Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Born Today June 14 (Not So Silent Edition) : Cliff Edwards


Clifton Avon Edwards, who would later be known as "Ukulele Ike," was born in Hannibal, Missouri to a family of means.  Edwards left school at the age of 14 and moved first to St. Louis and then to St. Charles, Missouri.  In both places he worked to make ends meet by performing as a singer in saloons.  Since many of these places either had broken pianos, or none at all, he taught himself to play the Ukulele to have accompaniment to his singing.  This is when he was dubbed and billed at "Ukulele Ike" by a club owner.  He began to float into the realm vaudeville, and soon found himself on the stages of New York, via Chicago, with headlining acts.  There he also performed with the famous and wildly successful Ziegfeld Follies.  In 1919, he made his first phonograph recording.  From there on, he consistently made further phonograph recordings, some that focused on scat jazz singing.  This led to a contract with Pathe Records, a music division of one of the first companies to enter the motion picture industry.  During the 1920's he gained more and more popularity.  His first film appearance came in 1929 in Marianne a fully mono early talkie with sound provided by Western Electric.  He made 1 additional film in 1929 with full sound provided by Western Electric.  He also became a major voice on radio.  During the 1920's he had amassed a small fortune. After his film debut, he had a long appearance in film, mostly in shorts throughout the rest of his career.  In the mid-1950's he got into television voice work as the voice of Disney's Jiminy Cricket, which was the character that would dominate the rest of his career.  Suffering from substance abuse, including extremely heavy smoking, along with the squandering of his money, by the early 1960's he found himself in real straits.  He was said to have hung around the Walt Disney studios hoping to find work during this period of time.  By the time of his death on the 17th of July from cardiac arrest brought on by heart disease, he was living penniless in a convalescent hospital--he was 76.  Sadly his body went unclaimed and was donated to science at UCLA.  When the Disney corp. found out about this, they put a plan in place to pay to have his body released to them for burial.  In the end, this was paid for by the Actor's Fund of America and Disney paid for the burial marker.  He was then buried in Valhalla Memorial Park.  Disney was careful to include his vaudeville nickname on the marker.

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