhale [beets?].
Lawrence M. Dawson, from Meriden, Conn., nickname: Larry, b. October 25. Ambition: TO see "Dead Wood" in the balcony scene with Marie _____.
Armand J. Gariepy, from Barre, Mass., nickname: Gary, b. July 31, 1901. Ambition: "Control the stock market.
Chas. J. Odenweller 3rd, Arlington, Mass., nickname: Ody, b. December 30, 1903. Ambition: To go to Cleveland again.
Vivian Wight, Bethel, Maine, nickname: Viv., b. July 12, 1903. Ambition: To see you in Portland.
C. Proctor Stanley, N.E. Harbor, Maine, nickname: Pieye [?], b. July 6, 1904. Ambition: To play baseball.
George V. Perry, Lawrence, Mass., nickname: G.V., b. August 5, 1902. Ambition: Just now, to graduate.
Walter A. Weisleder, Meriden, Conn., nickname: [none], b. July 9, 1905. Ambition: TO get Eddie & Leo to agree.
Jack Hayes, Brooklyn, NY, nickname: "Jack" - "Spud," b. October 14, 1904. Ambition: There ain't no such onion.
Wm. H. Griffiths, Crestwood, Tuckahoe, NY, nickname: Bill, b. April 20, 1906. Ambition: To hear Eddy on the transatlantic radio.
Jack Norton, Cobleshill, New York State, nickname: [none], b. July 30. Ambition: To have Eddie remember to take his room key when he goes out.
"Fen" Reilly, West Medford, Mass, nickname: "Cap'n," b. February 6, 1906. Ambition: [none listed]
Joseph Rosselli, Waterbury, Conn., nickname: Joe, b. December 23, 1903. Ambition: To see Eddie drunk.
Joshua J. Bernstein, Springfield, Mass., nickname: Josh, b. June 15, 1905. Ambition: To spend four more years.
Ralph "Dutch" Lehan, Stoughton, Mass., nickname: "Dutch," b. "too long to remember." Ambition: To kick hell out of Reed & Browlen.
John J. Purcell, Meriden, Conn., nickname: "Jack" P., b. November 10, 1901. Ambition: To find one.
Eugene Eaton Smith, Tufts college, Mass., nickname: Gene, b. April 14, 1912 [sic]. Ambition: To tutor Eddie for P.B.K. and a degree.
P. George Nye, Malden, Mass., nickname: Joe the Great, Colonel, Sister Faint Flower, b. June 31, 1913 [sic]. Ambition: Why ? And who cares?
James E. Nickerson, West Harwich, Mass., nickname: "Red" "Nick," b. December 9, 1905. Ambition: I guess so.
Gordon L. Walls, "Where ere my hat be hung" [hometown], nickname: "The Count," b. April 4, 1905. Ambition: To hear Eddie soloing with the Symphony(!)
W. H. Erickson Jr., "Anywhere you wish" [hometown], nickname: "Shorty," b. November 8, 1904. Ambition: To play in a ___ band.