Biographical / Historical
James Herbert "Eubie" Blake, noted ragtime pianist, was born February 7, 1883 in Baltimore, Maryland. Some government records show his birth year as 1887. His parents Emily "Emma" Johnston and James Sumner Blake had formerly been enslaved. Blake was their only child to live to maturity. Blake learned to play the pump organ and the piano while still a young child. Blake began his career as a pianist, songwriter, and arranger in 1915 in Baltimore playing piano in Aggie Shelton's bordello. He formed a songwritng partnership with Noble Sissle in 1915. In 1921, their musical
became a hit on Broadway and ran for fourteen months. Blake's career spanned his entire life. Perhaps his most recognizable song,
I'm Just Wild About Harry
, is considered a standard of the American musical canon. His life was the subject of the Broadway musical,
, that premiered in 1978.
Blake married twice first to Avis Elizabeth Cecelia Lee (1881-1939) the daughter of Lawrence and Florence Lee. After her death from tuberculosis in March 1939, Blake married Marion Gant Tyler (1896-1982), widow of Willie Tyler, violinist, and daughter of James H. Gant and Nattie Thomas, on December 27, 1945 in Norfolk, Virginia. Marion acted as his business manager until her death.
Blake died in Brooklyn, New York, on 1983 February 12. He and Marion are both buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.
The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
, page 114. Death certificate for Avis Blake, dated 1939, New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949," database Family Search, accessed July 5, 2019
Certificate of Marriage for James Hubert Blake and Marion Louise Gant, dated 1945 December 27, Virginia Marriage Certificates, 1936-1988, Family Search, accessed July 5, 2019