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William Henry "Juba" Lane

The first great rhythm dancer was William Henry Lane, known as "Juba." He was born in 1825 and died in 1852 at the age of 27.

King Rastus Brown

King Rastus Brown was known as the best of the early BuckDancers.

BubblesBuck and Bubbles

Buck and Bubbles

Piano and tap dance team of Ford Lee "Buck" Washington (b. 1906; d. 1955) and John William "Bubbles" Sublett  (b. February 19, 1902, Louisville, Ky.; d. May 18, 1986, New York, N.Y.), called "the father of rhythm tap," who together revolutionized tap dancing; were also the first African Americans to perform at Radio City Music Hall.

Buck and Bubbles teamed up in 1912 in Indianapolis, with Bubbles, then ten, singing and dancing, and Buck, aged six, accompanying on piano. After winning several amateur contests, they played professional engagements in Louisville, Kentucky (often in blackface), Detroit, Michigan, and New York City.

Bubbles' developed a style of tap called "jazz tap." Before Bubbles, dancers danced on their toes and emphasized flash steps, which were athletic steps with extended leg and body movements. Bubbles changed this style by tapping with his heels and toes and developing complicated moves, such as double over-the-tops (a rough figure-eight that simulates tripping). His new style led tap into the bebop and "cool" jazz eras.

Audiences delighted in Buck and Bubbles's singing, dancing, and comedy routine, with Buck's variations in tempo that forced Bubbles to quickly adapt. By 1922, they performed at New York's Palace Theatre, the nation's top vaudeville venue. They broke color barriers by headlining the white vaudeville circuit across the U.S., and were featured in several Broadway revues in the 1920s and 1930s. Stage success resulted in roles in such movies as Varsity Show (1937) and A Song is Born (1948).

Buck and Bubbles performed together until shortly before Buck's death in 1955. Bubbles continued to perform even after suffering a stroke in 1967 that left him partially paralyzed. His last performance was in 1980 in the revue, Black Broadway.

[ Written By: Robert Fay ]

Buck and Bubbles

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The Rhythm Kings !