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John W. Bubbles address books and business cards, approximately 1930-1986

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 8026 Series 2 Sub-Series 1

Scope and Contents

Contains copies of pages of an address book and planner, full address books used by Bubbles to keep track of his personal and professional contacts, and business cards for various businesses apparently visited by Bubbles. Also includes photocopies of addresses from letters sent and photocopies of an address book, which includes names of contacts, their addresses, and their phone numbers. Names of contacts include art dealers, other performers, and businesses in the field of realty, auto mechanics, and other industries. Materials date from approximately 1930 to 1986.

Dates

  • approximately 1930-1986

Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the John W. Bubbles papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

From the Collection: John W. Bubbles (1902-1986) was an American vaudeville performer, dancer, singer and entertainer.

John W. Bubbles was born John William Sublett in Louisville, Kentucky on February 19, 1902. His family moved to Indianapolis as a youth, where he met and formed a partnership with Ford L. "Buck" Washington. In 1919, they began performing as "Buck and Bubbles" with Buck playing piano and singing while Bubbles tapped. They appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931 and were the first black artists to appear in the Radio City Music Hall. On November 2, 1936, they performed live in the inaugural program of the world's first scheduled 'high definition' television service at Alexandra Palace, London, and may thus be said to be the first black artists in television history. In 1920 he gave lessons in tap dancing to Fred Astaire.

Bubbles is known as the father of "rhythm tap", a form of tap dance, which brought in percussive heel drops and innovated with the traditional eight-bar phrase to allow for more rhythmic freedom. He thus merged the art of tap dancing with the new improvisatory style of jazz, reinventing the tap art form. Bubbles was chosen by George Gershwin for the role of Sportin' Life in his opera Porgy and Bess in 1935. Sublett performed the role occasionally for the next two decades. In the 1963 studio recording of Porgy and Bess featuring Leontyne Price and William Warfield, he performed Sportin' Life's two main arias from the opera, "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York."

During the Vietnam War John Bubbles toured the war zone with the USO. He also appeared in a few Hollywood films including "Varsity Show" in 1937, "Cabin in the Sky" in 1943 and "A Song Is Born" in 1948. In later life, he also made television appearances. Bubbles received the 1980 Life Achievement Award from the American Guild of Variety Artists. He died on May 18, 1986 in New York City.

Extent

11 folders

Language

English