The Four Step Brothers
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2014)|
The Four Step Brothers were an African-American dance group. The group started out as a trio in 1925, with the original members, Maceo Anderson, Al Williams and Red Walker. Although their original name was the Step Brothers, because that was also the name of another famous young tap dancing quartet, they subsequently changed their name to "The Three Step Brothers." In 1927, after accepting a new member, Sherman Robertson, they became The Four Step Brothers. Dubbed "The Eight Feet of Rhythm," the group soon traveled with Duke Ellington. While starring with the "Brothers," Anderson also appeared at the Hoofer Club and worked part-time as a newsboy.
The "Brothers" incorporated Snake Hips, Camel Walks, 5 tap Wings, Slides, Afro-Cuban Movements, Rhythm Tap, The Strut straight Acrobatics, etc. They would not change their dance steps except to make them better or when incorporating new dancers.
In 1950, they appeared on Milton Berle's Texaco Theater over the objections of the show's sponsor. Berle wrote in his autobiography:
|“||I remember clashing with the advertising agency and the sponsor over my signing the Four Step Brothers for an appearance on the show. The only thing I could figure out was that there was an objection to black performers on the show, but I couldn't even find out who was objecting. "We just don't like them," I was told, but who the hell was "we"? Because I was riding high in 1950, I sent out the word: "If they don't go on, I don't go on." At ten minutes of eight—ten minutes before showtime—I got permission for the Step Brothers to appear. If I broke the color-line policy or not, I don't know, but later on I had no trouble booking Bill Robinson or Lena Horne.||”|
The group became known for their complex dance routines, in which they frequently danced without musical accompaniment. In 1957, the "Brothers" appeared on the ABC variety program The Guy Mitchell Show. They would become one of the longest-lasting dance groups, surviving for more than four decades into the 1960s.
The Dance Masters of America awarded the group with the Life Achievement award in 1960, and again in 1985 for helping to break the color barrier. In 1988, they received their own "Star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
There were several other Step Brothers when Prince Spencer left the group. Before his Step Brother days, Edward Bozeman danced professionally under the name of “Prince.” In 1964, when “Prince” Spencer left the Step Brothers to go into the grocery business in Chicago, the name of his replacement was not the only coincidence. Like Spencer, Bozeman did the acrobatics and flips part of the routine and always danced last, in the same spot that Spencer had held. Step Brother Flash McDonald said at the time, “Let him be himself, instead of doing Prince’s (Spencer’s) routines.” They all agreed. “They thought I was a kid, but I was 35,” Bozeman recalled. Although there is very rare footage of Edward Bozeman performing with the four step brothers, he performed with them from 1964 up to the disbandment of the group in 1989-1990.
- Milton Berle, Haskel Frankel (1974) Milton Berle: an autobiography, with Haskel Frankel p.285