Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



I was still a teenager–but I made more money in one night

than my father made in a week working as a stevedore



Books by and about Eubie Blake

Mirandy (That Gal o’Mine) This Is Ragtime   / Eubie Blake Reminiscing with Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake

Sincerely Eubie Blake  /  Eubie Blake: Keys of Memory  / 35 Song Hits by Great Black Songwriters /

Eubie Blake CDs

Memories of You / The Greatest Ragtime of the Century World’s Greatest Piano Rags  / Jazz Piano Masters 

Piano Jazz: McPartland/Blake  / Tricky Fingers


Eubie Blake


Pianist and Composer of Ragtime


Eubie Blake was born in 1883 in Baltimore, Maryland; his parents were both freed slaves. He began playing the piano at age four, getting his first lessons on a battered old parlor upright.

“Little Hubie” sneaked out of the house every night to play piano at a bordello in Baltimore’s tenderloin district. “I didn’t dare tell my parents about the job,” he said.

“I was still a teenager–but I made more money in one night than my father made in a week working as a stevedore on the Baltimore docks. My mother took in washing to earn a few dollars. I hid my earnings under the linoleum in the parlor. Finally, when the pile got too high, I showed them the money. It was several hundred dollars. They no longer insisted I only play religious music.”

His mother disapproved of all secular music, but Eubie loved ragtime. He was sixteen years old when he wrote “Sounds of Africa” (later titled “Charleston Rag”) in 1899–the same year Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” was published. “I didn’t write ‘Charleston Rag’ then,” he said. “I composed it. I learned to write about fifteen years later.”

A Eubie Chronology

1899 played first rag, “Sounds of Africa,” published in 1919 as “Charleston Rag.”

1905 — moved to New York City

1910 –married Avis Lee, an accomplished classical pianist. 

1914 — published his first song, Chevy Chase.

1915 — met lyricist and vocalist Noble Sissle

1919 — toured the country with Jim Europe’s 369th Infantry Jazz Band when the bandleader was tragically murdered. Noble Sissle assumed leadership of the band for the remaining bookings, and he and Blake hit the vaudeville circuit when the tour ended. They billed themselves as the Dixie Duo, with Sissle singing and Blake at the piano. It was the beginning of a long, very successful partnership.

1921 — wrote, directed and produced musical “Shuffle Along” (the first to be done so by blacks),  featured Blake’s best remembered song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” and introduced three entertainers whose later careers would be notable: Paul Robeson, Florence Mills, and Josephine Baker; show ran for 504 performances and spawned three “Shuffle Along” road companies, which broke color barriers in theaters all across the country.

1923 — Sissle and Blake, the first blacks, to appear in a “talkie,”  “De Forest Phonofilm.”

1924 — Blake and Sissle Produced “In Bamville,” which was eventually renamed “The Chocolate Dandies.” However, the show failed because it didn’t fit the stereotype of “fast dancing and Negroid humor.”

1925 — break up with Sissle 

1926 —  public interest in ragtime waned

1930 — wrote score of “Blackbirds” with Andy Razaf, which contained the popular song “Memories of You,” Blake’s most successful ballad.  Benny Goodman’s recording a few years later firmly established the tune as a standard.

1933 — Sissle, Blake, and Flournoy Miller got back together and attempted an unsuccessful revival of  “Shuffle Along.”

1946 — retired at 63 to study music composition, transcribe his songs, and compose new songs

1968 — Blake and Sissle recorded together on an album entitled “86 Years of Eubie Blake.” 

1969 — came out of retirement to record an album

1975 (December 17) — Sissle died.

1976 — appeared in “Scott Joplin” film, starring Billy Dee Williams

1978 — the musical “Eubie,” based on Blake’s songs, opened on Broadway

1981 — awarded the Medal of Freedom

1982 (June) — gave last public concert 

1983 (February 12) — died in Brooklyn, New York

1995 — Eubie’s image appeared on thirty-two cents stamp.

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Mother of a Composer/Musician, Eubie Blake

Emily Blake, born a slave, was the mother  of musician, composer, performer Eubie Blake, whose parents were both freed slaves. His father  worked as a stevedore on the Baltimore docks. Emily, his mother took in washing to earn a few dollars. To supplement the family income, Eubie the teenager born in 1883 in Baltimore, Maryland sneaked out of the house every night to play piano at a bordello in Baltimore’s tenderloin district. he made more in a night than his father made in a week.

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Eubie Blake on YouTube

 Charleston Rag  /  Memories of You with Alberta Hunter  / Arkansas Blues / Baltimore Buzz / Boll Weevil Blues 

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 19 April 2010



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