Eubie Blake (1887 - 1983)

Eubie Blake
1887 - 1983
updated February 06, 2019
Eubie Blake was born on February 7, 1887 at Baltimore, MD. He died on February 12, 1983 at Brooklyn, NY at 96 years old.

James Hubert Blake (February 7, 1887[1] – February 12, 1983), known as Eubie Blake, was an American composer, lyricist, and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music. In 1921, he and his long-time collaborator Noble Sissle wrote Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans.[2] Blake's compositions included such hits as "Bandana Days", "Charleston Rag", "Love Will Find a Way", "Memories of You" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry". The musical Eubie!, which opened on Broadway in 1978, featured his works.
Blake was born at 319 Forrest Street in Baltimore, Maryland, to John Sumner Blake (1838–1917) and Emily "Emma" Johnstone (1861–1927), both of whom had been slaves. He was the only surviving child of eight, all the rest of whom died in infancy. In 1894, the family moved to 414 North Eden Street, and later to 1510 Jefferson Street. John Blake earned US$9.00 weekly working as a stevedore on the Baltimore docks
Music

Cover of sheet music of "I'm Just Wild About Harry", from the musical Shuffle Along, by Blake and Noble Sissle, 1921
Blake's musical training began when he was four or five years old. While out shopping with his mother, he wandered into a music store, climbed on the bench of an organ, and started "foolin’ around". When his mother found him, the store manager said to her, "The child is a genius! It would be criminal to deprive him of the chance to make use of such a sublime, God-given talent." The Blakes purchased a pump organ for US$75.00, making payments of 25 cents a week. When Blake was seven, he received music lessons from a neighbor, Margaret Marshall, an organist for the Methodistchurch.[3] At age fifteen, without his parents' knowledge, he began playing piano at Aggie Shelton's Baltimore bordello. Blake got his first big break in the music business in 1907, when the world champion boxer Joe Gans hired him to play the piano at Gans's Goldfield Hotel, the first "black and tan club" in Baltimore.[citation needed]
According to Blake, he also worked the medicine show circuit and was employed by a Quaker doctor. He played a Melodeon strapped to the back of the medicine wagon. Blake stayed with the show only two weeks, however, because the doctor's religion didn't allow the serving of Sunday dinner.[4]
Blake said he composed the melody of the "Charleston Rag" in 1899, when he would have been only 12 years old. It was not committed to paper, however, until 1915, when he learned to write musical notation
In 1912, Blake began playing in vaudeville with James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra, which accompanied Vernon and Irene Castle's ballroom dance act. The band played ragtime music, which was still quite popular. Shortly after World War I, Blake joined forces with the performer Noble Sissle to form a vaudeville musical act, the Dixie Duo. After vaudeville, the pair began work on a musical revue, Shuffle Along, which incorporated songs they had written, and had a book written by F. E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles. When it premiered in June 1921, Shuffle Along became the first hit musical on Broadway written by and about African-Americans. The musical also introduced hit songs such as "I'm Just Wild About Harry" and "Love Will Find a Way."[5]
Blake made his first recordings in 1917, for the Pathe record label and for Ampico piano rolls. In the 1920s he recorded for the Victor and Emerson labels among others.[6]
In 1923, Blake made three films for Lee DeForest in DeForest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process: Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, featuring their song "Affectionate Dan"; Sissle and Blake Sing Snappy Songs, featuring "Sons of Old Black Joe" and "My Swanee Home"; and Eubie Blake Plays His Fantasy on Swanee River, featuring Blake performing his "Fantasy on Swanee River". These films are preserved in the Maurice Zouary film collection in the Library of Congress collection. He also appeared in Warner Brothers' short film Pie, Pie Blackbird (1932), with the Nicholas Brothers, Nina Mae McKinney, and Noble Sissle.[citation needed]

