Kate Smith Made Her Debut at the Lake in 1923
One of the musical performers at the amusement park that Chevy Chase residents remember is Kate Smith. On August 19, p. 26, a notice in The Washington Post announced her second appearance that season.
“Concerted demands of Chevy Chase Lake fans will result in Miss Kate Smith and Jimmy Mulroe appearing for a return engagement on next Wednesday’s novelty night. Miss Smith and Mulroe appeared at the lake about a month ago and made such a decisive hit in their combination of songs and dances that there has been a constant demand for their reappearance....”
"Miss Smith is gifted with a voice of notably fine timbre, which she uses with advantage in both serious ballads and songs of lighter type. Her comedy hits have been especially appreciated here."
Kate Smith, who grew up in Virginia, was still in her teens when she first performed at Chevy Chase Lake.
Kate Smith Returns in 1926 as “Washington’s own Sophie Tucker”
In the summer of 1926, Kate Smith made a return performance, billed as “Washington’s own Sophie Tucker.” On July 18, on p. F2, The Washington Post announced her engagement at Chevy Chase Lake:
“D.C. Blues Singer to Appear at Lake”
“Wailing, crooning ‘melody blues’ by Kate Smith, Washington’s own Sophie Tucker, will be the feature of ‘specialty night’ at Chevy Chase Lake next Wednesday evening.”
“Comedy numbers, jazz songs, and blues of the bluest sort are Miss Smith’s specialty and always 'bring down the house.'”
She probably sang at the upper pavilion, accompanied by the Meyer Davis orchestra led by Ben Levine. The combination of vaudeville and dance music at the upper pavilion was described in the publicity notice as “a real entertainment cocktail.” At the lower dance pavilion, “superpeppery jazz” was played by the Meyer Davis band led by “zippy” Tommy Thompson, and according to the publicity, the dance floor was always crowded.
Kate Smith may have performed at Chevy Chase Lake again that summer, and perhaps in the coming years. But by 1930, she was performing on Broadway, and her radio and television career would take her far from the small stages of a local amusement park.
"She started out singing at Chevy Chase Lake"
As her fans know, she would go on to record some of the most popular songs of the day. Perhaps the most famous was Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” but that was several decades after her performances at Chevy Chase Lake. Learn more about Kate Smith's first performance of "God Bless America" on her radio show on Armistice Day, 1938 by clicking on this link to "American Treasures at the Library of Congress."
When she died in 1986, local fans attending her funeral service in Washington, DC remembered her earlier performances at Chevy Chase Lake. From the June 22, 1986, The Washington Post, p. D1:
“Margaret O’Brien, who attended yesterday’s service, was among those who recalled the singer from her days as a young woman in Washington.
“’I remember Kate Smith years back,’ said O’Brien. ‘She started out singing at Chevy Chase Lake.’”