Great American Songbook
The Great American Songbook known as "American Standards", is the canon of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century. Although several collections of music have been published under the title, it does not refer to any actual book or specific list of songs, but to a loosely defined set including the most popular and enduring songs from the 1920s to the 1950s that were created for Broadway theatre, musical theatre, Hollywood musical film, they have been recorded and performed by a large number and wide range of singers, instrumental bands, jazz musicians. The Great American Songbook comprises standards by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers, others. Although the songs have never gone out of style among traditional and jazz singers and musicians, a renewed popular interest in the Great American Songbook beginning in the 1970s has led a growing number of rock and pop singers to take an interest and issue recordings of them.
There is no consensus on which songs are in the "Great American Songbook." Several music publishing companies, including Hal Leonard, J. W. Pepper & Son, Alfred Music, sell music under the name "Great American Songbook." Alfred Music lists the Songbook as its own genre. Music critics have attempted to develop a "canon." For example, in Alec Wilder's 1972 study, American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950, the songwriter and critic lists and ranks the artists he believes belong to the Great American Songbook canon. A composer, Wilder emphasized analysis of their creative efforts in this work. Wilder devotes whole chapters to only six composers: Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter and Harold Arlen. Vincent Youmans and Arthur Schwartz share a chapter. Wilder uses a chapter to explore songwriters and composers he deemed "The Great Craftsmen": Hoagy Carmichael, Walter Donaldson, Harry Warren, Isham Jones, Jimmy McHugh, Duke Ellington, Fred Ahlert, Richard A. Whiting, Ray Noble, John Green, Rube Bloom and Jimmy Van Heusen.
He concludes with a catch-all 67-page chapter entitled "Outstanding Individual Songs: 1920 to 1950," which includes additional individual songs which he considers memorable. From some perspectives, the Great American Songbook era ended with the advent of roll. Radio personality and Songbook devotee Jonathan Schwartz has described this genre as "America's classical music". Despite the narrow range of topics and moods dealt with in many of the songs, the best Great American Songbook lyricists specialized in witty, urbane lyrics with teasingly unexpected rhymes; the songwriters combined memorable melodies – which could be anything from pentatonic, as in a Gershwin tune like "I Got Rhythm", to sinuously chromatic, as in many of Cole Porter's tunes – and great harmonic subtlety, a good example being Kern's "All the Things You Are", with its winding modulations. Many of the songs in the Great American Songbook were composed for musicals, some included an introductory sectional verse: a musical introduction that has a free musical structure, speech-like rhythms, rubato delivery.
The sectional verse served as a way of leading from the surrounding realistic context of the play into the more artificial world of the song, has lyrics that are in character and make reference to the plot of the musical for which the song was written. A song's sectional verse, if it exists, is dropped in performances outside the song's original stage or movie context. Whether or not it is sung depends on what the song is and, singing it — for example, Frank Sinatra never recorded "Fly Me to the Moon" with the introductory sectional verse, but Nat King Cole did — and a few of the songs written with such an introduction are nearly always performed in full with the introduction; the song itself is a 32-bar AABA or ABAC form, the lyrics refer to more universal and timeless situations and themes – for instance, the vicissitudes of love. This universality made it easier for songs to be added to or subtracted from a show, or revived in a different show; the following writers and songs are included in the Great American Songbook: Harold Arlen: "Over the Rainbow", "It's Only a Paper Moon".
Ernest Loring "Red" Nichols was an American jazz cornettist and jazz bandleader. Over his long career, Nichols recorded in a wide variety of musical styles, critic Steve Leggett describes him as "an expert cornet player, a solid improviser, a workaholic, since he is rumored to have appeared on over 4,000 recordings during the 1920s alone." Nichols was born on May 8, 1905 in Ogden, United States. His father was a college music professor, Nichols was a child prodigy, because by twelve he was playing difficult set pieces for his father's brass band. Young Nichols heard the early recordings of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, those of Bix Beiderbecke, these had a strong influence on the young cornet player, his style became polished and incisive. In the early 1920s, Nichols joined a band called The Syncopating Seven; when that band broke up he joined the Johnny Johnson Orchestra and went with it to New York City in 1923. New York would remain his base for years thereafter. In New York he met and teamed up with trombonist Miff Mole, the two of them were inseparable for the next decade.
