“Pitch a Boogie Woogie,” starring Tom Foreman & Herman Forbes

“Pitch a Boogie Woogie” starred two locals, Tom Foreman, who plays Tom, and Herman Forbes, who plays Bill. They were supported by a mix of other locals and performers from two traveling vaudeville companies, Irvin C. Miller’s Brownskin Models and Winstead’s Mighty Minstrels [in credits, “the Irvin C. Miller Girls” and “Billy Cornell Girls“). Charles Woods Rhythm Vets were hired from Greensboro to provide the soundtrack instrumentation for songs and dances, most of which had already been filmed.

Locals included soloists Esther Mae Porteur and Joe Little, his background group the Three Melodiers, and Beatrice Atkinson, who steals the show as Tom’s wife with her rolling pin-awakening to the fellows’ dream nightclub. A dozen or so locals appear as uncredited extras.

Evelyn Whorton, Cleo Owen and the Count & Harriet were part of Miller’s Brownskin Models vaudeville show, renowned for decades for its beautiful chorus dancers, who are featured in three routines, including a mock-striptease in which Dorothy Lee is revealed in a scanty 2-piece. At least three of Miller’s performers, including Willie “Ash Can” Jones, have uncredited background parts in a club scene. After World War II, Miller’s was one of the last and certainly best known of the Black cast vaudeville shows, still playing  one-nighters in the South and East. They had been stranded somewhere in the Carolinas and picked up to play as part of Winstead’s when they helped make “Pitch.”

The Billy Cornell Girls, the chorus dancers from Winstead’s Mighty Minstrels, offer a stark contrast to Miller’s troupe. Don Dunning and his Orchestra were also part of Winstead’s traveling tent show, which played for week stands primarily in the Deep South. Rosa Burrell, was also with Winstead’s. William Earl, the senior dancer featured in the “Grand Finale,” was claimed as part of Miller’s cast by Willie Jones and as part of Winstead’s by Mattie Sloan. Several other feature dancers remain unidentified. 

Bassist Charles Woods got his name in the credits with the Rhythm Vets because he had booked the gig with John Warner to make the soundtrack music. None of bandsmen saw “Pitch” after it came out; for most, it was just another gig, forgotten from their long ago past when I first started contacting them in 1986. In addition to Woods, also in the soundtrack band were Jehovah Guy, drums; Carl Foster, piano; Tom Gavin, trumpet; Richard Jones, trombone; Walter Carlson and Otto Harris, trumpet; and Raymond Pettiford and Lou Donaldson, saxophones.  Sylvester Mike, another soloist (and A&T student), was with the Vets.


–February 16, 2024