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His Final Releases, 1919-1922

Bert Williams

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Album Review

Archeophone presents a third volume of the complete recordings of Afro-American vaudeville legend Bert Williams, immaculately remastered and arranged in chronological order. The time line represented here extends from February 13, 1919, to February 24, 1922, eight days before his death in Detroit, which occurred one week short of his 47th birthday. Born in the West Indies and raised near Los Angeles, CA, Egbert Williams developed a two-man vaudeville act with Kansas-born comic George Walker beginning in 1893. Starting up in San Francisco and making their way east through Chicago, the duo of Williams and Walker soon enjoyed popular success in New York and London, and were among the first Afro-Americans to make phonograph recordings. After Walker's premature death from syphilis in 1911, Williams established himself as a solo act and soon became a mainstay in the Ziegfeld Follies. By the time the recordings on this compilation were made, Bert Williams was one of the wealthiest entertainers in all of show business. Note that two very popular musicians accessed Bert Williams' material years after he had passed; Phil Harris bolstered his own popularity with songs like "The Darktown Poker Club" and Louis Armstrong re-created both of Williams' "Elder Eatmore" sermons for Decca Records on August 11, 1938. The written and photographic documentation provided by Archeophone is enormously informative; insightful essays, vintage posters, publicity stills, and detailed discography and bibliography listings make this the definitive and indispensable Bert Williams edition. W.C. Fields supplied the best of all elegies for this remarkable entertainer: "Bert Williams was the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew."


Born: 12 November 1875 in Antigua, West Indies

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '00s, '10s, '20s

Bert Williams was the recording industry's first important and enduring black artist. His dry but insightful humor, coupled with a downtrodden but persevering persona, found popular success at the turn of the century, which continued into the Roaring Twenties. Williams was also a noteworthy songwriter who performed on stages ranging from minstrel...
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His Final Releases, 1919-1922, Bert Williams
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