Lee "Lasses" White

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Leroy Robert White (August 28, 1888 – December 16, 1949), better known as Lee "Lasses" White or Leroy (sometimes Le Roy or Lee Roy) "Lasses" White, was an American vaudeville pianist, songwriter and entertainer who became an actor of the stage, screen and radio. He became famous doing minstrel shows during the early part of the 1900s, and wrote one of the first copyrighted twelve-bar blues, "Nigger Blues". After spending some time on radio, White entered the film industry in the late 1930s. During his eleven-year career he appeared in over 70 films.

Lee "Lasses" White
Screen capture of White
Leroy Robert White

(1888-08-28)August 28, 1888
DiedDecember 16, 1949(1949-12-16) (aged 61)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
Other namesLasses White
Leroy "Lasses" White
Lee Roy White
Occupation(s)Actor, songwriter, pianist, comic entertainer
Years activec.1905–1949
SpouseNorma White[1]

Life and career edit

Leroy Robert White was born on August 28, 1888, in Wills Point, Texas.[2] He gained the nickname "Lasses" as a child because of his love of molasses.[2] By the age of 12, after his father's death, he was living in Dallas with his mother and siblings, and by about 1905 had started to make a name for himself working in minstrel shows, such as the A.G. Fields Minstrels, and vaudeville.[3][4] In 1912, he wrote one of the first blues songs ever published, "The Negro Blues", popularized as "Nigger Blues" and known more recently as "Lasses' Blues".[2][5] Its lyrics became a standard blues form used in the 1920s and '30s.[6]

In 1912 he started a vaudeville troupe with partner Frank Hughes, and two years later joined a larger minstrel show run by George "Honey Boy" Evans, as a singer and comic entertainer. By 1916, after Evans' death, White had taken over the leadership of the company, renamed it Lasses White and his Southern Sunflowers, and toured widely. As a 'blackface' entertainer[7] he also performed in several other minstrel shows, notably Al G. Field's Greater Minstrels, while continuing his songwriting. In 1920 he formed Lasses White's All Star Minstrels, a group of about 50 performers.[2] In the mid-1920s he formed part of a duo with "Honey" Wilds, to whom White gave the nickname as a complement to his own, Lasses.[8] In 1932 White hosted his own Friday night radio program on WSM.[9] In 1934, White & Wilds were given a contract to work at the Grand Ole Opry, where they remained until 1939,[8] having one of the most popular programs at the Opry.[10] Their routine included both songs and dialogues that parodied and satirized the growing commercialism in the United States, particularly in the South.[9]

In 1939 White, along with Wilds and their friend Chill Wills went to Hollywood to enter the film industry.[8] His first role was as a shopkeeper in the Gene Autry western Rovin' Tumbleweeds.[11] While both he and Wills remained in Hollywood, Wilds returned to Nashville.[8] In the early 1940s, White became one of two sidekicks in a series of westerns starring Tim Holt at RKO. He replaced Emmett Lynn, who had been one of Holt's dual sidekicks in the first four films Holt did at RKO. White, in the role of Whopper Hatch, worked on the next eight Holt oaters at Radio during 1941–42.[12] At the same time, White was also a regular in the Scattergood Baines films, playing Ed Potts, the husband of the town gossip.[3] He also appeared in other films during this period, including such notable ones as 1941's biopic Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper.[13]

White died on December 16, 1949, in Hollywood, California, of leukemia.[14] He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[15]

Filmography edit

(Per AFI database)[16]

References edit

  1. ^ "Saddle Pals and Cowboy Sidekicks".
  2. ^ a b c d Bill Edwards, "Leroy Robert (Lee Roy) "Lasses" White", RagPiano.com. Retrieved 9 February 2019
  3. ^ a b Wollstein, Hans J. "Lee "Lasses" White, biography". AllMovie. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  4. ^ Kyriakoudes, Louis M. The Grand Ole Opry and the Urban South. p. 77.
  5. ^ Gracyk, Tim (2000). Popular American Recording Pioneers: 1895-1925. New York: Routledge. p. 43.
  6. ^ Carlin, Richard (2002). Country Music: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Routledge. p. 224.
  7. ^ Craig Havighurst (5 November 2007). Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City. University of Illinois Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-252-03257-8.
  8. ^ a b c d Ankeny, Jason. "Honey Wilds, Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Kyriakoudes, Louis M. The Grand Ole Opry and the Urban South. p. 78.
  10. ^ Kyriakoudes, Louis M. The Grand Ole Opry and the Urban South. p. 75.
  11. ^ "Rovin' Tumbleweeds: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  12. ^ "Tim Holt". The Old Corral. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  13. ^ Eagan, Daniel (2012). America's Film Legacy. New York: A&C Black. p. 334. ISBN 978-0826429773.
  14. ^ "Famed Minstrel Dies". Medford Mail Tribune. 16 Dec 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 20 December 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ Billboard
  16. ^ "Lee "Lasses" White". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 20, 2015.

External links edit