Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham (April 18, 1904 – December 13, 1981)[1] was an African American entertainer.[2] Though best known as a comedian, Markham was also a singer, dancer, and actor.[3] His nickname came from a stage routine, in which he declared himself to be "Sweet Poppa Pigmeat". He was sometimes credited in films as Pigmeat "Alamo" Markham, and he also is known for what is considered some of the earliest Hip Hop with his song "Here Comes The Judge"[4].

Pigmeat Markham
Dewey Markham

(1904-04-18)April 18, 1904
DiedDecember 13, 1981(1981-12-13) (aged 77)
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
  • Comedian
  • actor
  • singer
  • dancer
Years active1917–1981
SpouseBernice Markham (m. ?–1981)

Early life and career Edit

Poster for the 1940 short subject Mr. Smith Goes Ghost

Markham was born in the community of Hayti in Durham, North Carolina.[2] His family was the most prominent on their street, which came to be called (and later officially named) Markham Street in the Hayti District. Markham began his career in traveling music and burlesque shows. For a time he was a member of Bessie Smith's Traveling Revue in the 1920s.[5] Later, he claimed he originated the Truckin' dance which became nationally popular at the start of the 1930s. In the 1940s he started making film appearances. In 1946 he recorded "Open the Door, Richard".[6]

Markham was a familiar act at New York's famed Apollo Theater where he wore blackface makeup and huge painted white lips, despite complaints the vaudeville tradition was degrading. The book Showtime at the Apollo suggests, "He probably played the Apollo more often than any other performer."[7] Starting in the 1950s Pigmeat Markham began appearing on television, making multiple appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.[8]

His boisterous, indecorous "heyeah (here) come da judge" schtick, which made a mockery of formal courtroom etiquette, became his signature routine. Markham would sit at an elevated judge's bench (often in a black graduation cap-and-gown, to look more impressive), and deal with a series of comic miscreants. He would often deliver his "judgments", as well as express frustration with the accused, by leaning over the bench and smacking the accused with an inflated bladder-balloon. He had hit comedy recordings in the 1960s on Chess Records, and saw his routine's entry line become a catchphrase on the Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In NBC television show, as did his phrase "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls."[9]

Markham's most famous routine was "discovered" by the general public only after Sammy Davis, Jr. had performed it as a guest on the March 25, 1968 episode of Laugh-In.[10] Due to the years of racial segregation in the entertainment world, he was not widely known by white audiences, and had almost exclusively performed on the "Chitlin' Circuit" of vaudeville, theatres, and night clubs[1] and appeared in several race films, including William D. Alexander's 1949 revue film Burlesque in Harlem, which documented the Chitlin' Circuit.[9]

The phenomenal ripple effect of Davis's version of "the judge" led to Markham's opportunity to perform his signature Judge character himself as a Laugh-In regular during the 1968–69 television season.[11] Archie Campbell later adapted Markham's routine, performing as "Justus O'Peace," on the country version of Laugh-In, Hee Haw, which borrowed heavily from the minstrel show tradition.[12]

Thanks to his Heyeah come da judge routine, which originally was accompanied by music with a funky beat, Pigmeat Markham is regarded as a forerunner of rap.[13] His song "Here Comes the Judge" peaked at number 19 on the Billboard[14] and other charts in 1968. He published an autobiography, Here Come the Judge!, in the wake of his Laugh-In success.[15]

The song "Here Comes the Judge" was prominently sampled by Big Audio Dynamite II during the middle of Rush (Big Audio Dynamite II song).[16]

Death Edit

The crypt of Dewey Markham in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx New York

Markham died of a stroke at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx at the age of 77.[3][17] He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.[18]

Discography Edit


Albums Edit

  • At the Party (1961)
  • The Trial (1961)
  • Anything Goes with Pigmeat (1962)
  • Open the Door Richard (1963)
  • The World's Greatest Clown (1963)
  • The Best of Moms and Pigmeat Volume One (1964) (with Moms Mabley)
  • Mr. Funny Man (1965)
  • This'll Kill Ya! (1965)
  • One More Time... (1966) (with Moms Mabley)
  • If You Can't Be Good, Be Careful! (1966)
  • Mr. Vaudeville (1967)
  • Save Your Soul, Baby! (1967)
  • Here Come the Judge (1968)
  • Tune Me In (1968)
  • The Hustlers (1968)
  • Backstage (1968)
  • Pigmeat's Bag (1968)
  • Would the Real Pigmeat Markham Please Sit Down (1973)
  • The Crap-Shootin' Rev

Singles Edit

Year Single Chart Positions
1945 "How Long, How Long Blues"[19] - - - -
"Blues Before Sunrise"[19] - - - -
1946 "See See Rider" - - - -
1961 "My Wife? No, I Ain't Seen Her" - - - -
1968 "Here Comes the Judge" 19 4 19 71
"Sock It to 'Em Judge" 103 - - -
1969 "Pig's Popcorn" - - - -

References Edit

  1. ^ a b Deming, Mark. "Pigmeat Markham Biography". AllMusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Pigmeat Markham, Comedian Extraordinaire". The African American Registry. 2005. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
  3. ^ a b C. Gerald Fraser (December 16, 1981). "Dewey (Pigmeat) Markham, Vaudeville And TV Comedian". New York Times. Retrieved December 18, 2014. Dewey Markham, a comedian who performed on both the black and white vaudeville circuits and was best known for his skit called Here comes the judge, died Sunday in Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx after suffering a massive stroke. He was 77 years old and lived in the Bronx.
  4. ^ Darnell, Heather (August 17, 2023). "Early Hip-Hop at the Library of Congress | In The Muse". The Library of Congress. Retrieved September 24, 2023.
  5. ^ "Primary Source 45" (PDF). Jacob Lawrence and The Migration Series. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 28, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  6. ^ "allmusic (((Pigmeat Markham > Discography > Main Albums)))". Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  7. ^ Fox, Ted (1983). Showtime at the Apollo. Da Capo. pp. 94. ISBN 9780030605338.
  8. ^ "African American Legacy of The Woodlawn Cemetery". Archived from the original on January 4, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c "That's Some Funny Shit! Exhibition - Part 1 | The Museum Of UnCut Funk". Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Last Man in Blackface: The World of Pigmeat Markham by Kliph Nesteroff". WFMU's Beware of the Blog. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  11. ^ Watkins, Mel (1979). "Black Humor: On The Real Side". APF Reporter Vol. 3 #2. Archived from the original on January 19, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  12. ^ "Archie Campbell's "Where Oh Where" - ("PFFT! You Was Gone")". Country Thang Daily. November 6, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Jones, Alistair (February 26, 2011). "Reasons rhyme for a history under raps". Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  14. ^ (click on "Read More" once at the site) Mark Deming. "Pigmeat Markham at". All Music Guide. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  15. ^ Markham, Pigmeat; Levinson, Bill (1969). Mundis, Hester (ed.). Here come the judge!. New York: Popular Library. OCLC 12196859 – via Internet Archive.
  16. ^ Brady, Bradford; Maron, John (March 28, 2021). "On the Record: Children's show from 1960s used little-known folk song as theme music". Retrieved April 16, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ "Comic Pigmeat Markham Suffers Fatal Stroke in N.Y." Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 61 (14): 13. January 7, 1982. ISSN 0021-5996.
  18. ^ "Black History | Woodlawn Cemetery • Crematory • Conservancy". Retrieved April 16, 2021.

External links Edit