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Tue, 04.28.1874

Belle Davis, Vaudeville Singer born

Belle Davis

*Belle Davis was born on this date in 1874. She was a Black choreographer, dancer, and singer.


Davis was born in Chicago (although some say New Orleans). She was a mulatto and was encouraged to darken her skin to fit the stereotype of a black entertainer. In 1890 she joined the new burlesque "Creole Show" at Sam T. Jack's Opera House and toured on Jack's vaudeville circuit. Davis performed in a group called the "Octoroons" in America and moved to Britain in 1902, where she has been said to be the first Black woman to make a recording.

On January 24, 1902, she recorded "The Honeysuckle and the Bee" under "Belle Davis and her Piccaninnies". They were back the following month to record "The Rainbow Coon". Davis would tour with this act visiting many of the major cities in England. It was said that the US government licensed her to bring child performers to Britain, and Davis was noted for her role as their guardian. Davis was appearing at venues on the Empire Theatre circuit.

She was a soprano, and her singing was of melodies. Her appearance was stately, and she had handsome promotional pictures. She appeared with two, sometimes four, Black boys who would add dances and comedy to her songs. Two boys, then under ten years old, Irving "Sneeze" Williams and Sonny Jones, went on to have their careers as musicians. In 1906 she and her three dancers were interviewed. The following year they were in Germany, where two films were made, and the recordings survived. In 1925 she was the choreographer at the "Casino de Paris" Music Hall. Here she recruited performers and arranged the dancing until 1929.

During this time, she returned to London to her house in Holborn, where she recruited five dancers, including the tap dancer Josie Woods. They were called the "Magnolia Blossoms," and they were returned to Paris. Davis left Europe and returned to America in 1938; the remainder of her life is unknown.

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