Monday, December 15, 2008

Sheep and Goats Club Revue

Some radio programming fails to translate to our modern minds. I cite for example, The Sheep and Goats Club. It was a program on the Mutual Broadcasting Network in 1940. It was an all-black program from the talent to the producers to the studio audience. It appears in "The Negro Handbook." A tome by Florence Murray first published in 1941. It was a compendium of statistical facts on the American Negro. In time Magazine he described the program himself thus:
"Over on the right here we got the sheep. . . . They sing hymns, and they preach sermons and they is taken up with the spiritual side of life. Then over on the left here is the goats. . . . Among them I see gamblers, a couple of cake-eaters, some jitterbugs and some rug cutters."
In an August 1940 Radio Programme for 630 WOL-AM it listed the following:
"Richard Huey returns to Washington tonight with his Sheep and Goats Club, an amalgamation of psalm singers and hep-cats. There's also a sermon promised for the emphatic country parson"
The Previous March WOL-AM described the same show slightly differently:
"Sheep and Goats Club: A new program. An all-Negro broadcast before an all-Negro studio audience. The "Sheep" are the psalm-singers and spirituals chanters; the "Goats" are the boogie-woogie hep-cats. Richard Huey is master-of-ceremonies and Geraldine Garrick, of "John Henry" radio note, is director."
The show is not described in the introduction paragraphs again, but continues to appear in the schedule into that October, then vanishes. But the Radio logs provide that one critical piece of information. The M.C. is Richard Huey from Louisiana. He was an actor based in Harlem in the 1930s. According to the African-American Theatre Directory of 1960 he had his own theater group, The Richard Huey Players. He owned a small barbecue joint on 135th street called Aunt Dinah's Kitchen. (probably a reference to the book Uncle Tom's Cabin.) The troupe performed through the depression. I easily found trade mags that mention his name up until 1947. I found an interview transcript confirming the barbecue. An actor named Frances Williams mentioned that he was an investor.

The theatre rags paint Huey as a flamboyant actor, a Harlem-big shot and a powerful singer. then I found a lone reference to his recording career. In the book The Truman and Eisenhower Blues, author Guido van Rjin writes the following:
"Since [Henry] Wallace* openly denounced segregation, refusing to address segregated audiences or to sleep in segregated hotels, some African Americans were attracted to the progressive party. These included blues and gospel singer Richard Huey, who recorded "Wallace fit the Battle of America*" released by the progressive party on their own label in 1948."
*Henry Wallace was VP under Roosevelt.
*with the Hampton Institute Quartet

More interesting is the Musical theatre Book that notes Huey is a former Redcap. A redcap is not a little gremlin. At that time it was slang for a porter at a railroad. He was a concierge. His recording career was short, With the Lyn Murray Chorus he sang on a Burl Ives 10" single for Decca in 1943, possibly other odds and ends with the Hampton Inst. Quartet. Some of his musicals were produced as LPs for Decca. Other references have him writing songs for Louis Armstrong, and leading vocal groups such as Richard Huey’s Jubileers and Richard Huey and His Sundown Singers. Another reference has him in 1936 possibly co-authoring radio scripts for WEVD and NBC with Carton Moss. (Huey also gets a less glowing mention in the U.S. Government report: Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States.)

I've not seen it yet, but supposedly Huey can be seen in the short film Caldonia, playing role of Felix Paradise. There are clips online.. but not the one with Huey.