Al Jolson was born May 26, 1886 – died October 23, 1950.  Jolson was a highly acclaimed American singer, comedian and actor of Jewish heritage whose career lasted from 1911 until his death in 1950. He was one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century whose influence extended to other popular performers, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr., Eddie Fisher, Jerry Lewis, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart and Michael Jackson. Al Jolson was the first popular singer to make a spectacular “event” out of singing a song. Prior to Jolson, popular singers such as John McCormack and Henry Burr would stand still with only very minimal gesturing as they sang. Jolson, in comparison, had tremendous energy displayed in his performances by way of dynamic gestures and other physical movement. Jolson was the first entertainer to ever utilize a ramp extending out into the audience from the center of the stage. Jolson insisted on having a ramp so he could be closer to the audience. It was very common for Jolson to sit on the end of the ramp and have personal one-on-one conversations with audience members which is something that had also never been done prior to Jolson. Jolson was known to stop major Broadway productions in which he was involved, turn to the audience and ask them if they would rather hear him sing instead of watching the rest of the play. The answer from the audience was always a resounding “yes” and Jolson would spend at least the next hour singing an impromptu concert to an ecstatic audience. George Burns, the popular American comedian and friend of Al Jolson probably described Jolson best when he said, “…Jolson was all Show Business!” Performing in blackface was a theatrical convention used by many entertainers at the beginning of the 20th century, having origins in the tradition of the minstrel show. Al Jolson was the most famous entertainer who appeared in blackface, but his performances were not meant to be insulting to people of African American heritage. In fact, there were actual African American entertainers of the period who also performed in blackface. Jolson had many fans who were African American; he was the only white man permitted into a “black” only nightclub in Harlem during the 1920s and ’30s, and he numbered among his close friends many African Americans, including the famed ragtime pianist and composer Eubie Blake. In the first part of the 20th century, Al Jolson was without question the most popular performer to appear in Broadway productions and in vaudeville. His popularity was so overwhelming that show-business historians regard him as a legendary institution. Yet for all his success in live venues, Al Jolson is possibly best remembered today for his numerous recordings and for starring in the landmark motion picture The Jazz Singer, the first nationally distributed feature film with sound. The Jazz Singer was produced by Warner Brothers, using its revolutionary Vitaphone sound process. Vitaphone was originally intended for musical renditions, and The Jazz Singer follows this principle, with only the musical sequences using live sound recording. Much of the film is a silent drama, telling the sentimental story of a Jewish boy who loves to sing popular songs. He becomes a cabaret and stage star, much to the disgust of his estranged father (Warner Oland), a cantor in the synagogue.


Original Al Jolson Autograph, Signed on Cut Paper. Dated 1931. Regular Price – $ 1300.00 / Sale Price – $ 995.00.

What People Are Saying…