Olesker’s ‘Bawlmer’ Ten

Producer Lorne Michaels once offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite on Saturday Night Live in the late 1970s. It wasn’t $3,000 each, but it came to about $750 per Beatle. Quite a deal. Who wouldn’t want $750? We could use that at Baltimore Post-Examiner.  (See DONATION button.) Michaels even sweetened the pot a little bit, telling John, George and Paul that they could give Ringo less and keep the extra for themselves. (Ringo is coming to Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on June 24 so maybe he’ll talk about that.)

We bring this significant historical event up in Olesker’s Bawlmer list, because one – we know mentioning the Beatles draws more readers to our website and two – we haven’t heard a peep from the best unemployed city columnist since we asked him to name the top 20 most significant Baltimoreans you couldn’t tell the history of Crabtown without.

“Do whatever you want with the list,” Olesker emailed us back when we were trying to figure out a way to use his name and profit off him because we couldn’t afford his rates.

And we did. We profited, we mean used his list.

We cut his last eight on the list so we could trim it to a dozen because we didn’t know if the website would last 20 weeks. We are still waiting for some Internet Network to do a Smothers Brothers  on us and cancel our website for not being politically correct.  And imagine if we were canceled, there’s nothing like starting a series and not having an ending. (i.e. Gilligan’s Island – a movie after the series ended doesn’t count because Tina Louise [Ginger] wasn’t in it. OK? Judith Baldwin you are no Ginger.)

We admit we failed to tell Olesker about dumping his bottom eight. Olesker probably would say we did an injustice by not giving them a little praise and ink.

For those with short memory loss, let us recap his bottom eight: Kweisi Mfume, Joe Gans, Jerry Leiber, Lillie Carroll Jackson, Cab Calloway,  Reuben Kramer, John Waters and Leon Uris.

Hey, we didn’t put that eight on the bottom.

He did.

But did Olesker say anything to us about our cut?


That’s the injustice.

And when we suggested that maybe Baltimore’s off-beat John Waters should have made the dozen and not on the cutting from floor last week, Olesker didn’t say squat. How do you get him to say something? We had a coffee meet up to figure that out and came up with the bait.

We know Olesker doesn’t work for nothing, so we decided to sweeten the pot. We don’t exactly have $3,000 or $750, but we have something better to bring him to the keyboard. On our office desk is  a candy bowl. No it doesn’t have candy in it, but if that’s the hold up, we will fix that. It does have some change – a few quarters, nickels, pennies and half of a cashew. It’s all yours Olesker – even the cashew, if you drop us a comment on how we are handling your list.

Think about it. You know John and Paul almost came down to the SNL studio to collect their money, but didn’t think they would get there in time. You have it easy. You don’t have traffic as an excuse. Just fire off a comment. The change is waiting for you. It could fill your pockets. In your day, you could have bought a lot of baseball cards with that change and placed some of those cards in your bicycle spokes.  Maybe you can’t buy those cards today at those 1950 prices, but you can still do the spoke thing.

Just let us know if you still believe in your list and the change is yours – every cent. You can even write a blog about it and don’t worry, if we don’t like what it says, we’ll just change it and put your name on it anyway. We’re kidding, here.  If we don’t like it, we’ll just make fun of it.

Ah, back to the Olesker’s Bawlamar list. Let’s rewind.

  • No. 12 – Chick Webb, the man with the sticks who tore up the swing scene.
  • No. 11 – John Waters. Whoops delete that. Olesker has Barry Levinson, famed actor/screenwriter/director, known for his classic Baltimore films such as Diner.

And now No. 10 – James Eubie Blake, the son of slaves, was a famed  jazz composer and lyricist, who played ragtime jazz on the piano. Who can argue with this guy? Well?

Do we have to do this again? Cab Calloway was a pure scat-singing genius.

Cab Calloway - the great scat singer.

Olesker you have Blake ahead of Calloway? C’mon. Minnie the Moocher, anyone?

We remember watching Calloway on Ed Sullivan. He fit the entire screen. Mentored by Chick Webb, he led one of the most exciting African American bands from the 1930s to the 1940s. Calloway’s band featured jazz trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham, saxophonists Ben Webster and Leon “Chu” Berry, New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker, and bassist Milt Hinton. Calloway died in 1994 at the age of 86.

Cab's suit at Baltimore City Hall.

Granted you have Cab in the top 20, and just exactly how did that happen? Yeah, he was raised in Crabtown, graduated from Frederick Douglass High School,  but he was born in the Big Apple. So we are not sure how that slipped through the cracks on the Baltimorean’s native list, but we’ll give you the exception because he could in his day answer what school he went to – a Baltimore school. (Then again, so could the great  columnist for The New York Times, Russell Baker, who graduated from Olesker’s old high school, City College. OK, he was on the original list, but Olesker dumped him after further birth record research.)

So back to Blake.

Eubie Blake playing his tunes.
Blake banging out his tunes. (Library of Congress)

James Hubert Blake (Born Feb. 7, 1883 or 1887 – no one knows for sure – to  Feb. 12, 1983),  was a composer, lyricist and ragtime jazz musician.  In 1921 Blake and long-time collaborator Noble Sissle wrote the ground-breaking Broadway musical Shuffle Along. Blake’s compositions included such hits as “Bandana Days,” “Charleston Rag,” “Love Will Find A Way,” “Memories of You,” and “I’m Just Wild About Harry.”

Shuffle Along guaranteed Blake his place in music history.  The musical was helped launch several young African American artists including, Josephine Baker, Florence Mills, Paul Robeson and William Grant Still. Many songs from Shuffle Along are still being recorded nearly 80 years later. Blake  also helped lead the 1970s revival of jazz.  The 1978 Broadway musical Eubie! was created from his scores. A dynamic speaker, he lectured and performed well into his 90s. If his 1883 birth date is to be believed, he died shortly after his 100th birthday and after celebrations marking the occasion.

Olesker, we give you this one.

But next week is a different story. Be prepared. Remember, the candy jar awaits and gas prices are going up. That cashew looks tempting. Don’t know if it will be there much longer.