April 24, 1952: Jimmy Tyler’s Smart Affairs
Between the late 1940s and early 1970s, Larry Steele’s “Smart Affairs” musical revue was one of the top draws on the black entertainment circuit, aka the chitlin’ circuit. In 1952, “Smart Affairs” was in Boston at Sugar Hill, and Jimmy Tyler was leading the show band.
Sugar Hill was actually a new nightspot in what had been the Mayfair, at 54 Broadway just off Stuart Street.“Smart Affairs” opened on April 24th and ran to May 18th. The 1952 show included comic George Kirby, tap dancer Derby Wilson, vocalists The Four Tunes, and the vaudeville team of Butterbeans and Susie…and Tyler’s orchestra played for all of them.
Jimmy Tyler was no stranger to Boston. He’d been the top soloist in the Sabby Lewis band in the late forties, and when the Lewis band broke up in December 1949, its members regrouped under Tyler’s leadership. Tyler took the band on the road in spring 1950, traveling the eastern seaboard. It isn’t clear when Steele hired Tyler’s band, but fall 1951 is a reasonable guess. “Smart Affairs” would play at its home base, the Club Harlem in Atlantic City, all summer. Then the show would retool and go on tour. After Boston in the spring of 1952, Tyler took the band home to Atlantic City, worked the summer, and parted ways with Steele in September.
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