Blake receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan (1981)
In July 1910, Blake married Avis Elizabeth Cecelia Lee (1881–1938), proposing to her in a chauffeur-driven car he hired. Blake and Lee met around 1895, when both attended Primary School No. 2, at 200 East Street in Baltimore. In 1910, Blake brought his newlywed to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he had already found employment at the Boathouse nightclub.
In 1938, Avis was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She died later that year, at the age of 58. Of his loss, Blake said, "In my life I never knew what it was to be alone. At first when Avis got sick, I thought she just had a cold, but when time passed and she didn’t get better, I made her go to a doctor and we found out she had TB … I suppose I knew from when we found out she had the TB, I understood that it was just a matter of time."[3]
While serving as bandleader with the United Service Organizations (USO) during World War II, he met Marion Grant Tyler (1896-1982), the widow of the violinist Willy Tyler. Blake and Tyler married in 1945. She was a performer and a businesswoman and became his valued business manager until her death in 1982. In 1946, as Blake's career was winding down, he enrolled in New York University, graduating in two and a half years. Later his music career revived, culminating in the hit Broadway musical, Eubie. In the 1950s, interest in ragtime revived and Blake, one of its last surviving artists, found himself launching yet another career as ragtime artist, music historian, and educator. He signed recording deals with 20th Century Records and Columbia Records, lectured and gave interviews at major colleges and universities all over the world, and appeared as a performer and clinician at top jazz and rag festivals.Blake was a frequent guest of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin. He was featured by leading conductors, such as Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Fiedler. In 1977 he played Will Williams in the Jeremy Kagan biographical film Scott Joplin.[7][8] By 1975, he had been awarded honorary doctorates from Rutgers, the New England Conservatory, the University of Maryland, Morgan State University, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn College, and Dartmouth. On October 9, 1981, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Ronald Reagan.
Eubie!, a revue featuring the music of Blake, with lyrics by Noble Sissle, Andy Razaf, Johnny Brandon, F. E. Miller, and Jim Europe, opened on Broadway in 1978. The show was a hit at the Ambassador Theatre, where it ran for 439 performances. The production received three nominations for Tony Awards, including one for Blake's score. The show was filmed in 1981 with the original cast members, including Lesley Dockery, Gregory Hines and Maurice Hines. Blake performed with Gregory Hines on the television program Saturday Night Live on March 10, 1979.
Death
Blake continued to play and record until his death, on February 12, 1983, in Brooklyn, just five days after celebrating his purported 100th birthday (actually his 96th birthday; see below).[9]
He was interred in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. His headstone, engraved with the musical notation of "I'm Just Wild About Harry", was commissioned by the African Atlantic Genealogical Society (AAGS). The bronze sculpture of Blake's bespectacled face was created by David Byer-Tyre, curator and director of the African American Museum and Center for Education and Applied Arts, in Hempstead, New York. The original inscription indicated his correct year of birth, but individuals close to him insisted that Blake be indulged and paid to have the inscription changed.[citation needed]
If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.
— Eubie Blake
Blake was reported to have said this on his birthday in 1979,[10] but it has been attributed to others and appeared in print at least as early as 1966 (when it was attributed to an anonymous 90-year-old golf caddie).[11]
Birth date
In later years, Blake listed his birth year as 1883; his 100th birthday was celebrated in 1983. Most sources, including the Encyclopædia Britannica, and a U.S. Library of Congress biography, incorrectly list his birth year as 1883. Every official document issued by the government, however, records his birthday as February 7, 1887. This includes all official documents issued in the first half of his life, including the 1900 census, his 1917 World War I draft registration, 1920 passport application, 1936 Social Security application, and death records as reported by the United States Social Security Administration. Peter Hanley writes, "In the final analysis, however, the fact that he was only ninety-six years of age and not one hundred when he died does not in any way detract from his extraordinary achievements. Eubie will always remain among the finest popular composers and songwriters of his era."[14]
ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM

Eubie Blake Biography

edit Vital facts & highlights of Eubie's life to share with the world.

Eubie Blake
Most commonly known name
Male
Gender
Eubie
First name
Unknown
Middle name
Blake
Last name(s)
Unknown
Nickname(s) or aliases
Unknown. Did Eubie move a lot? Where was his last known location?
Last known residence
Eubie Blake was born on at Baltimore, MD,
Birth
Eubie Blake died on at Brooklyn, NY,
Death
Eubie Blake was born on at Baltimore, MD,
Eubie Blake died on at Brooklyn, NY,
Birth
Death
There is no cause of death listed for Eubie.
Cause of death
Do you know the final resting place - gravesite in a cemetery or location of cremation - of Eubie Blake?
Burial / Funeral
Unknown
Obituary

Ethnicity & Lineage

What is Eubie's ethnicity and where did his parents, grandparents & great-grandparents come from?

