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Wed, 06.20.1906

Bob Howard, Comedian, and Singer born

Bob Howard

Bob Howard was born on this date in 1906. He was a Black pianist, comedian, and actor on the Broadway stage, radio, and television.

Born Howard Joyner in West Newton, MA., he attended and dropped out of Howard University Medical School and later enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music. During his early years in vaudeville, he was the piano-playing member of Joyner and Hopkins (Morris Hopkins was a dancer). In 1943, Howard appeared on Broadway in "Early to Bed." He also worked in radio from 1938 to 1975, with his programs on WEAF, WCBS, and WHN. He was one of the first Black performers on television, with his 15-minute show on CBS from July 1948 to December 1951.

His film credits include "Howard's House Party," "Junction 88, and "Stars on Parade." Howard's career took him to Europe, Japan, and the United States. His popularity with the general public came largely because he followed Fats Waller's footsteps.  Although he lacked originality, it was covered in skilled musicianship and easygoing rapport with audiences. From time to time, Howard played and sometimes recorded with jazzmen, but it was as a jazz-tinged famous singer and player that he made his mark.

His singing voice varied according to material and mood, ranging from tenor to baritone, from robustness to coy meanderings. During a period when he led a band that emulated Cab Calloway's, Howard employed good musicians. Still, he habitually yelled encouragement at inappropriate moments, his exhortations getting in the way of their solos. Bob Howard continued playing the piano and singing at various nightclubs and restaurants until his death on December 3, 1986.


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