The Bowery Alliance of Neighbors is a grassroots organization working to protect residents, small businesses, the neighborhood and the historic character of the Bowery.
AL JOLSON recalls:
First singing job was on the Bowery!
Audio recording: June 6, 1945
From Milton Berle’s radio show Let Yourself Go.
Broadcast by CBS. Sponsored by Eversharp Pen Company
Audio copy courtesy historian Ed Greenbaum.
Special thanks: International Al Jolson Society. www.jolson.org
Legendary stage, screen , radio, and recording star Al Jolson (1886-1950) appeared in a vaudeville act as “Master Joelson & Fred Moore” on the Bowery during his first 2 years performing:
The “joint named McGurk’s” that Jolson recalls as the possible site of his first singing job, was a dive bar at 295 Bowery that became notorious in the 1890s after several down-and-out young women ended their lives there after taking carbolic acid. Rather than keep a low profile, the joint profitably catered to thrill-seeking slummers as McGurk’s “Suicide Hall”. Eventually closed down by reformers, McGurk’s was referenced in countless books and movies, including Mae West’s homage to the Bowery, She Done Him Wrong (1933).
Miner’s Bowery Theatre, 165-167 Bowery, circa 1900
Photo courtesy: Museum of the City of New York.
Sadly, despite tremendous efforts to save 295 Bowery through landmarking, it was torn down and replaced by the atrocious Avalon Bowery Place building. For a full account of McGurk’s see “Down in the Bowery Dives: The History of McGurk’s Suicide Hall,”a fine recent piece from the Bowery Boogie (12-5-12):
Michael Freeland, Jolson – The Story of Al Jolson. Published 1972; reprinted 2007 by Vallentine Mitchell Publishers.
Alvin F. Harlow, Old Bowery Days. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1931, pages 400-401, 497-498.
Luc Sante, Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York. New York: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 1991.
Bowery Stereocard circa 1901