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Adelaide Hall is one of those forgotten singers, prominent between the two World Wars but overlooked in the years that followed. That she was one of the top black singers of her era makes her lack of recognition or representation in the record catalog especially frustrating, It's even more astonishing when one realizes that Hall was the vocalist on Duke Ellington's original 1927 hit recording of "Creole Love Call," introduced the song "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" to the world, and was second in popularity only to Josephine Baker in prewar Paris.
Adelaide Hall was born in Brooklyn, NY, sometime between 1895 and 1909 (many biographers presume that the year 1901 is most likely correct), the older of two daughters of William Hall and Elizabeth Gerard. William Hall taught piano at the Pratt Institute, and he started both daughters in music at an early age. Adelaide gravitated toward singing rather than the piano, however, and with her sister Evelyn formed a piano-vocal duet, performing at church and school events. The family was devastated by the death of Evelyn during the influenza epidemic of 1918 -- by then her father had also passed on, and Hall turned her attention to supporting herself and her mother. Her first break came on Broadway in 1921 when she was selected for the chorus of the revue Shuffle Along. In 1923, she was in the cast of the show Runnin' Wild, and the following year she married a merchant seaman from Trinidad named Bert Hicks.
During late 1927, Hall found herself booked on the RKO-Keith's theater circuit for a series of shows on the same bill with Duke Ellington. It was during this engagement that she discovered a brand new Ellington tune called "Creole Love Call," which became a celebrated collaboration between the two musical legends -- they recorded it together, along with a handful of other tracks, in late October of 1927 for the Victor Record Company, and "Creole Love Call" went on to became a major Ellington first hit -- his first -- and Hall's signature tune for decades.
A year later, Hall stepped into the shoes of leading lady Florence Mills, who had died suddenly, in the Blackbirds revue on Broadway and introduced the song "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." She seemed unstoppable as the songs and the hits kept coming her way. A two-week engagement at the London Palladium (which was later extended elsewhere for the visit) in 1931 led to the beginning of a contractual relationship with the English Decca label, which resulted in recordings of eight new songs at the time, and numerous records in the next dozen years.
Back in the U.S., Hall was on tour when she encountered a young pianist named Art Tatum, who was recommended as a replacement by her own accompanist, Joe Turner, when he decided to move on. The two performed together for a short time, and managed to record as well.
Hall's career might've continued in the United States, but for a series of ugly incidents that ensued when, taking advantage of her success, she, her husband, and her mother moved to a home she'd bought in Larchmont, NY. The upscale white community was unprepared to have a black family in its midst and did its best to force them out legally -- that having failed, the house was then set afire, and while it was saved, Hall was unwilling to risk the safety of her mother. She brought her back to New York City, but nothing was ever quite the same for Hall or her husband.
In the mid-'30s, they moved to Paris, where she became an overnight sensation as a singer. The City of Lights made Hall into a star during its last great postwar flowering, when the likes of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli were just starting to build their joint legendary careers, Chevalier was in his prime, and Josephine Baker was the toast of the city. Hall and her husband even opened their own club, which was a success.
In 1938, she ran into difficulty when a young man claiming to be member of European nobility approached Hall and threatened to kill her and himself if she didn't agree to a romantic assignation. Rather than stay around to find out whether any part of what he said -- even the royal title -- was real, the couple lit out for London, availing themselves of an offer for Hall's services from the legendary English theater producer Charles B. Cochran. Cochran, best remembered today for Rodgers & Hart's Ever Green (the basis for the celebrated film Evergreen), had a knack for recognizing expatriate American talent, and had already given black American choreographer Buddy Bradley a new start and a new, rich career in England. Cochran persuaded Hall to come to London to star in a show called The Sun Never Sets. Hall and her husband never looked back -- it was off to London, where she made her home permanently. In less than a year, she and her husband had a club of their own in the city and were entertaining guests such as Fats Waller (an old friend of Hall's from New York), with whom she also got to record.