Nationality & Locations Lived

Unknown

Religion

Unknown. Was Eubie a religious man?

Education

Did Eubie finish grade school, get a GED, go to high school, get a college degree or masters? What schools or universities did Eubie attend?

Professions

James Hubert Blake (February 7, 1887[1] – February 12, 1983), known as Eubie Blake, was an American composer, lyricist, and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music. In 1921, he and his long-time collaborator Noble Sissle wrote Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans.[2] Blake's compositions included such hits as "Bandana Days", "Charleston Rag", "Love Will Find a Way", "Memories of You" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry". The musical Eubie!, which opened on Broadway in 1978, featured his works.
Blake was born at 319 Forrest Street in Baltimore, Maryland, to John Sumner Blake (1838–1917) and Emily "Emma" Johnstone (1861–1927), both of whom had been slaves. He was the only surviving child of eight, all the rest of whom died in infancy. In 1894, the family moved to 414 North Eden Street, and later to 1510 Jefferson Street. John Blake earned US$9.00 weekly working as a stevedore on the Baltimore docks
Music

Cover of sheet music of "I'm Just Wild About Harry", from the musical Shuffle Along, by Blake and Noble Sissle, 1921
Blake's musical training began when he was four or five years old. While out shopping with his mother, he wandered into a music store, climbed on the bench of an organ, and started "foolin’ around". When his mother found him, the store manager said to her, "The child is a genius! It would be criminal to deprive him of the chance to make use of such a sublime, God-given talent." The Blakes purchased a pump organ for US$75.00, making payments of 25 cents a week. When Blake was seven, he received music lessons from a neighbor, Margaret Marshall, an organist for the Methodistchurch.[3] At age fifteen, without his parents' knowledge, he began playing piano at Aggie Shelton's Baltimore bordello. Blake got his first big break in the music business in 1907, when the world champion boxer Joe Gans hired him to play the piano at Gans's Goldfield Hotel, the first "black and tan club" in Baltimore.[citation needed]
According to Blake, he also worked the medicine show circuit and was employed by a Quaker doctor. He played a Melodeon strapped to the back of the medicine wagon. Blake stayed with the show only two weeks, however, because the doctor's religion didn't allow the serving of Sunday dinner.[4]
Blake said he composed the melody of the "Charleston Rag" in 1899, when he would have been only 12 years old. It was not committed to paper, however, until 1915, when he learned to write musical notation
In 1912, Blake began playing in vaudeville with James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra, which accompanied Vernon and Irene Castle's ballroom dance act. The band played ragtime music, which was still quite popular. Shortly after World War I, Blake joined forces with the performer Noble Sissle to form a vaudeville musical act, the Dixie Duo. After vaudeville, the pair began work on a musical revue, Shuffle Along, which incorporated songs they had written, and had a book written by F. E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles. When it premiered in June 1921, Shuffle Along became the first hit musical on Broadway written by and about African-Americans. The musical also introduced hit songs such as "I'm Just Wild About Harry" and "Love Will Find a Way."[5]
Blake made his first recordings in 1917, for the Pathe record label and for Ampico piano rolls. In the 1920s he recorded for the Victor and Emerson labels among others.[6]
In 1923, Blake made three films for Lee DeForest in DeForest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process: Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, featuring their song "Affectionate Dan"; Sissle and Blake Sing Snappy Songs, featuring "Sons of Old Black Joe" and "My Swanee Home"; and Eubie Blake Plays His Fantasy on Swanee River, featuring Blake performing his "Fantasy on Swanee River". These films are preserved in the Maurice Zouary film collection in the Library of Congress collection. He also appeared in Warner Brothers' short film Pie, Pie Blackbird (1932), with the Nicholas Brothers, Nina Mae McKinney, and Noble Sissle.[citation needed]

