A LONG TIME AGO, a
fellow by the name of Asa Yoelson took New York's Broadway by storm with
his courageous style of singing on the great stages, namely the Winter
Garden. The son of a cantor in Washington, D.C., Asa, now known to everyone
as Al Jolson, performed the great songs of his time, notably songs like
"Mammy," "Swanee," and "Sonny Boy," "California
Here I Come," "April Showers," and belted them out from
a runway stage, built deep into the orchestra seats, with verve and much
heart, always telling his adoring audience that " I wanna see your
faces," and, "you ain't heard nothin' yet!."
That was my distinct hero, the one person who set the stage for my fledgling
career. A dominating, powerful voiced performer who sang out loudly mainly
because there was no microphone to help him project his songs. He often
remained after his show's final act and continued to wow his audience
until after midnight. No one else did that.
Then along came followers Crosby, Como, Sinatra, Bennett, and Frankie
Laine, that's me, and all of us emulated the great Jolson. He was our
hero, our heroic predecessor.
I once met up with Al Jolson on the set of The Jolson Story and told him
of my reverence for his music and recently sent Richard Grudens the one
photograph taken with Jolson, that I cherish, to place in this book.
Now, I say to you, read about this great man, often called the greatest
entertainer of the 20th century. Richard Grudens unveils the sights and
sounds of the era and includes Jolson's counterparts, supporters, detractors,
musicians, producers, song writers, and includes interesting vignettes
of the legendary Shubert Brothers and all of Broadway's other characters.
A colorful and rich biography of the music, the sights and sounds of the
early part of the 20th century, of the great Al Jolson.