Sunday, May 3, 2015
Remembering Pianist Marie Marcus - by George A. Borgman
In the 1930s, Marie Marcus, then known by her maiden name of Marie Doherty, worked on a children's radio program that was broadcast nationally out of New York City. One of her jobs was to audition girls to play the part on the show of squeaky-voiced Betty Boop, of movie cartoon fame. since no one passed the audition, it was decided that Marie herself play Betty Boop, and she did it quite sucessfully.
She went on become a popular jazz pianist and singer at various clubs and cabarets in the Big Apple, including those owned and operated by such infamous characters as Frank Costello and Dutch Schultz, and she was alos acquainted with Legs Diamond and Bugsy Siegel (before he moved to the West Coast).
Fats Waller heard her sit in on piano at an after-hours chicken house in Harlem, he liked her playing, and whenever he was in New York, he called her up, and off and on for two years they got together at a practice studio and played stride together. As a result, Marie became quite a stride piano player. In addition, she worked on the road with Wild Bill Davison, and anyone on the bandstand with Wild Bill had to be a good player.
Like a fine wine, Marie Marcus seems to have improved with age and she was indeed the grand dame of jazz piano.