The second volume in The Complete Bert Williams is Bert Williams: The Middle Years, 1910-1918. This CD contains 26 tracks, over 77 minutes of playing time, and a 24-page
booklet with high-quality graphics, an essay on Williams’ Ziegfeld years
by noted scholar Allen G. Debus, and the entirety of Williams’ 1918 article, “The
Comic Side of Trouble.” For music buffs and scholars of African-American
history alike, this collection is one-of-a-kind.
Going It Alone
After his partner, George Walker, became too ill to perform, Williams began
a solo career with Ziegfeld’s Follies. He was a smash hit, singing
songs such as “Constantly” and “Play
That Barber-Shop Chord.” The material Bert performed was more wry than
outrageous as it had been with Williams and Walker, and the comic genius
showed himself to be an astute observer of human nature.
The Comic Goat
In his article, “The Comic Side of Trouble,” for The American Magazine
in January 1918 (reprinted in the accompanying booklet), Bert Williams reflected
on how most comedy centers around laughing about the man who always gets the
worst of it. The true comedian, Bert says, is the one who can take the brunt
of this laughter upon himself—which is exactly what Williams did in his
routines. Listen to his classic, “Nobody,” to
see just how true the observation was.
“One of the Favored Few”
The ironic understatement of Williams’ humor will be evident in the two
monologues featured on The Middle Years: “You
Can’t Do Nothing Till Martin Gets Here” and “How? Fried.” These
masterpieces were recorded in January 1913, but for some reason were not issued
until after Bert’s death in 1922. Today the 12-inch record is quite rare
and collectable. In each monologue, Bert plays on motifs from African-American
folklore to great comic effect. In “How? Fried,” Uncle Benjamin
has such a legendary memory that he even gave the devil a run for his money.
We won’t spoil the fun, so you can hear why he was “one of the
A Complete Package
As you have come to expect from Archeophone CDs, this compact disc has all
of Bert Williams’ released material that was recorded between 1910
and 1918, in order of the original matrices. Most of these tracks have never
before been reissued on commercial compact disc—and when you include
our volume 3 of The Complete Bert Williams, His
Final Releases, that’s a total of 50 songs representing one
of the most important acoustic-era giants. The accompanying booklet is a
prize in itself, and the whole package will be an indispensable part of any
listener’s CD collection.