• Music by Meyer Davis Page 5

    Young Vaudeville Performers at Chevy Chase in 1926 and 1927

    “The Capital’s cutest picaninnies…”

    Vaudeville entertainers performed through the summer on specialty nights, including three young dancers:  Margaret Levy, Ethel Willit, and Friscoe Red Cohen.  Their dance performances included “toe, soft shoe, and acrobatic dancing,” according to the publicity notice for their performance in The Washington Post, p. F2, August 8, 1926.  A few weeks later, another team of young performers were promoted in a Chevy Chase Lake notice in the paper on p. F3, August 22:

    “The Capital’s cutest pickaninnies—Robert Wheeler and his little sister Hilda—will be featured at Specialty Night next Wednesday evening.”

    No additional information about the Wheelers has been found.  The publicity description of them as cute “picaninnies” suggest that they were young African American performers, again evidence that many performers of color were engaged by the Meyer Davis management in the 1920s.

    “…as fresh as paint…”

    The following year, 1927, another group of young performers were featured at Chevy Chase Lake.  In a p. A3, August 7 publicity notice in The Washington Post, one these new groups of singers and dancers, a quartet of two boys and two girls – Peggy Little, Blanche Lehman, George Bishop, and Jackie Raftery, was described:

    “The act to be presented by this boy and girl quartet is a spang new one, just completed and as fresh as paint.  Speed is the first, last and middle name of this turn which presents a rollicking succession of syncopated dance and song numbers, with a very special accent put on the dancing.”

    They appeared on the Wednesday specialty night, sharing the evening’s entertainment bill with the two regular Meyer Davis bands.  In 1927, Al Kamons led a Meyer Davis big band at the lower pavilion and Ben Levine led a band described as a “snappy collegiate outfit” at the upper pavilion. 

    Fewer Ads and Publicity Notices after 1928

    Meyer Davis continued to provide the musical entertainment and the management of Chevy Chase Lake in the coming years.  From 1928 through the summer of 1930, the familiar publicity notices appeared in The Washington Post.  But they were less frequent, particularly in 1929 and 1930, and we can only guess the stock market crash and the beginnings of the Great Depression had an impact on both publicity activities and the actual operation of Chevy Chase Lake.

    In a notice on p. F1, May 5 in The Washington Post, Ben Levine was listed as the leader of one of the two orchestras, and the additional entertainment was described as “cabaret” rather than “vaudeville.”  But the usual reports of refurbishments of the dance pavilions (in this case, “brand-new hard wood floors”) emphasized the importance of dance music.

    Ads that year, however, did promote the Swanee Syncopators at the lower pavilion.  This group was directed by Al Norton, a banjo player, but the group would go on to be called “Meyer Davis’ Swanee Syncopators,” recording songs like “Honest” in the late 1920s.  That same summer, another vocal group called the Mohawk Quartet was featured.  They were described as “close harmonizers,” and they performed as one of the special acts on a “novelty” night, as previewed in a publicity notice on p. A3, July 15 in The Washington Post:  “These singers have always ‘gone over big’ at the lake.”

    The last years of Meyer Davis Music at the Lake

    A similar musical and entertainment program may have been in place in the 1929 season at Chevy Chase Lake, but all we know for certain is the “Meyer Davis ace dance music” would continue at the two dance pavilions, as reported in the annual opening publicity published in The Washington Post on May 8, p. A3.  A notice about the opening of the 1930 season appeared in the paper on June 1, 1930, p. A3 and reported that there would be “two ace Meyer Davis orchestras,” under the direction of Ben Levine.  The “hotsy-totsy Swanee Syncopators” would perform at the lower pavilion, while a “collegiate” band would play at the upper pavilion.  Novelty night programs were in the process of being planned by manager J.W. Woods.

    And that is the last we hear of Meyer Davis and his musicians at Chevy Chase Lake.  No advertisements or publicity notices appeared in local newspapers until 1933.  By that time, Eddie Carr had taken over the management.

    In the next section of the exhibit, read about Kate Smith's appearances at Chevy Chase Lake, followed by a final section about the 1930s.



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