Tappin’ at the Apollo

The African American Female Tap Dance Duo Salt and Pepper


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About the Book

In the 1920s and 1930s, Edwina “Salt” Evelyn and Jewel “Pepper” Welch learned to tap dance on street corners in New York and Philadelphia. By the 1940s, they were Black show business headliners, playing Harlem’s Apollo Theater with the likes of Count Basie, Fats Waller and Earl “Fatha” Hines. Their exuberant tap style, usually performed by men, earned them the respect of their male peers and the acclaim of audiences. Based on extensive interviews with Salt and Pepper, this book chronicles for the first time the lives and careers of two overlooked female performers who succeeded despite the racism, sexism and homophobia of the Big Band era.

About the Author(s)

Cheryl M. Willis’s doctoral work in dance focused on African American studies and children’s dance. Selected as National Dance Educator of the Year in 2000, she has toured the U.S. and Canada presenting workshops on creative dance, and has published extensively on tap dance and creative movement. She lives in Vancouver, Washington.

Bibliographic Details

Cheryl M. Willis
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: 110 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6270-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2315-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Preface 1

Introduction 3

1. A Look at the Years That Roared 7

2. Dancing on the Corner 11

3. Steppin’ on Stage 17

4. Candi and Pepper 35

5. Salt and Pepper 52

6. The Apollo Theater 64

7. The Best Year of My Life 78

8. All Aboard for the East Coast 91

9. Crossing the Line 106

10. Down in Dixie 121

11. Chicago 133

12. On Midwestern Soil 151

13. “The Girls” 165

14. Canadian Jazz 174

15. A Sweet Moment Slips Away 181

Epilogue: What Do We Do Now? 187

Appendix I: Schedule of Performances 195

Appendix II: In Memory of a Generation Who Performed 207

Chapter Notes 217

Bibliography 230

Index 237

Book Reviews & Awards

“[I] was knocked out by the rare photos and ads… Willis paints an intriguing picture of what show business was like for these two ladies. This is helped immeasurably by the author’s interviews with Salt and Pepper themselves.”—Classic Images