Prior to signing with Brunswick and Mole recorded a series of records for Pathé-Perfect under the name The Red Heads. Nichols had good technique, could read music, gained session and studio work. In 1926 he and Miff Mole began a prodigious stint of recording with a variety of bands, most of them known as "Red Nichols and His Five Pennies". Few of these groups were quintets. "That was only a number we tied in with my name", Nichols once explained. "We'd have eight or nine, depending on, around for the session and what I was trying to do." Nichols recorded over 100 sides for the Brunswick label under that band name. He recorded under a number of other names, among them, The Arkansas Travelers, The California Red Heads, The Louisiana Rhythm Kings, The Charleston Chasers and Miff's Stompers, Miff Mole and His Little Molers. During some weeks in this period and his bands were recording 10 to 12 records, his recordings of the late 1920s are regarded as the most progressive jazz of the period in both concept and execution, with wide-ranging harmonies and a balanced ensemble.
However, they were small-band Dixieland groups, playing. They were different from Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives of that period. Nichols' band started out with Mole on Jimmy Dorsey on alto sax and clarinet. Other musicians who played for a time in his bands in the following decade were Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Gene Krupa; the Five Pennies' version of "Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider" was a surprise hit record. It sold over one million copies, was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. Other labels Nichols recorded for included Edison 1926, Victor 1927, 1928, 1930, 1931, Bluebird 1934, 1939, back to Brunswick for a session in 1934, Variety 1937, OKeh in 1940. In the next decade, swing eclipsed, he tried to follow the changes, formed a swing band of his own, but his recording career seemed to stall in 1932. Michael Brooks writes: What went wrong? Part of it was too soon. Much of his vast recorded output was released in Europe, where he was regarded by early jazz critics as the equal, if not the superior, of Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke.
People who make fools of themselves find a scapegoat, when the critics were exposed to the music of Duke Ellington, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins and others they turned on Nichols and savaged him, trashing him as unfairly as they had revered him. Nichols' chief fault was an overly stiff, academic approach to jazz trumpet, but he did recognize merit as far as other jazz musicians were concerned and made some wonderful small group recordings. Nichols kept himself alive during the first years of the Great Depression by playing in show bands and pit orchestras, he led Bob Hope's orchestra for a while. Nichols had married Willa Stutsman, a "stunning" George White's Scandals dancer, they had a daughter, their daughter came down with polio in 1942, Nichols quit a gig playing with Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, leaving the music business to work in the wartime shipyards. On May 2, 1942, Nichols left his band to take an army commission, following completion of an engagement at Lantz's Merry-Go-Round, Ohio.
Unable to stay away from music, Nichols formed a new Five Pennies band and began playing small clubs in the Los Angeles area soon after the war ended. Before long the word was out and musicians began showing up, turning his gigs into jam sessions. Soon the little club dates were turning into more prestigious bookings at the chic Zebra Room, the Tudor Room of San Francisco's Palace Hotel, Pasadena's posh Sheraton, he toured Europe as a goodwill ambassador for the State Department. Nichols and his band performed billed as themselves, in the 1950 film Quicksand, starring Mickey Rooney. In 1956 he was the subject of one of Ralph Edwards' This Is Your Life television shows, which featured his old buddies Miff Mole, Phil Harris, Jimmy Dorsey, who praised Nichols as a bandleader who made sure everybody got paid. In 1965 Nichols took his Five Pennies band to Las Vegas, he was only a few days into the date when, on June 28, 1965, he
Giuseppe "Joe" Venuti was an Italian-American jazz musician and pioneer jazz violinist. Considered the father of jazz violin, he pioneered the use of string instruments in jazz along with the guitarist Eddie Lang, a friend since childhood. Through the 1920s and early 1930s, Venuti and Lang made many recordings, as leader and as featured soloists, he and Lang became so well known for their'hot' violin and guitar solos that on many commercial dance recordings they were hired to do 12- or 24-bar duos towards the end of otherwise stock dance arrangements. In 1926, Venuti and Lang started recording for the OKeh label as a duet, followed by "Blue Four" combinations, which are considered milestone jazz recordings. Venuti recorded commercial dance records for OKeh under the name "New Yorkers", he worked with Benny Goodman, Adrian Rollini, the Dorsey Brothers, Bing Crosby, Bix Beiderbecke, Jack Teagarden, Frank Signorelli, the Boswell Sisters, most of the other important white jazz and semi-jazz figures of the late 1920s and early 1930s.