Hall also got to appear in movies -- not that black performers didn't do movies in America, but they were usually limited to small specialty appearances in major films or else to starring roles in low-budget pictures aimed specifically at black audiences. In England, the roles were more exotic. For Hall, screen immortality came on the cusp of World War II, when she was cast in 1939 as the nurse to the princess played by June Duprez in Alexander Korda's The Thief of Bagdad (1940); Hall had no dialogue in the Technicolor fantasy classic, starring Sabu and Conrad Veidt, but she got a chance to show her skills with operatic-style singing in a poignant performance of a lullaby written by Miklós Rozsa, sung in a garden while the princess and her ladies in waiting listened languidly.
The war turned millions of British lives around, including Hall's. The club owned by Hall and her husband was destroyed by a direct hit during a German air raid, but fortunately for all concerned, Hall had cleared the building earlier in the evening, somehow anticipating that a tragedy was impending. As the war went on, she prepared personal welcomes for the American soldiers who were coming over in ever-increasing numbers, opening her own house on a regular basis, and she later joined the uniformed entertainment corps. Commissioned and dispatched to perform to troops, she built a new popularity among the Allied troops with her performances in combat zones that hadn't been in Allied hands long. She was performing in Germany before the nation had entirely been secured by the Allies.
After World War II, Hall returned to England and continued to perform and record. She also turned to some theatrical work, appearing in a West End production of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate -- in 1957, she returned to the U.S. to work in the Broadway production of Jamaica, starring Lena Horne. Her husband's declining health took Hall out of performing, and it was years after his death in 1963 before she resumed working in public. By that time, she was doing straight acting roles with Helen Hayes, as well as readings of poetry and music alongside Peter O'Toole and Dame Sybil Thorndyke. She performed in cabaret in the '70s, and cut new versions of her old classics with accompaniment by Humphrey Lyttelton, and cut a tribute album in memory of Duke Ellington.
Ironically, during the '80s, Hall was in almost as much demand as she'd been in the '30s, as a result of the release of the movie The Cotton Club. The film raised interest in the actual history of the celebrated performing venue in Harlem, and Hall was among the very few survivors from the ranks of those who'd performed there, and found herself in constant demand for interviews and even performances. By that time, however, she was in her eighties and her health was failing. Hall passed away in late 1993 after a short illness. Adelaide Hall was a very influential stylist as a performer from the '20s into the mid-'40s. Her early work, in particular, crossed over easily between jazz and pop without offending either camp's sensibilities, and she introduced more than her share of hits and pop and jazz standards.
Adelaide Louise Hall (20 October 1901 – 7 November 1993) was an American-born U.K.-based jazz singer and entertainer.
Adelaide was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Elizabeth and Arthur William Hall and was taught to sing by her father. She began her stage career in 1921 on Broadway in the chorus line of the Broadway musical Shuffle Along and went on to appear in a number of similar black musical shows including Runnin' Wild on Broadway in 1923, Chocolate Kiddies in 1925 (European tour) that included songs written by Duke Ellington, My Magnolia on Broadway in 1926, Tan Town Topics with songs written by Fats Waller and in Desires of 1927 (American tour in 1927).
Marriage, 1924 
In 1924, Adelaide married a British sailor born in Trinidad, Bertram Errol Hicks. Soon after their marriage he opened a short-lived club in Harlem, New York, called The Big Apple and became Adelaide's official business manager.
Adelaide Hall and Duke Ellington 
In October, 1927, Adelaide recorded her wordless vocals on "Creole Love Call", "The Blues I Love To Sing" and "Chicago Stomp Down" with Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. The recordings were worldwide hits and catapulted both Adelaide's and Ellington's careers into the mainstream. On 4 December 1927, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra commenced their residency at Harlem's Cotton Club in a revue called 'Rhythmania'. The show featured Adelaide singing 'Creole Love Call'. On January 7, 1933, Adelaide and Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra recorded "I Must Have That Man" and "Baby".
