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Harry Walton Jazz

“Sometimes, when you look at the footnotes of history, you find a more interesting story to tell about America,” Gaines says. Gaines’ research led to libraries including the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Maryland Center for History and Culture and the Emory University archives. The show’s creators were celebrities, and their lives were well documented in the Black press. “It was a perfect storm, and at the center of it were two comedians who were incredibly smart, witty and clever and two equally smart musicians,” Gaines says.

  1. “Sometimes, when you look at the footnotes of history, you find a more interesting story to tell about America,” Gaines says.
  2. As for his music, he claimed to have been the longest-serving jazz musician born and bred in Leicester.
  3. Although his first instrument was the drums, which he pushed to gigs in a hand cart, he later took up the vibraphone, buying his first one with a £50 bank loan.
  4. He exhibited widely, both in Leicester as well as throughout the country, and some of his work is also in the hands of private collectors.
  5. The musical’s plot was based on Mills and Lyles’ play “The Mayor of Dixie,” about two conniving men, Sam Peck and Steve Jenkins, who run for mayor of Jimtown.

Although his first instrument was the drums, which he pushed to gigs in a hand cart, he later took up the vibraphone, buying his first one with a £50 bank loan. The musical’s plot was based on Mills and Lyles’ play “The Mayor of Dixie,” about two conniving men, Sam Peck and Steve Jenkins, who run for mayor of Jimtown. Differences arise, and their opponent in the race, Harry Walton, vows to end their corrupt reign. His art started with an interest in heraldry and sketching while he was still at school, before progressing to large-scale oils for which he was most noted. He joined the Leicester Sketch Club and became its chairman, as well as serving as president of the Leicester Society of Artists for a year.

New book shines spotlight on 1921 landmark musical that brought Black artists to Broadway stage

He was also a member of the Midland Group, based in Nottingham. He exhibited widely, both in Leicester as well as throughout the country, and some of his work is also in the hands of private collectors. His subjects range from abstracts, collages, music, dance and carnival, but he was most proud of his series of Holocaust paintings, some of which can be seen at the Holcaust Centre, in Newark, Nottinghamshire. He was married to Nora for 41 years and they had three children, Ruth, Harry and myself. Despite a lifetime of ill health, starting with TB at the age of 16, he pursued his twin passions of art and music with an enthusiasm that made him well known in the city and beyond. My father, Harry Walton, who has died aged 85, was a well-known artist and jazz musician.

Harry Walton(I)

Flournoy Miller (from the top), Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake and Aubrey Lyles in a publicity photo from the 1921 harry walton production of “Shuffle Along,” the groundbreaking hit musical that brought Black entertainers to Broadway.

Harry Walton(V)

“Shuffle Along” was a chaotic mix of vaudeville, operetta and burlesque. The jazz score was revolutionary and exciting, yet the show also relied on “the Southern comfort of antebellum humor and blackface,” holdovers from vaudeville minstrel shows. Broadway’s first all-jazz musical, it changed the sound of musical theater and showed that white audiences would pay Broadway prices to see Black performers. As for his music, he claimed to have been the longest-serving jazz musician born and bred in Leicester. He was involved with the Leicester Jazz Society for many years and as a result met many of his musical heroes. He acquired a vast collection of records, some of them very rare.

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