Sidney Easton

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By the early '20s, relatively early in the history of jazz, Sidney Easton had already been around long enough to be referred to as a veteran in show business. Easton's songwriting activities and performing…
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By the early '20s, relatively early in the history of jazz, Sidney Easton had already been around long enough to be referred to as a veteran in show business. Easton's songwriting activities and performing collaborations touch on classic jazz, to be sure, but his career was really a bridge built over the entire river of the performing arts in black America. There can only be so much hesitation in racial profiling in describing his activities, considering that in the '20s and '30s the only sort of options made available to a performer such as Easton were "all-black" Hollywood films, stage revues that avoided mixed racial groupings, and so forth. The world of songwriting credits is one in which a person's race might go unseen, yet it is in tribute to Easton that the mighty quality of his collaborators is emphasized, including Fats Waller and Ethel Waters -- in other words, not mighty whitey!

Five films featuring Easton that were released between 1935 and 1948 include Paradise In Harlem and Murder On Lennox Avenue; these titles were all in circulation on DVD and video more than half a century later. An even more fanatic interest in classic jazz sides from these decades has meant the continued airing of Easton's lyrical conceits, a catalog of songs that sometimes garners attention if only for liberal use of an expression that predates the concept of ebonics: "gwine." Standout recordings of Easton songs include Waller's sizzle on "Red Hot Dan" and Fess Williams' plateful of "All for Grits and Gravy." Easton got before the recording microphone himself to record vocal duets with classic blues singer Martha Copeland in the '20s. In his later years, he concentrated on composing music and lyrics behind the scenes. Easton and Waters co-wrote "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night" as part of the 1953 production entitled At Home With Ethel Waters.