However, following Lang's death in 1933, Venuti's career began to wane, though he continued performing through the 1930s, recording a series of commercial dance records for the dime store labels, OKeh and Columbia, as well as the occasional jazz small group sessions. He was a strong early influence on western swing players like Cecil Brower. Many of the 1920s OKeh sides continued to sell and remained in print through 1935 when ARC discontinued the OKeh label and reissued selected sides on the 35-cent Vocalion label. After a period of relative obscurity in the 1940s and 1950s, Venuti played violin and other instruments with Jack Statham at the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas. Statham headed several musical groups that played at the Desert Inn from late 1961 until 1965, including a Dixieland combo. Venuti was with him during that time, was active with the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra during the 1960s, he was'rediscovered' in the late 1960s. In the 1970s, he established a musical relationship with tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims that resulted in three recordings.
In 1976, he recorded an album of duets with pianist Earl Hines entitled Hot Sonatas. He recorded an entire album with country-jazz musicians including mandolinist Jethro Burns, pedal steel guitarist Curly Chalker and former Bob Wills sideman and guitarist Eldon Shamblin. Venuti died in Washington. Venuti was well known for giving out conflicting information regarding his early life, including his birthplace and birth date as well as his education and upbringing. Gary Giddins summarized the situation by saying that "depending on which reference book you consult, was eighty-four, eighty-two, seventy-five, seventy-four, or seventy-two. Venuti, who had one of the strangest senses of humor in music history, encouraged the confusion; the deception has been variously traced to Venuti's father, who hoped to speed up the naturalization process, to Joe's fear that a foreign-born jazz musician would not be taken by his peers, to his general penchant for mayhem." According to official records, he was born on September 1903 in Philadelphia.
He was classically trained in the violin from a young age, studied solfeggio with his grandfather. He said that while he studied music from him, he did not learn any one instrument but rather music theory in general, he began studying the violin in Philadelphia, claimed to have studied at a conservatory, without providing any corroborating details. Despite this, his style of playing was characteristic of someone who had a solid basis in violin technique. Venuti began playing violin professionally 1924, beginning a 54-year career that lasted nearly until his death in 1978. During this time, he helped redefine jazz violin, he spent time in the early 1900s playing in the James Campbell School Orchestra in the violin section. It was there that he first met and befriended Salvatore Massaro, playing in the same section. During this time the pair was experimenting with blues in addition to classical playing. In 1924 he moved to Detroit to join Jean Goldkette's band, began playing with the Book Cadillac Hotel Orchestra, one of Goldkette's dance bands.
It was here. By mid-1925, he had moved to Atlantic City to play with Bert Estlow's band before settling in New York. Here, he once again encountered Massaro. Lang had switched instruments from the violin to the guitar; the two friends struck up a professional partnership, to last until Lang's death in 1933. They began playing with Roger Wolfe Kahn's dance orchestras in addition to playing in Broadway pit orchestras to support themselves. From 1926–1928, the Venuti and Lang duo were recording with most of the prominent jazz musicians of the day, including Goldkette, Red Nichols, Bix Beiderbecke, Adrian Rollini and Frankie Trumbauer. Between 1927 and 1929 Lang and Venuti were performing in Atlantic City. Venuti moved back to New York in 1929 to play with Paul Whiteman's orchestra from 1929 to 1931, he appeared in the film King of Jazz with the band. From the period of 1931–1933, Venuti recorded again with Eddie Lang, Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer; the most famous recording of Venuti's career was produced during this time: his October 22, 1931 recording with Joe Venuti-Eddie Lang and their All Star orchestra.
This session included Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden. Both Venuti and Lang rejoined Roger
The Cotton Club was a New York City nightclub located in Harlem on 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue from 1923 to 1935 briefly in the midtown Theater District from 1936 to 1940. The club operated most notably during the United States' era of Prohibition; the club was a whites-only establishment, but featured many of the most popular black entertainers of the era, including musicians Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Chick Webb, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Fats Waller, Willie Bryant. At its prime, the Cotton Club served as a hip meeting spot, with regular "Celebrity Nights" on Sundays featuring guests such as Jimmy Durante, George Gershwin, Sophie Tucker, Paul Robeson, Al Jolson, Mae West, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Langston Hughes, Judy Garland, Moss Hart, Jimmy Walker, among others. In 1920, heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson rented the upper floor of the building on the corner of 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue in the heart of Harlem and opened an intimate supper club called the Club Deluxe.
