signed with the Pantages circuit but had to cancel everything west of Denver in

Signed with the pantages circuit but had to cancel

This preview shows page 11 - 13 out of 20 pages.

signed with the Pantages circuit but had to cancel everything west of Denver in order to return to Atlanta to be with their mother in her final days. Alice Whitman (ca 1900 - 1969), the youngest sister, who had been caring for their ailing mother in Atlanta, joined the group in 1909 shortly after Caddie Whitman's death. 53 For reasons that are unclear, Mabel then took some of the younger dancing acts from the Troubadours and opened her own "pick" show called Mabel Whitman and the Dixie Boys. "Pick" is short for pickaninnies, and these acts consisted of highly talented black child dancers. A single female singer working with picks was very common at this time. Mabel took her cue from the popular practice of white female singers like Sophie Tucker, Eva Tanguay, and Nora Bayes, who surrounded them- selves with picks and went on the road. The picks were considered insurance because no matter how the solo singer fared, the kids would almost never flop. Mabel Whitman and the Dixie Boys toured the United States, Europe, 2 4 The Royalty of Negro Vaudeville Setting the Stage: Beginnings, Influences, And a Performance Reconstruction 25
and Australia, and were such successes that Mabel was able to send money back to her sisters. As there is no gap in the review chronology for The Whitman Sisters' New Orleans Troubadours, we can assume that the com- pany continued to perform while Mabel was touring with the Dixie Boys. After Mabel's tour, all four women reorganized the company under the name The Whitman Sisters. The sisters always kept their shows fresh. Sometimes they appeared on the same ticket as companies such as Billy Kersand's Vaudeville Company but they were never upstaged and usually had top billing. By 1910, they had played most of the major vaudeville circuits in the South, East, and Northeast— including the Orpheum, Greenwald, Kohl & Castle, Keith & Proctor, Poli & Fox, Pantages, and the Independent Family United—had appeared as an independent group at the best Southern venues, and had well earned the title The Royalty of Negro Vaudeville." The sisters were apart only once from this time until their deaths. Between the years 1911 and 1913, Alice left the show temporarily, Mabel did a "single"—performed alone—in Southern houses, and Essie and Alberta formed a small vaudeville group, including the famous picks Aaron and Sammy (Sambo), which toured the Eastern states as a featured act on the Family United circuit. 54 Mabel then formed a small troupe which spent about 20 weeks touring in and around Boston, with Mabel's likeness appearing in the Boston papers along with those of such stars as comedienne Fanny Brice, the comedy team of Joe Weber and Lew Fields, and singer Irene La Tour. The sisters were together again by 1914, along with new company members from two small troupes. On October 24, 1914, the Washington Bee discussed the Whitman Sisters: The announcement by Manager Andrew J. Thomas last week that the celebrated Whitman Sisters would appear at his theater this week was the signal for the turn-out of all Washington Monday night to greet them. It is quite evident that they are popular favorites

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture