Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Born George Alfred Clapp in Hartford, Connecticut, Lew Dockstader
(1856-1924) was the most notable minstrel man of the late
19th century. He formed the Dockstader Brothers with Charles
Dockstader in 1878 and the first company of "Dockstader's
Minstrels" in 1886. Lew joined Primrose and West's Minstrels
in 1889, and then, with George Primrose, he organized his
most famous minstrel troupe in 1898.
It seems that everyone passed through Dockstader's
Minstrels. Al Jolson was a member in the early 1910s,
and in fact, Dockstader gave the young Jolson his own
spot in the program--right before the finale--because
no one could successfully follow Jolie. The countertenor
Will Oakland was another member of Dockstader's Minstrels
about that time.
Lew recorded five tracks for Columbia, three of which
were released. "Everybody Works But Father"
(single-sided Columbia disc 3251), a hit for his company
on stage, was the first in 1905, followed by "Uncle
Quit Work Too" in 1906 and "Fiddle Dee Dee,"
cut with the Peerless Quartet in 1912. A peculiar feature
of the recording is that Dockstader receives piano accompaniment
instead of orchestral accompaniment. Because the major
record companies had switched by about 1904 from piano
to orchestra for vocal backups, this record sounds to
record collectors like it is older than it really is.
Bob Roberts, Dan W. Quinn, and Billy Murray also had
hit versions of "Everybody Works But Father,"
so Lew Dockstader's version was not especially popular--but
as it was featured in 1908 on double-sided Columbia
A306, opposite "Let Me Like a Soldier Fall"
(from Maritana) by George Alexander, it was apparently
of enough interest for Columbia to reissue it.