Biographical / Historical
According to family history, Neva Satterlee at the age of seventeen formed an orchestra and was its leader for many years. At one time she was under contract with Charles Hoyt Productions, probably the same Hoyt of Morgan & Hoyt's who boasted a Ladies Band and Imperial Singing Orchestra on their bill. She was an accomplished musician and actress. Neva married George McNally and they took the stage surname of Mello. Neva did all the musical arrangements as she was the only one of the pair who could read music. Their home base was the town of Fulton, New York. The couple remained on the vaudeville circuit as entertainers until Neva's death during child birth in 1909. The couple had at least one child, Angeline McNally. George continued to work in vaudeville. The act was under the direction of George Mello and Eddie Shaw. The act, titled Hokem is Hokem, was a minstrel, musical revue style show and apparently consisted of at least five musical selections; the opening Hot-Time, followed by He's Goin' to Hab a Hot Time Bye an' Bye termed (the greatest coon song ever published), Tall Girl (arranged by Neva Satterlee Mello), Snaps, and The Man Behind the Plow. The act's band consisted of a piano, violin, cornet, trombone, drums, clarinet, and flute but may have included other instruments. According to family tradition, Mello ceased his vaudeville career by 1928.
The vaudeville tradition began in the aftermath of the Civil War when numerous minstrel companies began touring the country in minstrel shows presenting songs and comedy in an easily accessible format. Vaudeville became the staple American family entertainment during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tony Pastor gave the first big time vaudeville show in New York City in 1881 and by 1919 there were reportedly 900 vaudeville theatres in the country. Featuring a collection of sketches, short plays, popular songs, and simple comedy routines, the show often featured minstrel-type acts presented by actors in blackface. With the influx of immigrants in the latter 19th century, the tradition continued but was changed by European and ethnic influences. Booking agents operated in the major cities of New York, Chicago and San Francisco promoting and developing their own Vaudeville Acircuits. Booking agents booked small troupes of actors, specialty acts and musical performers to tour the circuit traveling from one town's vaudeville house to the next. (Encarta Encyclopedia, IATSE)