Owney Madden, a prominent bootlegger and gangster, took over the club after his release from Sing Sing in 1923 and changed its name to the Cotton Club. The two arranged a deal. Madden "used the cotton club as an outlet to sell his #1 beer to the prohibition crowd"; when the club closed in 1925 for selling liquor, it soon reopened without interference from the police. Herman Stark became the stage manager. Harlem producer Leonard Harper directed the first two of three opening night floor-shows at the new venue; the Cotton Club was a whites-only establishment and reproduced the racist imagery of the era depicting black people as savages in exotic jungles or as "darkies" in the plantation South. The club imposed a subtler color line on the chorus girls, whom the club presented in skimpy outfits, they were expected to be "tall and terrific," that meant they had to be at least 5'6" tall, light-skinned, under 21 years of age. The male dancers' skin colors were more varied. "Black performers did not mix with the club's clientele, after the show many of them went next door to the basement of the superintendent at 646 Lenox, where they imbibed corn whiskey, peach brandy, marijuana."
Ellington was expected to write "jungle music" for a white audience. Entrance was expensive for customers, so the performers were well-compensated. Shows at the Cotton Club were musical revues, several were called "Cotton Club Parade" followed by the year; the revues featured dancers, singers and variety acts, as well as a house band. These revues helped launch the careers of many artists, including Fletcher Henderson, who led the Cotton Club's first house band in 1923. Duke Ellington's orchestra was the house band from December 4, 1927 until June 30, 1931; the first revue that Ellington's orchestra performed was called "Rhythmania" and featured Adelaide Hall. Hall had just recorded several songs with Ellington, including "Creole Love Call", that became a worldwide hit; the club gave Ellington national exposure through radio broadcasts originating there. The club enabled him to develop his repertoire while composing dance tunes for the shows as well overtures, accompaniments, "jungle" effects, giving him a freedom to experiment with orchestral arrangements that touring bands experienced.
Ellington recorded more than 100 compositions during this period. Responding to Ellington's request, the club relaxed its policy of segregation. Cab Calloway's orchestra brought its "Brown Sugar" revue to the club in 1930, replacing Ellington's orchestra after its departure in 1931. Jimmie Lunceford's band replaced Calloway's in 1934. Ellington and Louis Armstrong returned to perform at the club in years. Lena Horne began at the Cotton Club as a chorus girl at the age of sixteen, sang "Sweeter than Sweet" with Calloway. Dorothy Dandridge performed at the club while part of the Dandridge Sisters, Coleman Hawkins and Don Redman played at the club as part of Henderson's band. Tap dancers Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr. and the Nicholas Brothers performed at the club as well. The club drew from white popular culture. Walter Brooks, who had produced the successful Broadway show Shuffle Along, was the club's nominal owner. Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, one of the most prominent songwriting teams of the era, Harold Arlen wrote the songs for the revues, one of which, Blackbirds of 1928, starring Adelaide Hall, featured the songs "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Diga Diga Doo", produced by Lew Leslie on Broadway.
In 1934, Hall starred in the "Cotton Club Parade 1934", the highest-grossing show to appear at the club. The show opened on March 11, 1934, ran for eight months, attracting over 600,000 paying customers; the score was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and featured the classic song "Ill Wind". During Hall's performance of "Ill Wind", a
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. is an American media company, involved in the production and distribution of feature films and television programs. One of the world's oldest film studios, MGM's headquarters are located at 245 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, California. MGM was founded in 1924 when the entertainment entrepreneur Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, Louis B. Mayer Pictures. In 1971, it was announced that MGM was to merge with 20th Century Fox, but the plan never came to fruition. Over the next 39 years, the studio was bought and sold at various points in its history until, on November 3, 2010, MGM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. MGM emerged from bankruptcy on December 20, 2010, at which time the executives of Spyglass Entertainment, Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, became co-chairmen and co-CEOs of the holding company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; as of 2017, MGM co-produces, co-finances, co-distributes a majority of its films with Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros.