Blake receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan (1981)
In July 1910, Blake married Avis Elizabeth Cecelia Lee (1881–1938), proposing to her in a chauffeur-driven car he hired. Blake and Lee met around 1895, when both attended Primary School No. 2, at 200 East Street in Baltimore. In 1910, Blake brought his newlywed to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he had already found employment at the Boathouse nightclub.
In 1938, Avis was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She died later that year, at the age of 58. Of his loss, Blake said, "In my life I never knew what it was to be alone. At first when Avis got sick, I thought she just had a cold, but when time passed and she didn’t get better, I made her go to a doctor and we found out she had TB … I suppose I knew from when we found out she had the TB, I understood that it was just a matter of time."[3]
While serving as bandleader with the United Service Organizations (USO) during World War II, he met Marion Grant Tyler (1896-1982), the widow of the violinist Willy Tyler. Blake and Tyler married in 1945. She was a performer and a businesswoman and became his valued business manager until her death in 1982. In 1946, as Blake's career was winding down, he enrolled in New York University, graduating in two and a half years. Later his music career revived, culminating in the hit Broadway musical, Eubie. In the 1950s, interest in ragtime revived and Blake, one of its last surviving artists, found himself launching yet another career as ragtime artist, music historian, and educator. He signed recording deals with 20th Century Records and Columbia Records, lectured and gave interviews at major colleges and universities all over the world, and appeared as a performer and clinician at top jazz and rag festivals.Blake was a frequent guest of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin. He was featured by leading conductors, such as Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Fiedler. In 1977 he played Will Williams in the Jeremy Kagan biographical film Scott Joplin.[7][8] By 1975, he had been awarded honorary doctorates from Rutgers, the New England Conservatory, the University of Maryland, Morgan State University, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn College, and Dartmouth. On October 9, 1981, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Ronald Reagan.
Eubie!, a revue featuring the music of Blake, with lyrics by Noble Sissle, Andy Razaf, Johnny Brandon, F. E. Miller, and Jim Europe, opened on Broadway in 1978. The show was a hit at the Ambassador Theatre, where it ran for 439 performances. The production received three nominations for Tony Awards, including one for Blake's score. The show was filmed in 1981 with the original cast members, including Lesley Dockery, Gregory Hines and Maurice Hines. Blake performed with Gregory Hines on the television program Saturday Night Live on March 10, 1979.
Death
Blake continued to play and record until his death, on February 12, 1983, in Brooklyn, just five days after celebrating his purported 100th birthday (actually his 96th birthday; see below).[9]
He was interred in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. His headstone, engraved with the musical notation of "I'm Just Wild About Harry", was commissioned by the African Atlantic Genealogical Society (AAGS). The bronze sculpture of Blake's bespectacled face was created by David Byer-Tyre, curator and director of the African American Museum and Center for Education and Applied Arts, in Hempstead, New York. The original inscription indicated his correct year of birth, but individuals close to him insisted that Blake be indulged and paid to have the inscription changed.[citation needed]
If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.
— Eubie Blake
Blake was reported to have said this on his birthday in 1979,[10] but it has been attributed to others and appeared in print at least as early as 1966 (when it was attributed to an anonymous 90-year-old golf caddie).[11]
Birth date
In later years, Blake listed his birth year as 1883; his 100th birthday was celebrated in 1983. Most sources, including the Encyclopædia Britannica, and a U.S. Library of Congress biography, incorrectly list his birth year as 1883. Every official document issued by the government, however, records his birthday as February 7, 1887. This includes all official documents issued in the first half of his life, including the 1900 census, his 1917 World War I draft registration, 1920 passport application, 1936 Social Security application, and death records as reported by the United States Social Security Administration. Peter Hanley writes, "In the final analysis, however, the fact that he was only ninety-six years of age and not one hundred when he died does not in any way detract from his extraordinary achievements. Eubie will always remain among the finest popular composers and songwriters of his era."[14]
Honors and awards[1969: Nomination for a Grammy Award for The 86 Years of Eubie Blake in the category of "Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Small Group or Soloist with Small Group".[15]
• 1972: Omega Psi Phi Scroll of Honor
• 1974: Doctor of Fine Arts, Rutgers University [16]
• 1974: Doctor of Humane Letters, Dartmouth College,
• 1978: Doctor of Fine Arts, University of Maryland
• 1979: Doctor of Music, Morgan State University
• 1980: George Peabody Medal, Johns Hopkins University
• 1981: Presidential Medal of Freedom, October 9, 1981, awarded by President Ronald Reagan
• 1982: Doctor of Music, Howard University
• 1995: United States Postal Service stamp issued in his honor
• 1995: Induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame, New York City[17]
• 1998: James Hubert Blake High School built in Cloverly, Maryland, in his honor
• 2006: The album The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake (1969) was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. The board annually selects songs that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[18]

Personal Life & Organizations

Share some highlights of Eubie's personal life & organizations in which they participated.

