Mabel Lee was called “the dancer with the million dollar legs.” She was born in 1921 and, like many others, began performing as a child. By the age of nine she was singing with a big band and by 12 she was headlining in Georgia’s first African-American owned night club. She moved to Harlem when she was 19 and was soon performing at the Apollo Theater. After the Apollo she toured London where she was hailed as “the second Florence Mills.” When she returned to the states she became known as the Queen Of Soundies because she was featured in more than 100 musical shorts. Here she is in 1943 doing the “Chicken Shack Shuffle.”
These performances are great but I really wish they could have miked the floor or added some Foley taps. I don’t imagine budgets were very high though. I also bet they didn’t think many people were tuning in to Mable Lee to hear the sound of her shoes! Isn’t it sad that we never see curvy women on film these days? Mabel Lee is absolutely beautiful! I say “is” because, in true jazz lady tradition, at 89 Mabel Lee is alive, well and still dancing!
What I wouldn’t give to shake her hand!
Because I mentioned him the other day and because Noble Sissle is an AWESOME name, let’s play him today shall we? Noble was born in 1889 and he began touring with vaudeville acts when he was in his teens. He met Eubie Blake after both men left military service at the close of World War I. They formed a vaudeville act called The Dixie Duo which broke racial barriers by refusing to wear the blackface minstrel make-up that was standard at the time. The men eventually parted ways and Noble continued to enjoy a successful career as a band leader well into the 1950s. Later in life he switched careers and became a disc jockey. Here’s a soundie called “Sizzle With Sissle” with The Noble Sissle Orchestra featuring the lovely miss Mabel Lee.
I have no idea why I think the name Noble Sissle is so cool. I just do. Then again I’ve always liked words. I recently started receiving the Merriam Webster Word Of The Day via email. I knew about half of this week’s words already but it was good to be reminded of them. I like to share them with friends at work too. This week we had woolgathering and bogus which are both fun to say. Then we had quincunx and philately which are even more fun because they sound dirty even though they aren’t. But our favorite word this week was vermicular. It means resembling a worm or caused by worms. We had a lot of fun trying to find uses for the word that weren’t disgusting. We came up with vermicular Gummi candies, vermicular composting, and when everyone got “I’m A Barbie Girl” stuck in their brains we decided that some songs are vermicular too! That last one was mine but you have my permission to use it at your next wedding, Bar Mitzvah or wake. You’re welcome.