MGM Resorts International, a Las Vegas-based hotel and casino company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "MGM", was created in 1973 as a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The company was spun out in 1979, with the studio's owner Kirk Kerkorian maintaining a large share, but it ended all affiliation with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1986. MGM was the last studio to convert to sound pictures, but in spite of this fact, from the end of the silent film era through the late 1950s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was the dominant motion picture studio in Hollywood. Always slow to respond to the changing legal and demographic nature of the motion picture industry during the 1950s and 1960s, although at times its films did well at the box office, the studio lost significant amounts of money throughout the 1960s. In 1966, MGM was sold to Canadian investor Edgar Bronfman Sr. whose son Edgar Jr. would buy Universal Studios. Three years an unprofitable MGM was bought by Kirk Kerkorian, who slashed staff and production costs, forced the studio to produce low-budget fare, shut down theatrical distribution in 1973.
The studio continued to produce five to six films a year that were released through other studios United Artists. Kerkorian did, commit to increased production and an expanded film library when he bought United Artists in 1981. MGM ramped up internal production, as well as keeping production going at UA, which included the lucrative James Bond film franchise, it incurred significant amounts of debt to increase production. The studio took on additional debt as a series of owners took charge in early 1990s. In 1986, Ted Turner bought MGM, but a few months sold the company back to Kerkorian to recoup massive debt, while keeping the library assets for himself; the series of deals left MGM more in debt. MGM was bought by Pathé Communications in 1990, but Parretti lost control of Pathé and defaulted on the loans used to purchase the studio; the French banking conglomerate Crédit Lyonnais, the studio's major creditor took control of MGM. More in debt, MGM was purchased by a joint venture between Kerkorian, producer Frank Mancuso, Australia's Seven Network in 1996.
The debt load from these and subsequent business deals negatively affected MGM's ability to survive as a separate motion picture studio. After a bidding war which included Time Warner and General Electric, MGM was acquired on September 23, 2004, by a partnership consisting of Sony Corporation of America, Texas Pacific Group, Providence Equity Partners, other investors. In 1924, movie theater magnate Marcus Loew had a problem, he had bought Metro Pictures Corporation in 1919 for a steady supply of films for his large Loew's Theatres chain. With Loew's lackluster assortment of Metro films, Loew purchased Goldwyn Pictures in 1924 to improve the quality. However, these purchases created a need for someone to oversee his new Hollywood operations, since longtime assistant Nicholas Schenck was needed in New York headquarters to oversee the 150 theaters. Approached by Louis B. Mayer, Loew addressed the situation by buying Louis B. Mayer Pictures on April 17, 1924. Mayer became head of the renamed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with Irving Thalberg as head of production.
MGM produced more than 100 feature films in its first two years. In 1925, MGM released the extravagant and successful Ben-Hur, taking a $4.7 million profit that year, its first full year. In 1925, MGM, Paramount Pictures and UFA formed a joint German distributor, Parufamet; when Samuel Goldwyn left he sued over the use of his name. Marcus Loew died in 1927, control of Loew's passed to Nicholas Schenck. In 1929, William Fox of Fox Film Corporation bought the Loew family's holdings with Schenck's assent. Mayer and Thalberg disagreed with the decision. Mayer was active in the California Republican Party and used his political connections to persuade the Justice Department to delay final approval of the deal on antitrust grounds. During this time, in the summer of 1929, Fox was badly hurt in an automobile accident. By the time he recovered, the stock market crash in the fall of 1929 had nearly wiped Fox out and ended any chance of the Loew's merger going through. Schenck and Mayer had never gotten along, the abortive Fox merger increased the animosity between the two men.
From the outset, MGM tapped into the audience's need for sophistication. Having inherited few big names from their predecessor companies and Thalberg began at once
Ethel Waters was an American singer and actress. Waters performed jazz and pop music on the Broadway stage and in concerts, but she began her career in the 1920s singing blues. Waters notable recordings include "Dinah", "Stormy Weather", "Taking a Chance on Love", "Heat Wave", "Supper Time", "Am I Blue?", "Cabin in the Sky", "I'm Coming Virginia", her version of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow". Waters was the second African American, she was the first African-American to star on her own television show and the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. Waters was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, on October 31, 1896, as a result of the rape of her teenaged African-American mother, Louise Anderson, by John Waters, a pianist and family acquaintance from a mixed-race middle-class background, he played no role in raising Ethel. Soon after she was born, her mother married a railroad worker. Ethel used the surname Howard as a child before reverting to her father's name, she was raised in poverty by her grandmother, Sally Anderson, who worked as a housemaid, with two of her aunts and an uncle.