Blackbirds of 1928 
In 1928, Adelaide starred on Broadway with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in Blackbirds of 1928. The show became the most successful all-black show ever staged on Broadway at that time and made Adelaide and Bojangles into household names. Blackbirds of 1928 was the idea of impresario Lew Leslie, who planned to build the show around Florence Mills in New York after her success in the hit show Blackbirds in London in 1926, but she died of pneumonia in 1927 before rehearsals started. Adelaide was chosen to replace her. The revue originally opened at Les Ambassadeurs Club in New York in January, 1928, under the title Blackbird Revue, but in May 1928 it transferred to Broadway's Liberty Theatre (New York City) and was re-titled Blackbirds of 1928, where it ran for 518 performances. After a slow start, the show became the hit of the season. Adelaide's performance of Diga Diga Do, created a sensation. Her mother was so incensed when she went to see the show by her daughter doing what she termed risqué dance moves, she tried to stop the show during Adelaide's performance. It was this musical that secured Adelaide's success both in the U.S.A. and in Europe when the production was taken to Paris, France, in 1929, where it ran for three months at the Moulin Rouge. In Europe Adelaide rivalled Josephine Baker for popularity on the European stage. With music by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, Adelaide's performances in it included the hit songs "I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby", "Diga Diga Do", and "I Must Have That Man", which continued to be audience favourites throughout her career.
1930 - Brown Buddies 
In 1930, Adelaide and Bojangles starred together at New York's Palace Theatre on Broadway for one week. So successful was Adelaide Hall's collaboration with Bojangles, in 1930 they were teamed up together again, this time by Marty Forkins (Bojangles manager) to star in another Broadway musical titled, Brown Buddies that opened on Broadway at the Liberty Theatre (New York City), where it ran for four months before commencing a road tour of the States. Dubbed by the press as - 'a musical comedy in sepia' - the core of the music was composed by Millard Thomas, but also featured songs composed by Shelton Brooks, Ned Reed, Porter Grainger, J. C. Johnson, J. Rosamund Johnson, George A. Little, Arthur Sizemore and Edward G. Nelson. After an out of town tryout, the musical opened on 7 October at the Liberty Theatre (New York City) and ran a fairly solid run of 111 performances until 10 January 1931.
1931/32 World Concert Tour 
In 1931, Adelaide embarked on a World Concert Tour that visited two continents (America and Europe). The tour was estimated to have performed to over one million people. During the tour she appeared four times at New York's Palace Theatre (Broadway). She was accompanied on stage by two pianists who played white grand pianos. It was during this tour that Adelaide discovered and employed the blind pianist Art Tatum, whom she brought back to New York with her at the end of the tour. In August 1932, Adelaide recorded "Strange as it Seems", "I'll Never Be The Same", "This Time it's Love" and "You Gave Me Everything but Love" using Art Tatum as one of her pianists on the recordings.
1933 American Tour 
ADELAIDE HALL TO TOUR THE COAST (Pittsburgh Courier headline) July 22, 1933
Her itinerary included all the principal cities and lasted thirty weeks
1933 World Fair City, Chicago 
Extract from the Pittsburgh Courier, Aug 19, 1933
Miss Adelaide Hall Captures The World Fair City and They Like It
'Miss Adelaide Hall, the darling girl with the guitar and the mellifluent voice, again stole into the callous hearts of an analytical public at the Regal theater last week. She charmed them with her voice, her poise aand beauty. She has a style of singing "Stormy Weather" all her own. Chicago belonged to Adelaide for one whole week. And her Majesty Feigned supreme, Jules Bledsoe.'
1933 Stormy Weather Revue 
'STORMY WEATHER' REVUE starring ADELAIDE HALL
NEW YORK, November 29,1933. 'Although crippled from a fall into a manhole while appearing in Boston the week previous to her New York engagement, Adelaide Hall, scintillating star of the 'Stormy Weather' revue, limps across the stage ahead of an array of stars, which go far to label this revue, about the finest to grace the boards.'
1934 Apollo Theatre, Harlem - 'Chocolate Soldiers' Revue 
'CHOCOLATE SOLDIERS' opens at the new Apollo Theatre, Harlem, starring ADELAIDE HALL
Harlem, New York, February 14, 1934: “Chocolate Soldiers,” a production featuring Adelaide Hall and the Sam Wooding Orchestra, opened at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. The show was produced by Clarence Robinson and garnered great attention and acclaim and helped establish the recently opened Apollo as Harlem's premier theatre.
The Cotton Club Parade, 1934 
In 1934 Adelaide starred for nine months in The Cotton Club Parade 24th Edition, at Harlem's Cotton Club (New York City) in the largest grossing show that was ever staged there. In the show she introduced the songs "Ill Wind" and "As Long As I Live", which Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler wrote especially for her.
