Shelton L. Brooks. Songwriter, pianist, comedian, actor, b Amherstburg, near Windsor, Ont, 4 May 1886, d Los Angeles, California, 6 Sep 1975. Brooks played organ and piano at home as a boy, and attended his preacher father's Nazery African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Shelton L. Brooks. Songwriter, pianist, comedian, actor, b Amherstburg, near Windsor, Ont, 4 May 1886, d Los Angeles, California, 6 Sep 1975. Brooks played organ and piano at home as a boy, and attended his preacher father's Nazery African Methodist Episcopal Church. The family moved to the USA in 1901. Despite no formal music training, Brooks began performing as a ragtime pianist in Detroit and Chicago clubs. After a stint as a train porter, he toured the USA and Canada on the Keith and Orpheum vaudeville circuits as a comedian. He played in the band Jazz Hounds; led an orchestra in Chicago; and with Lew Leslie's Blackbirds performed for King George V as part of a European tour in 1923.
Brooks's first hit composition was the song 'Some of These Days' (1910). Other hits written by him included "Walkin' the Dog" (1916), which inspired a popular dance; and 'Darktown Strutters' Ball' (1917). All three remain jazz standards. For Al Jolson, Brooks also wrote "You Ain't Talkin' To Me" and "Honey Gal." Several of his songs were introduced in vaudeville. His compositions were recorded by the Six Brown Brothers, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong, Sophie Tucker, Lieutenant James Reese Europe's 369th Infantry Band, as well as more recent acts.
For Okeh 1921-6, Brooks recorded as comedian, singer, and piano accompanist. A versatile live performer, he appeared in various capacities (singer, comedian, master of ceremonies, pianist) in all-black revues and shows in several US cities. On Broadway he was seen in Plantation Revue (1922), Dixie to Broadway (1924), and Brown Buddies (1930-1). He had a show on CBS radio in 1930. As an actor, Brooks was known for his impersonations of the West Indian comedian Bert Williams; he also appeared in films 1939-45. He joined Ken Murray's Blackouts (1949), and continued to perform occasionally until the 1970s. Brooks was honoured by ASCAP in 1940, and inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. In his later years, he lived in Fontana, California.