Eubie Blake had such a unique career that he fits into his own musical category. A near-contemporary of Scott Joplin, Blake was a ragtime composer as early as 1899 when he wrote “Charleston Rag.” A stage performer, he not only teamed up with singer Noble Sissle as the Dixie Duo in black vaudeville but collaborated with Sissle in writing musicals including the pioneering hit Shuffle Along in 1921 which included his “I’m Just Wild About Harry.”
Blake began recording as early as 1917 and with Sissle made a few pioneering sound films in 1923. He had success writing “Memories Of You” and recorded with his swing band in 1931 but mostly maintained a low profile for decades.
However during 1968-69, with the release of the double-LP The Eighty-Six Years Of Eubie Blake, he launched a comeback that resulted in his last 14 years being among the busiest of his life. The last living ragtime composer, Blake became a national celebrity who was universally beloved.
The Eighty-Six Years Of Eubie Blake, which amazingly enough has still not been reissued on CD, does a superb job of summing up Blake’s life up to that point. He performs a variety of his originals (including “Charleston Rag,” “Eubie’s Boogie,” “Tricky Fingers,” “Troublesome Ivories,” “Shuffle Along Medley” with Noble Sissle, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” and “Memories Of You”) plus a James P. Johnson medley, “Maple Leaf Rag” and a delightful version of “The Stars And Stripes Forever.”
Other than Sissle’s three appearances, Eubie Blake is heard throughout as a solo pianist, clearly having a great time being back in the spotlight again. This is his definitive album and it is well worth a search on Amazon to acquire. (It can be found on some streaming services or for sale as MP3s.)
The Eight-Six Years Of Eubie Blake (Columbia C2S 847, 26 selection TT = est. 80:00)