James L. Dempsey: From Vaudeville Composer/Performer Extraordinaire to Corporate Executive by Susan Dempsey (granddaughter)

The following account is taken from information provided to our School of Anthropology vaudeville archive by Susan Dempsey, granddaughter of the famous vaudevillian and composer:

     This is Susan Dempsey. I promised a write-up to you on my grandfather and, from what little is known of his early life, here goes.

Harry Carroll: Always Chasing Rainbows by David Soren (Includes his protege Kathlene Martyn)

Harry Carroll (Atlantic City, New Jersey November 28, 1892 – Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania December 26, 1962) was a noted American songwriter and pianist. He was another of those vaudevillians who didn’t finish school and who was already playing piano in a silent movie theater before he was out of grade school.  His dream was to move to the big city which he did at age 18, finding work in Tin Pan Alley, that early center for American popular music composition, as an arranger.

Elsie Janis: Vaudeville's Heroine of World War I by David Soren

Elsie Janis (Born Delaware, Ohio 1-16-1889 – Died Beverly Hills, California 2-26-1956) was an American vaudevillian, Broadway superstar and World War I heroine who was once one of the most famous women in show business. While a little child she showed a gift for mimicry which was encouraged by her divorced mother Jennie, who was the ultimate stage mother.

Dolly Connolly and Percy Wenrich: Ragtime Superstars by David Soren

Dolly Connolly (born Chicago December 16, 1888 – died New York November 30, 1965) was perhaps the most beautiful of the famous ragtime singers and had marked out a steady career for herself in vaudeville when she met up and coming composer and accompanist Percy Wenrich, a handsome but rather shy and nerdy fellow who became a pop music genius.

Joseph E. Howard: Vaudeville, Broadway and Television by David Soren

Joseph Edgar Howard  (February 12, 1867 – May 19, 1961) had to entertain, from the time he was a tot literally until the moment of his death, which occurred with him having just taken an encore on-stage, 86 years later! His story may have made-up elements to it, as was often the fashion among early entertainers in order to romanticize their pasts, but vaudeville historians can document 9 wives which by itself suggests an extremely colorful life. Joe claimed to have run away from New York City to Saint Louis at the age of 8 and began his career selling newspapers and singing in saloons.