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Representing Talent Worldwide

Nov 3, 2009

RIP Jimmy Clark of the Clark Bros.

Jimmy Clark, the 'straight man' of the Clark Brothers act, passed away on Friday 30 October. We were fortunate in having the last of the classic American "brother acts" living in the UK for so long, and making such an illustrious addition to our native rhythm tap dancing scene. Indirectly the JLH played a major role in getting the two brothers back on stage, when they appeared in show "New York On Tap" at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank in 2002. Conceived and directed by Terry Monaghan, Carolene Hinds, Teresa Green and Russell Sargeant all made major contributions to the success of this show. The new publicity they attracted led to various other appearances, until Jimmy had to finally retire from performing because of his declining health.

Born in Philadelphia, where they learnt their tapping in an environment that had produced many other great artists, they were soon on their way to New York and Chicago, and on to Las Vegas and then to Hollywood. There was little choice but to work for the Mob who ran so much of the entertainment industry at that time, but it had the benefit of putting them up there alongside, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, Ella Fizgerald, Duke Ellington. Patti Page, Frankie Lane, Tallulah Bankhead, Sophie Tucker, Howard Keel, Frank Sinatra and many more.

In 1948 Frank Sinatra suggested that they head for the UK, which they did on the Queen Mary, and then performed soon after for George VI at Windsor Castle. Their main performance was to appear in the stage version of "Hellzapoppin" that despite press criticism ran for a year. Deciding England was OK they used it as a base to get bookings with American bands touring Europe as well as satisfying the considerable demand they had found here.

Appearing everywhere from working men's clubs in the North several Royal Command Performances, and many appearances on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, they kept very busy in dead. By way of a complete change they went to work at Tito's in Palma for 25 years appearing alongside many great names in the business including Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne and Billy Daniels. King Juan Carlos used to be a frequent visitor. Wanting to set up their own venue they opened a piano bar next door to Tito's that was modelled on the Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, but after two years found the call of England too strong to resist.

Since then as leading members of the Water Rats the Clark Brothers made many more appearances in what became their final home country. Never worrying about order of billing, the Clark Brothers sustained their equanimity by projecting themselves through their dancing and by always fitting in with everyone else. This made them not only a thoroughly likeable pair of brothers, but superb dancers whose continuing performance skills gave us a rare living insight into an age when rhythm ruled. Jimmy will be greatly missed by many people, but by no-one as much as his brother Steve.

By Terry Monaghan