Julia Gerity, from a photograph on the cover of sheet music "Sweetness" (words by Bob Schafer and Dave Ringle, music by Jimmy Durante), 1921
July 22, 1898|
New York City, New York
No information has been found concerning her earliest years. A 1915 notice in Variety indicates that she had been a song demonstrator at the Waterson, Berlin & Snyder, Inc. publishing firm, and had recently left the company to appear at the College Inn, a nightclub on 125th Street in Manhattan (Harlem). An anonymous writer in 1916 noted that there were many "coon shouters" in Coney Island, but that Julia Gerity "of the College Arms" (apparently a cabaret or restaurant) made them sit up and take notice. "She can certainly put over the songs" the writer concluded. Notices in 1918 state that Gerity, formerly with Watson's "Beef Trust," is now appearing at the Alamo Cabaret at Coney Island where "she is making a wonderful name for herself" as "the most popular coon shouter of the Alamo." The notice concludes that she will not return to burlesque. By 1919 she was already labeled "the well-known blues singer" by Billboard, one of the leading entertainment industry magazines. The article noted that she was a hit at the Winter Garden Theatre singing the song "Why Don't You Drive My Blues Away?" and had been signed by the Shubert brothers for a year. That same year an advertisement for the Tokio cabaret and restaurant in Manhattan labeled her "the syncopated marvel."
Gerity's life was that of a typical vaudevillian where her engagements took her to numerous towns. Notices in Billboard place her various places such as Louisville, Kentucky, New Orleans, and Saratoga Springs, New York A notice in Billboard for June 1925 notes that she was appearing at Perry's Cabaret in Coney Island. By December 1925 she was at the Little Club, "New Orleans most exclusive club." But most of Gerity notices from 1926 through the late 1930s speak about her in Chicago, suggesting that Chicago had become her home base from 1926 through at least the mid-1930s. A particular highlight was the 1934 annual convention of the Coin Machine Manufacturers' Association which met in the Grand Ballroom of the Sherman Hotel in Chicago and received favorable notices for its choice of entertainment, including Gerity. At the time Gerity was appearing at the Paramount Club; Billboard called her a "clever blues singer."
By 1938 she was back in New York City and appeared at the Queens Terrace nightclub in Woodside, Queens, New York. By 1940 she was doing "lusty vocalizing" at the New York Friars' Club. That same year she began a six-year engagement with Jimmy Dwyer's Sawdust Trail. Located at 156 W. 44th, the Sawdust Trail had an "atmosphere that is a blend of the Old West, Diamond Jim Brady's Gay Nineties and a smattering of an old English pub." Perhaps because of the setting, one of the notices in the New York Post referred to her as the "Irish nightingale." On February 26, 1942, friends and the musicians of the Sawdust Trail honored Gerity for thirty years in show business (implying that her career began in 1912).
On May 10, 1947, Gerity started a 10-week engagement at the Shamrock Irish House, a restaurant/cabaret/bar on Coney Island. On May 12, the Shamrock was among many establishments engulfed in a massive fire that began on Surf Avenue. Billboard reported that the fire destroyed much of Gerity's material including gowns, orchestrations, and special material numbers.
Gerity appeared in the "Gay 90s Revue" at the Gay Cafe as one of the "famous stars of yesteryear." She was at Coney Island in summer 1950, this time at Sindell's Stable. Later that summer she went back to the Shamrock Irish House. One of the last notices about Julia Gerity has her in Kokomo, Indiana in 1953. A notice in the Kokomo Tribune advertises "The Gaslight Gayeties" a Gay Nineties revue as being "direct from Broadway" featuring Gerity, the "sweetheart of sweet songs."
- "Nobody Knows" Accompanied by Yerke's Jazarimba Band, Aeolian Vocalion 12230 (1919)
- "Why Don't You Drive My Blues Away" (Lovesick Blues) Accompanied by Yerke's Jazarimba Band, Aeolian Vocalion 12230 (1919)
- A Good Man Is Hard To Find, accompanied by male trio, Snooks and his Memphis Stompers, maxtrix 70225 take 1, issued as Victor 22812 (recorded Sept. 11, 1931)
- Sittin' On a Rubbish Can, accompanied by Snooks and his Memphis Stompers, maxtrix 70984 take 1, issued as Victor 22896 (recorded Dec. 18, 1931)
- Why Don't You Drive My Blues Away, (recorded Oct. 23, 1919)
- Sister Kate (recorded Apr. 19, 1923)
- Mammy Lu (recorded Apr. 19, 1923)
- "List of United States Citizens, S.S. Pennsylvania sailing from Canal Zone (Cristobal), May 16th, 1933, arriving port of New York May 22nd, 1933," New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Ancestry.com (subscription required).
