Vaudeville / Minstrel Songs

It’s Tin Pan Alley, It’s Musical Theater, It’s Historic Pop and Jazz, It’s Americana.  Welcome to the world of Vaudeville, Minstrel and Musical Theater Songs by African-American Composers, circa 1900 featuring renowned Bass-baritone, Frank Ward, Jr. Many of these songs were performed by the most popular entertainers of the day and written by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, (the writers of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”), James Reese Europe, Eubie Blake, Alex Rogers, Noble Sissle and Bob Cole.   These forgotten African-American composers were contemporaries of Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, names we associate with “Tin Pan Alley” and the ”Great American Songbook.”  According to Rick Benjamin, founder and conductor of the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, “Berlin, Gershwin and Porter based their music on the previous works of these African-Americans.”


 These songs were as popular, entertaining and provocative in the early 20th century as pop, rap and hip-hop music are today.  Their steady rhythmic pulse and driving syncopations were the precursor to jazz and American pop music featuring syncopation. These songs were as much fun for the performer as they were for the audience.


Frank Ward, Jr. and a pianist will perform these historic songs as they were performed over 100 years ago.  The topics of these songs range from love lost and found (“Love Will Find A Way”) to comic situations (“Ain’t Dat Scan’lous”), current events of the era (“Saint Vitus Rag”) and the joy of music (“When The Band Plays Ragtime”).  These songs can be performed as:

A full hour-length performance.

Short lecture performances appropriate for schools (as presented to nearly 12,000 students in Mobile, AL). 

These versatile songs can be performed in a variety of settings, such as a concert hall or a church sanctuary, a recital hall or a school cafeteria.


This program is great family entertainment that will have you tapping your feet and clapping your hands to some of the catchiest tunes from the turn of the 20th century.  Audiences and critics alike throughout the United States have praised Frank Ward, Jr.’s performances saying:


    “ . . .Frank Ward, among others, enthralled the crowd . . .”

                                                                     (The Commercial Appeal 2/1/09)


     “The manner of performance and the selections the next performer

     chose to sing, took audience members back to late-nineteenth, early-

     twentieth century vaudeville performance practices and repertoire.

     Bass baritone Frank Ward, Jr. gave rousing performances of . . .”Good-

     Night Angeline,” an arrangement by James Reese Europe, Noble Sissle

     and Eubie Blake; and “Why Don’t the Band Play?” which was arranged

     by Bob Cole and the above-mentioned Johnson Brothers.  Though

     these “Character” songs required Mr. Ward to be an entertainer as

     well as a singer, he never strayed from producing a smooth legato

     line that worked evenly from the top to bottom registers of his voice.” 

                                                                                      (ISUB Preface 3/4/09)


     Frank Ward Jr. let his bass voice soar and swoop over the audience

      as he performed three comic pieces . . .Ward continued with “Goodnight

      Angeline,” a warm hearted love song written with a tongue-in-cheek

      style in the 1920s.  However, Ward’s comic style was most especially

      showcased by his third selection, ”Why Don’t the Band Play?” a lively

      and humorous riff on the different stages of love by Bob Cole and the  

      Johnson Brothers.”                                                 (ISUB Preface 2/25/09)


Enjoy Frank Ward, Jr. performing these foot-tapping songs and relive the birth of America’s Pop music with the original “old School” tunes that started it all.