Military Service

Birth date
In later years, Blake listed his birth year as 1883; his 100th birthday was celebrated in 1983. Most sources, including the Encyclopædia Britannica, and a U.S. Library of Congress biography, incorrectly list his birth year as 1883. Every official document issued by the government, however, records his birthday as February 7, 1887. This includes all official documents issued in the first half of his life, including the 1900 census, his 1917 World War I draft registration, 1920 passport application, 1936 Social Security application, and death records as reported by the United States Social Security Administration. Peter Hanley writes, "In the final analysis, however, the fact that he was only ninety-six years of age and not one hundred when he died does not in any way detract from his extraordinary achievements. Eubie will always remain among the finest popular composers and songwriters of his era."[14]

Average Age

Life Expectancy

Back to Top

Eubie Blake Family Tree

Eubie's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Blake family tree.

Eubie's Family

Add a parent
Add a parent
Eubie Blake
Add a partner
Add a child
Add a partner
Add a child
Add a sibling

Friends:

Click to add friends & family.

Eubie's Family Photos

Photos and snapshots taken of Eubie Blake, his Blake family, and locations and places or events from his life.

ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM

Share Memories about Eubie

What do you remember about Eubie Blake? Share your memories of special moments and stories you have heard about him. Or just leave a comment to show the world that Eubie is remembered.

Eubie Blake Obituary

This obit of Eubie Blake is maintained by Eubie's followers. Contribute to her obituary and include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

Eubie Blake passed away on February 12, 1983 at Brooklyn, NY at 96 years of age. He was born on February 7, 1887 at Baltimore, MD. We have no information about Eubie's family.
Followers & Sources
Other Records of Eubie Blake

1887 - 1983 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Eubie's lifetime

In 1887, in the year that Eubie Blake was born, on May 9th, Buffalo Bill's Wild West show opened in London. Founded in 1883, the show was attended - twice - by Queen Victoria and adored by audiences who thrilled to his fanciful acts portraying life in the "Wild West."

In 1908, Eubie was 21 years old when the Federal Bureau of Investigation was established as the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States; it simultaneously served as the nation's prime federal law enforcement agency. Stanley Finch was the first Chief (now called Director).

In 1949, when he was 62 years old, on April 4th, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was established. Twelve nations originally signed the North Atlantic Treaty - the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Portugal. Greece, Turkey, and West Germany later joined. Today, there are 26 nations in NATO.

In 1974, Eubie was 87 years old when on February 5th, Patty Hearst, age 19 - granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst and daughter of publisher of the San Francisco Examiner Randolph Hearst - was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a left wing terrorist group. She was found, alive, 19 months later.

In 1983, in the year of Eubie Blake's passing, "crack" cocaine was developed in the Bahamas and spread to the United States. Previously, cocaine had been cut with other substances, diluting it. Crack was 80% pure and therefore was more addictive. It was also cheaper, making it more easily available to low income neighborhoods.

Other Biographies

Other Blakes

Apr 17, 1898 - Jul 30, 1981
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
1918 - Dec 18, 1999
Unknown - Unknown
1920 - Unknown
Jan 25, 1946 - Unknown
1853 - Nov 11, 1949
1851 - Oct 19, 1930
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Jan 25, 1974 - Dec 31, 2018
Unknown - Unknown
1907 - 1993
Unknown - Unknown
Jan 1, 1954 - Unknown
1927 - 1972
Unknown - Unknown

Other Bios

Sep 13, 1896 - Dec 25, 1983
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
Apr 10, 1928 - Sep 1, 2017
1882 - 1963
May 4, 1948 - Apr 3, 2014
May 1, 1950 - Unknown
1924 - 2015
Unknown - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
1953 - Unknown
1973 - Unknown
1980 - Unknown
1882 - 1957
1887 - 1946
Unknown - Unknown
1873 - Oct 19, 1946
Success Stories from Biographies like Eubie Blake
Created on Jun 04, 2020 by Daniel Pinna
Highlights of just a few of the many successes of sharing family history at AncientFaces. From reuniting lost or 'orphan' antique photos with their families, seeing the faces of your biological family for the first time, to connecting unknown and lost family members together.

These stories will warm your heart and inspire you to share photos and create biographies of the people from your past.