Al Jolson Fact File Biography: Al Jolson Lifespan: 1886 - 1950 *** Full Name: Asa Yoelson *** Occupation: Jewish-American Singer, Film Actor and Comedian *** Date of Birth: Al Jolson was born on May 26th 1886 *** Place of Birth: Al Jolson was born in Seredzuis, Kovno Governate, Russian Empire *** Family background: His father was Moses Ruben Yoelson and his mother was Nechama “Naomi” Cantor. His father left Russia on his own and travelled to America where he found work in New York and saved to bring his wife and children to America to join him. By then he was working as a cantor at Talmud Torah Congregation in Southwest Waterfront in Washington D.C. *** Early life and childhood: He grew up with four siblings, Rose, Etta Hirsch, another sister died in infancy *** Education: Al Jolson at one point attended St Mary’s Industrial School for Boy’s ***
Al Jolson Fact 1: Al Jolson was born on May 26th 1886 and during the 19th century period in history when great strides were made in the industrial revolution, the Victoria era was coming to a close and there were vast technological advances being made.
Al Jolson Fact 2: His mother died when he was just nine years old and he withdrew into himself, he took her death particularly hard.
Al Jolson Fact 3: Al Jolson was introduced to entertaining by Al Reeves in 1895 and both Asa and his brother Hirsch began singing for coins on street corners and called themselves Al and Harry. With the money they earned they used to buy tickets to watch shows in the National Theater.
Al Jolson Fact 4: He would accept a job with Walter L. Main’s Circus in 1902 and although he had been hired as an usher his singing really impressed Main who gave him a singing job during a segment of the show.
Al Jolson Fact 5: At the end of the year the circus had gone out of business but Al managed to find work with another burlesque show but again the show closed at the end of the year.
Al Jolson Fact 6: Hirsch had also been making a name for himself as a vaudeville performer and all went to work for the same agency has Harry, the William Morris Agency.
Al Jolson Fact 7: For a time they teamed up with Joe Palmer and during that time they were booked for nationwide tours. However this again was short lived as nickelodeons became more popular.
Al Jolson Fact 8: In 1904 Al Jolson was working in a Brooklyn theatre and decided to change up his act by blacking up his face. The makeup worked and his popularity grew.
Al Jolson Fact 9: A year later Harry and Al Jolson went their own separate ways after an argument over Palmer who was confined to a wheelchair. Al and Joe performed together but were not very successful and they too decided to go their separate ways.
Al Jolson Fact 10: Al found regular work in the Glove and Whigwam Theater in San Francisco where he had moved to.Al Jolson Fact 15: By 1916 he was the lead star in Robinson Crusoe Jr. and in 1918 he reached newer heights in Sinbad.
Al Jolson Fact 11: By 1908 Jolson had married, and to support his wife, Henrietta, and decided to return to New York where he was spotted by Lew Dockstader who offered Al Jolson a job with his Dockstader Minstrels. Al took the job and became a regular performer in his blackface makeup.
Al Jolson Fact 12: He would next come to the attention of J.J. Shubert who was completely captivated by the Jolson performance and so engaged him to appear in his musical comedy, La Belle Paree that was opening in 1911 at the Winter Garden.
Al Jolson Fact 13: Within a month the rising star that was Al Jolson had risen. After his first performance he was given a position as a cast member and the show ran to one hundred and four performances. His next musical was Vera Violetta and again was a huge success.
Al Jolson Fact 14: His next musical, The Whirl of Society, would see him on his way to Broadway. Lee Shubert, who owned the Winter Garden even signed him to a seven year contract.
Al Jolson Fact 16: By 1920 Al Jolson was the biggest star on Broadway.
Al Jolson Fact 17: Having made the big time on stage Al Jolson’s career took him to the motion pictures in such films as The Jazz Singer, The Singing Fool and Mammy.
Al Jolson Fact 18: During World War II and the Korean War Al Jolson took the opportunity to travel abroad to entertain the troops together with others with United Services Organization.
Al Jolson Fact 19: During his time entertaining the troops he contracted malaria, while touring the Pacific, which culminated in having his left lung removed surgically.
Al Jolson Fact 20: Al Jolson collapsed and died on October 23rd 1950 in his hotel suite in San Francisco of a heart attack, aged sixty four years. His body laid to rest in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Influence & Legacy: Music historians Mike Pinfold and Bruce Browether summed him up by saying "During his time he was the best known and most popular all-around entertainer America (and probably the world) has ever known, captivating audiences in the theatre and becoming an attraction on records, radio, and in films. He opened the ears of white audiences to the existence of musical forms alien to their previous understanding and experience and helped prepare the way for others who would bring a more realistic and sympathetic touch to black musical traditions." The most famous songs by Al Jolson were Mamie and California here I Come. Al Jolson made his catchphrase "You ain't seen nothing yet!" world famous.