European career 1935/38 
Adelaide arrived in Paris, France, in the fall of 1935 and remained living there until 1938. Her husband Bert opened a nightclub for her in Paris called "La Grosse Pomme" where she frequently entertained. The Quintette du Hot Club de France, starring Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, were one of the house bands at the club. At the start of 1936, Adelaide starred in the Black and White Revue. The show of fifty performers opened in Paris, France. In February, 1936, the production travelled to Switzerland for a tour. The revue was produced by Ralph Clayton, staged by Arthur Bradley and choreographed by ballet master Albert Gaubier and the orchestra was directed by Henry Crowder.
British career 1938/93 
After many years performing in the U.S.A. and Europe, Hall went to the United Kingdom in 1938 in order to take a starring role in a musical version of Edgar Wallace's The Sun Never Sets at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She was so successful, and became so popular with British audiences, she stayed and made her home there, becoming one of the most popular singers and entertainers of the time. She lived in London from 1938 until her death. On the 28 August 1938, Adelaide recorded 'I Can't Give You Anything but Love' and 'That Old Feeling' with Fats Waller at London's Abbey Road Studios released on HMV Records OEA6391 and on September 10, 1938, appeared in Broadcast To America with Fats Waller at London's St George's Hall in a live transatlantic radio broadcast.
Hall's career was almost an uninterrupted success. She made over seventy records for Decca, had her own radio series (the first black artist to have a long-term contract with the BBC), and appeared on the stage, in films, and in nightclubs (of which she owned her own, in New York, London and Paris). In the 1940s, and especially during World War II, she was hugely popular with both civilian and ENSA audiences and became one of the highest paid entertainers in the country (despite the destruction in an air raid of the London nightclub owned by her and her husband, the Florida Club). Hall has a cameo appearance as a singer in the 1940 Oscar-winning movie The Thief of Bagdad.
On 6 June 1944, Adelaide's recording of There Goes That Song Again entered the BBC British Record Chart at number 15.
Adelaide Hall appears in the earliest post-war BBC telerecording; a record of her performance at RadiOlympia in October 1947.
In 1948, Adelaide appeared in a film called A World is Turning, intended to highlight the contribution of black men and women to British society at a time when they were struggling for visibility on our screens. Filming appears to have been halted due to the director's illness and only six reels of rushes remain, including scenes of Hall rehearsing songs such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "The Gospel Train" (a traditional African-American spiritual first published in 1872 as one of the songs of the Fisk Jubilee Singers).
In 1951, Adelaide appeared as a guest in the music spot on the first ever British comedy series titled, How Do You View, starring Terry-Thomas and written by Sid Colin and Talbot Rothwell. On 29 October 1951, Adelaide appeared on the bill of the Royal Variety Performance at London's Victoria Palace Theatre held in the presence of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. In the early 1950's, Adelaide and her husband Bert opened the Calypso Club in Regent Street, London, where Royalty flocked. It was reported in the press Princess Elizabeth was a frequent visitor and that Adelaide had taught Princess Elizabeth the Charleston (dance).
During an extremely long career spanning eight decades (Adelaide entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most enduring recording artist), Hall has performed with major artists such as Art Tatum Ethel Waters, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Fela Sowande and Jools Holland, and has recorded as a jazz singer with Duke Ellington (with whom she made her most famous recording, "Creole Love Call" in 1927) and with Fats Waller.
Adelaide appeared in the 1951 London run of Kiss Me, Kate playing the role of 'Hattie', singing Cole Porter's Another Op'nin', Another Show and in the 1952 London musical Love From Judy playing the role of 'Butterfly', singing A Touch of Voodoo, Kind to Animals and Ain't Gonna Marry. In 1957, at the request of Lena Horne, Adelaide returned to America to appear with Lena in the musical Jamaica. The world premiere of Jamaica took place in Philadelphia in September, 1957 and transferred to Broadway on 31 October. In 1958, Adelaide was cast as one of the lead characters in Rodgers and Hammerstein's new musical Flower Drum Song, but she left the cast before the musical opened and returned to the U.K.
On 3 March 1965, Adelaide appeared on BBC2 television in Muses with Milligan with Spike Milligan and John Betjeman in a show devoted to poetry and jazz.