- Information on Julia Gerity is scarce. There is no entry on her in any encyclopedia or dictionary, nor have any articles been found that provide substantial biographical information. That this entry reads like a chronology is necessarily due to its having been pieced together primarily from one-line notices appearing mostly in trade newspapers and publicly available genealogical resources.
- Variety (Jan. 21(?), 1915), p. 17.
- "Bokays and Brickbats Thrown Around Coney Island," Billboard (Aug. 26, 1916), p. 34.
- New York Clipper (Aug. 17, 1918), p.23.
- "Seen and Heard," Billboard (Jul. 27, 1918), p. 10.
- "Julia Gerity Scores", Billboard (Nov. 15, 1919), p. 32.
- New York Telegram (Sept. 30, 1919).
- "Name Attractions in Louisville Clubs," Billboard (Aug. 25, 1934), p. 21. Gerity appeared at the Silver Creek Country Club.
- "Performers at Supper Club," Billboard (Dec. 19, 1925), p. 23. Gerity appeared at the Little Club, "New Orleans's most exclusive supper club."
- Advertisements during the summer of 1937 in the local Saratoga newspaper were for "They're Off," a "speedy peppy elaborate revue" produced by Al Davis . Davis is mentioned a few times as producing shows featuring Gerity. The Saratogian, (Aug. 20, 1937), p. 14.
- "Business Good At Coney," Billboard (June 27, 1925), p. 25.
- "Performers at Supper Club," Billboard (Dec. 19, 1925), p. 23.
- "Chicago Cafes," Billboard (June 5, 1926), p. 22. By the end of June 1926 she was appearing in Roy Mack's 17th edition of his Frivolous Frolics at the Frolics Cafe, where she was held over.
- "Chicago Notes," Billboard (Mar. 26, 1927), p. 23. Mentions a new edition of Frivolous Frolics at the Frolics Café, Gerity assisting master of ceremonies Bert Gilbert.
- "Roy Mack Has New Show," Billboard (May 7, 1927), p. 20. Notice of a new show (the 26th edition) at the Frolic cafe, including "Julia Gerity, Frolic favorite."
- "Chicago Chat," Billboard (June 25, 1932), p. 75, is a notice of an outdoor Vanity Fair show held in the old Marigold Gardens in Chicago.
- "CMMA Banquest Doubles Attendance of Last Year," Billboard (Mar. 3, 1934), p. 64.
- "Chi Night Life Sees New Shows," Billboard (Mar. 17, 1934), p. 11.
- "Talent Agencies," Billboard (Nov. 19, 1938).
- "Friar's Club, New York," Billboard (Jan. 20, 1940), p. 19.
- Jack O'Brian, "In New York," Warren Times Mirror (Oct. 3, 1946), p. 4.
- New York Post (Oct. 12, 1945), p. 23.
- Morning Telegraph (Feb. 21, 1942). Clipping in the Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
- Uno, "Coney Island, N.Y.," Billboard (June 21, 1947), p. 84. The article notes that the Shamrock carried little insurance.
- Brooklyn Eagle, Feb. 10, 1950, p. 17.
- Uno, "Coney Island, N.Y.," Billboard (July 29, 1950), p. 70.
- Uno, "Coney Island, N.Y.," Billboard (Sept. 2, 1950), p. 67.
- Kokomo Tribune, May 11, 1953, p. 11.
- Brian Rust, The American Dance Band Discography, 1917-1942, vol. 2 (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1975), vol. 2, p. 1726.
- Brian Rust, The American Dance Band Discography, 1917-1942, vol. 2 (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1975), vol. 2, p. 1727.
- "Matrix (Trial 1919-10-23-02). Why don't you drive my blues away / Julia Gerity," Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings.
- Matrix (Trial 1923-04-19-02). Sister Kate / Julia Gerity, Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings.