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Jolson’s Life & Career Details

1886(?)  Born in Srednik, Lithuania
1894 Emigrated with family to Washington, USA
1895 Mother, Naomi, dies (sister, Rose, takes over maternal duties)
1898 -1907 Learns and polishes his craft in Burlesque Houses and Vaudeville
1908 -1909 A leading performer in Dockstader’s Minstrels


Broadway Shows

1911 - 1912 Appeared in his first Broadway show, ‘La Belle Paree’, quickly followed by ‘Vera Violetta’ and ‘The Whirl of Society’
1913  ‘The Honeymoon Express’
1914 ‘Dancing Around’
1916 ‘Robinson Crusoe, Jr.’
1918 ‘Sinbad’
1921 ‘Bombo’
1925 ‘Big Boy’
1931 ‘Wonder Bar’
1940  ‘Hold On to Your Hats’



1926  ‘A Plantation Act’ (one reeler)
1927  ‘The Jazz Singer’
1928 ‘The Singing Fool’
1929 ‘Say It With Songs’
1930  ‘Mammy’
‘Big Boy'
1933  ‘Hallelujah, I’m a Bum’ (‘Hallelujah, I’m a Tramp’ in England!)
1934  ‘Wonder Bar’
1935 ‘Go Into Your Dance’
1936  ‘The Singing Kid’
1939  ‘Rose of Washington Square’
‘Swanee River’
‘Hollywood Cavalcade’ (cameo appearance)
1945  ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (cameo appearance)
1946 ‘The Jolson Story’
1949  ‘Jolson Sings Again’


Radio Shows

1932 – 1933 ‘Presenting Al Jolson’ (Chevrolet) NBC - 19 broadcasts
1933 – 1934  ‘Kraft Music Hall’ NBC - 26 broadcasts
1935 – 1936  ‘Shell Chateau’ (1 hour) NBC - 39 broadcasts
1936 – 1939  ‘Cafe Trocadero’ - (The Lifebuoy Show) CBS - 99 broadcasts
1942 – 1943 ‘Al Jolson’ - (The Colgate Show) CBS - 39 broadcasts
1947 – 1949 ‘Kraft Music Hall’ NBC – 71 broadcasts

Jolson was a guest on numerous radio programmes and starred in a number of dramatic roles.



Jolson’s first record contract, with RCA Victor Records, was signed in 1911. He remained a recording artiste throughout his career; at the time of his death, in 1950, he was under contract to Decca Records



Jolson was married four times:

1907 – 1920 Henrietta Keller
1922 – 1926 Ethel Delmar (Alma Osborne)
1928 – 1940 Ruby Keeler (Ethel Hilda Keeler)
1945 – 1950 Erle Galbraith


Al Jolson died on 23rd October 1950 in the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, on the eve of a scheduled guest appearance on Bing Crosby’s radio programme.


A number of shows based on Jolson’s life and career have since been staged, most notably Jolson; The Musical, starring Brian Conley.   This show ran from October 1995 to March 1997 at the Victoria Palace in London, and won the Laurence Olivier American Express Award for the Best Musical in 1996.
The show subsequently toured successfully in Australia, Canada and America.

In 2009 another show, Jolson & Company, toured the UK after a successful run in New York.

 Allan Stewart, who had understudied Brian Conley in the 1995-1997 show, starred in this production.


Books (Biographies, etc.)

A number of books about the life and career of Al Jolson have been published, including:

Mistah Jolson Harry Jolson (Al’s older brother)
The Immortal Al Jolson  Pearl Sieben (1962)
Jolsonography Dave Wigransky (1969)
Al Jolson Michael Freedland (1972 and subsequent reprints)
Sonny Boy Barrie Anderton (1975)
You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet Robert Oberfirst (1980)
The Al Jolson Discography Larry Kiner (1983)
Blackface to Blacklist  Doug McClelland (1987)
Jolson Herbert Goldman (1988)
When Jolson Was King Richard Grudens (2006)


Songwriting Credits

Al Jolson’s name appears as collaborator in the writing of many songs, including:

“There’s a Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulders”, 
“Back In Your Own Backyard”,
“Me & My Shadow”, 
“California, Here I Come”, 
“Anniversary Song”, 
“Sonny Boy”,
“Keep Smiling at Trouble”,
“All My Love”, and “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet”

This picture and article compiled and reproduced by kind permission of Reg Reeve, UK Publicity Director & Honorary Member of The International Al Jolson Society, 


Al Jolson - The First Superstar

Hollywood Musicals





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