Friday, October 14, 2011

Clarence Williams's Bottomland

Clarence Williams is well known to jazz fans as a composer, bandleader, pianist, sometime vocalist, and music publisher.
In 1927, Williams embarked on an Off-Broadway show featuring his wife, Eva Taylor, a frequent performer on his records and one of the great classic blues singers.
Here is the cast list according to the Internet Broadway Database:

Dot Campbell Chorus
Raymond Campbell Skinny
Alice Carter Chorus
Louis Cole Jimmy
Craddock and Shadney Specialty
Charles Doyle Henry Henpeck
Edith Dunbar Chorus
Edward Farrow Rastus
Portia Hands Chorus
Katherine Henderson Tough Tilly
Slim Henderson Joshua
"Nuggie" Johnson Shiftless Sam
Dolly Langhorn Chorus
James A. Lilliard Pappy Lee
Sara Martin Mammy Lee
John Mason The Dumb Waiter
Walter Miller Chorus
Gansea Otiz Chorus
Olive Otiz Sally
Willie Porter Mammy Chloe
Mildred Pritchard Chorus
Eva Taylor May Mandy Lee
Edwin Tonde Policeman Doolittle
Emanuel Weston Kid Slick
Clarence Williams At the Piano
Bertha Wright Chorus
Billie Yarbough Chorus
And here is the list according to the Afro-American:

Today we know about the song "Bottomland." But we know little about the show, which opened in June, 1927. Fortunately, we have a synopsis here from the Baltimore Afro-American. The headline talks about the critics reaction.

It goes on to talk about the main tune, "Bottomland," which it accurately describes as catchy, as you will no doubt agree when you hear the version Clarence Williams recorded in 1927.

The paper, although deeming the rest of the score as of "lesser value," praises it as catchy, singling out for mentioning the show's dancing.

But the paper also noted the show's shortcomings.

Here is the list of songs, according to the Internet Broadway Database.
Steamboat Days
(I'm Going Back to) Bottomland
(lyrics by Jo Trent)
Shoot Dat Pistol
(lyrics by Chris Smith)
You're the Only One That I Love
(lyrics by Len Gray)
Come On Home
(music by Donald Heywood; lyrics by Donald Heywood)
Dancing Girl
(music by Spencer Williams and Clarence Williams; lyrics by Spencer Williams and Clarence Williams)
Any Time
(lyrics by Joe Jordan)
When I March With April in May
(music by Gerald Williams and Spencer Williams; lyrics by Gerald Williams and Spencer Williams)
I'm Gonna Take My Bimbo Back to the Bamboo Isle

Here is a recording of one of the songs:

Alas, "Bottomland" only lasted 19 performances, opening June 27 and closing July 13, 1927.
For a contemporary account of the production, we can refer to Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance,by Aberjhani, Sandra L. West.

1 comment:

  1. Bottomland too long?
    Not for ME!
    Great post!
    Tweeted/shared etc etc etc!
    Keep 'em comin'!