Eubie Blake had a rather unique career. Although his main importance was as a songwriter for Broadway shows in the 1920s, late in life he became known as the last living link to ragtime. Blake always had a colorful life. He wrote his first rag, "The Charleston Rag," in 1899, spent years playing with medicine shows and in sporting houses, and by 1915 was teaming up with singer Noble Sissle in vaudeville. Sissle and Blake wrote for the 1921 hit show Shuffle Along (the first all-black musical) and it was followed by Revue Negre, Plantation Review, Rhapsody in Black, and Bamville Review. The team of Sissle and Blake, in addition to making recordings, were filmed for some early experimental sound shorts. Among Blake's hit songs of the 1920s were "I'm Just Crazy About Harry," "You're Lucky to Me," and "Memories of You."
Although he made some recordings in 1931, Eubie Blake generally had a lower profile for the next three decades. He worked with Sissle now and then and earned a degree from New York University, but was largely forgotten until 1969. That year he recorded a double LP for Columbia (The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake) that amazed listeners who had never heard of him. During his remaining 14 years, Eubie Blake was a very popular performer, playing and singing ragtime-era pieces, charming audiences, making new records, appearing on Broadway in the 1978 show Eubie (he was 95 at the time), and running his own label, Eubie Blake Music. He continued performing until he was 98, and Eubie Blake made it to his 100th birthday with five days to spare. ~ Scott Yanow
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