There are no books devoted solely to the once ubiquitous entertainers known as song-and-dance men and women. Both Gilbert’s American Vaudeville and Samuels’ Once Upon a Stage offer agreeable snapshots of Maggie Kline, Nora Bayes, Al Jolson and other entertainers. The male and female singers who found their voices in latter day vaudeville usually went on to radio, movies and sound recordings, and information about that generation can be found in books about those media. There is, however,  a need for a book about vaudeville singers and song-and-dance acts. Any takers?


Blues Who’s Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers by Sheldon Harris (698 pp, 1979, Arlington House/Da Capo, NYC, ISBN #0-306-80155-8). This massive volume is a complete encyclopedia of blues singers over a period of seventy years. Because the focus is exclusively blues, only a handful of the hundreds of singers included are non-African American. Fortunately the author does not discriminate among the many styles of blues: country, street or vaudeville. Consequently, the careers of all the great Blues Queens of black vaudeville are meticulously detailed year by year. A singular achievement by Mr. Harris and one of a handful of the best books about any branch of show business.


Juggling—Its History and Greatest Performers by Francisco Alvarez (125 pp, 1984, Alvarez offers a concise history of juggling and sketches of some of its great exponents.


The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne & Maurine Christopher (464 pp, 1973/1996, Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH, ISBN #0-435-07016-9). This book is nearly encyclopedic when it comes to the last 150 years of stage illusion. Chances are that whomever you wish to look up in its pages will appear. Although well-produced, the illustrations are modest for a book about magic, but the information is top-notch.

Blackstone the Magician: The Blackstone Book of Magic & Illusion by Harry Blackstone, Jr. and Charles & Regina  Reynolds (227 pp, 1985, Newmarket Press, NYC, ISBN #0-937858-45-5) Much about the original Blackstone, as well as other illusionists from early times to Las Vegas. This well-illustrated book is also a fine primer on the art of fooling the eye.

The Art of Magic: The Companion to the PBS Special (253 pp, 1997, PBS Books/R.R. Donnelley, General Publishing Group, Santa Monica, CA, ISBN #1-57544-036-9). An ink on paper version of the PBS documentary, this book is the result of the combined writing talents of Carl Waldman, Joe Layden, & Jamy Ian Swiss, with a foreword by Siegfried & Roy and a preface by Lance Burton. This splendidly illustrated book offers a quick once over the history of  magic as practiced by shamans, court entertainers and stage illusionists. It is especially useful as a who’s who of contemporary magicians.


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