Obituary: Adelaide Hall

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MAY I correct some errors in the obituary of Adelaide Hall (by Steve Voce, 8 November)? writes Stephen Bourne.

Adelaide did not work in Hollywood and recorded for the second and last time with Duke Ellington in 1932 (not 1937). The Chocolate Kiddies was not produced on Broadway in 1924, in fact it was never seen in the United States and was intended for European audiences only. To date, it has not been verified that Josephine Baker was in the cast of The Chocolate Kiddies, and Adelaide was not at the end of the chorus line of this show, she was one of the stars. Buck (Ford Lee Washington) of Buck and Bubbles did not appear in Black Broadway in 1980. He died in 1955.

In a career that spanned over 70 years, Adelaide Hall collaborated with some of the giants of jazz and was a jazz innovator in her own right. Yet if she has been discussed at all in histories of jazz it is usually only because of her association with Ellington and their recording of 'Creole Love Call'.

Perhaps jazz critics and historians have not taken Adelaide Hall as seriously as they should have done because she crossed over into cabaret and musical theatre. But it is clear from her recordings and a handful of film and television appearances that her feeling for jazz always informed her work.

I discovered an early example of this when working as the researcher and consultant on Black and White in Colour, a history of black people in British television directed by Isaac Julien for BBC2. One of the highlights was rediscovering a forgotten telerecording dating from 1947 of Adelaide performing live for the BBC from Alexandra Palace. She picks up a guitar and launches into a rousing medley including 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love' and Sophie Tucker's 'Some of These Days'. She follows this with an exhilarating tap dance. When I showed the recording to her some 45 years on (the first time she had seen it) she said that she had kept the guitar. 'I think I shall use it in my act again,' she added.