Waters never lived in the same place for more than 15 months. She said of her difficult childhood, "I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family."Waters grew tall, standing 5 feet 9.5 inches in her teens. According to jazz historian and archivist Rosetta Reitz, Waters's birth in the North and her peripatetic life exposed her to many cultures. Waters married at the age of 13, but her husband was abusive and she soon left the marriage and became a maid in a Philadelphia hotel, working for $4.75 per week. On her 17th birthday, she attended a costume party at a nightclub on Juniper Street, she was persuaded to sing two songs and impressed the audience so much that she was offered professional work at the Lincoln Theatre in Baltimore. She recalled that she earned the rich sum of ten dollars a week, but her managers cheated her out of the tips her admirers threw on the stage. After her start in Baltimore, Waters toured on the black vaudeville circuit, in her words "from nine until unconscious."
Despite her early success, she fell on hard times and joined a carnival, traveling in freight cars, reaching Chicago. She enjoyed her time with the carnival and recalled, "the roustabouts and the concessionaires were the kind of people I'd grown up with, tough, full of larceny towards strangers, but sentimental and loyal to their friends and co-workers." But she did not last long with them and soon headed south to Atlanta, where she worked in the same club as Bessie Smith. Smith demanded. Waters sang ballads and popular songs. Around 1919, Waters became a performer in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, her first Harlem job was at Edmond's Cellar, a club with a black patronage that specialized in popular ballads. She acted in a blackface comedy, Hello 1919. Jazz historian Rosetta Reitz pointed out that by the time Waters returned to Harlem in 1921, women blues singers were among the most powerful entertainers in the country. In 1921, Waters became the fifth black woman to make a record, for tiny Cardinal Records.
She joined Black Swan, where Fletcher Henderson was her accompanist. Waters commented that Henderson tended to perform in a more classical style than she preferred lacking "the damn-it-to-hell bass." She recorded for Black Swan from 1921 through 1923. Her contract with Harry Pace made her the highest paid black recording artist at the time. In early 1924, Paramount bought Black Swan, she stayed with Paramount through the year, she first recorded for Columbia in 1925, achieving a hit with "Dinah". She started working with Pearl Wright, they toured in the South. In 1924, Waters played at the Plantation Club on Broadway, she toured with the Black Swan Dance Masters. With Earl Dancer, she joined what was called the "white time" Keith Vaudeville Circuit, a vaudeville circuit performing for white audiences and combined with screenings of silent movies, they received rave reviews in Chicago and earned the unheard-of salary of US$1,250 in 1928. In September 1926, Waters recorded "I'm Coming Virginia", composed by Donald Heywood with lyrics by Will Marion Cook.
She is wrongly attributed as the author. The following year, Waters sang it in a production of Africana at Broadway's Daly's Sixty-Third Street Theatre. In 1929, Waters and Wright arranged the unreleased Harry Akst song "Am I Blue?", used in the movie On with the Show and became a hit and her signature song. In 1933, Waters appeared in a satirical all-black film, Rufus Jones for President, which featured the child performer Sammy Davis Jr. as Rufus Jones. She went on to star at the Cotton Club, according to her autobiography, she "sang'Stormy Weather' from the depths of the private hell in which I was being crushed and suffocated." In 1933, she had a featured role in the successful Irving Berlin Broadway musical revue As Thousands Cheer with Clifton Webb, Marilyn Miller, Helen Broderick. She became the first black woman to integrate Broadway's theater district referred to at the time as the Great White Way, more than a decade after actor Charles Gilpin's critically acclaimed performances in the plays of Eugene O'Neill beginning with The Emperor Jones in 1920.
Waters held three jobs: in As Thousands Cheer, as a singer for Jack Denny & His Orchestra on a national radio program, in nightclubs. She became the highest-paid p