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John W. Bubbles sheet music, approximately 1894-1975

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 8026 Series 5 Sub-Series 1

Scope and Contents

Contains sheet music collected by Bubbles. Includes sheet music for miscellaneous songs, such as "Jitterbug Jamboree," "You Can't Take It With You," and "Inside the Outside Inn." Also contains collections of several copies of sheet music for songs such as "When You're Smiling," "Tip Tap Along," and music for the Buck & Bubbles act. Also contains sheet music for patriotic songs and correspondence regarding the songs. Includes songs such as "V-I-C-T-O-R-Y," "Lincoln and JFK," and others. Also includes some religious songs. Letters from Governor's Office in California, Bing Crosby, and others are also included, some addressed to Bubbles and some to someone else, named J. Maloy Roach, who copyrighted most of the songs. Finally, includes piano exercises and compilations of famous composers' music. Includes works by R. Schumann, chord and finger exercises, and other practice materials. Materials date from approximately 1894 to 1975.


  • approximately 1894-1975


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.


22 folders

1 carton

Language of Materials