In 1969–70, Adelaide made two jazz recordings with Humphrey Lyttelton. This was followed by theatre tours and concert appearances; she sang at Duke Ellington's memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in 1974. On 4 January 1974, Adelaide appeared on the British TV shows Looks Familiar and What Is Jazz, with Humphrey Lyttelton. On 15 June 1976, Adelaide appeared on British TV in It Don't Mean a Thing. and in 1981 appeared on the Michael Parkinson BBC TV show Parkinson. In 1983, Adelaide appeared in the TV documentary The Sacred music of Duke Ellington, a recording of a live concert of sacred music by Duke Ellington held in St. Paul's Cathedral. Artists also taking part included Tony Bennett, Phyllis Hyman, Jacques Loussier and Wayne Sleep with the New Swingle Singers.
In 1985, Adelaide appeared on British TV in the cast of, Omnibus: The Cotton Club comes to the Ritz, a TV documentary in which some of the performers from Harlem's Cotton Club perform at the Ritz Hotel in London with contemporary musicians.
In October 1988, Adelaide presented a one-woman show at Carnegie Hall. She is one of the very few performers to have made two guest appearances (2 December 1972 and 13 January 1991) on the BBC's radio programme Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4.
In 1990, Adelaide starred in the movie titled Sophisticated Lady, a documentary about the singer with a performance of her in concert recorded live at the Riverside Studios in London. Adelaide's final U.S. concert appearances took place in 1992 at Carnegie Hall, in the Cabaret Comes to Carnegie series.
Adelaide Hall died in 1993, aged 92, at London's Charing Cross Hospital.,
Adelaide Hall was one of the major entertainers of the Harlem Renaissance. Along with Louis Armstrong, she pioneered scat singing and is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s first jazz singers. Indeed, Ella Fitzgerald regarded her as such. Adelaide Hall was the first female vocalist to sing and record with Duke Ellington. She holds the accolade of being the twentieth century's most enduring female recording artist, her recording career having spanned eight decades. In 1941, Hall replaced Gracie Field's as Britain's highest paid female entertainer. Adelaide Hall was loosely portrayed as the nightclub chanteuse in the Francis Ford Coppola 1984 movie The Cotton Club. It was Adelaide's husband, Bert Hick's, who suggested to Eric Bartholomew's mother that he should change his stage name to Morecambe, after the place of her son's birth, thereby christening the British comic duo Morecambe and Wise.
Films Son of Satan (1924)Dancers in the Dark (1932) (role singer, Gloria Bishop – singing voice used but uncredited)All-Coloured Vaudeville Show (1935)The Thief of Bagdad (1940)Night and the City (1959) (role – singer – the scenes were deleted from the final edit)Brown Sugar (American TV mini series) (1986)Sophisticated Lady (1989) (documentary about Adelaide Hall)Adelaide Hall - Live at the Riverside (1989) (Adelaide Hall in concert)
Exhibitions that have or are presently featuring content relating to Adelaide Hall:Women and War – Imperial War Museum, London (2003 – 2004) Little Black Dress - Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Brighton (2007) Devotional - National Portrait Gallery, London (2007) Little Black Dress – London Fashion Museum, London (2008) Keep Smiling Through: Black Londoners on the Home Front 1939-1945 - The Cuming Museum, London (2008) Jazzonia and the Harlem Diaspora – Chelsea Space, London (2009) The Living Archive Exhibition - The London Palladium (opened 2009 - on permanent display) The collection throws a spotlight on 100 years of black performers at the Palladium, such as Adelaide Hall, the Harlem Renaissance star who made her London debut at the venue in 1931. Oh! Adelaide - Art installation - Wimbledon Space, Wimbledon College of Art, London (2010) There is no Archive in which Nothing Gets Lost - Oh! Adelaide - Art installation - The Museum of Fine Arts, Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose Boulevard, Houston, America - Sep 7, 2012 - Nov 25, (2012Creole Love Call - Exhibition - VIERTELNEUN Gallery, 1090 Vienna, Hahngasse 14, Austria - Exhibition from January 25 to February 28 (2013) - Catalogue published with the presentation.The Harlem Renaissance - Kurá Hulanda Museum, Curacao, Willemstad, Caribbean - (2013)