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Tap Dancing

All dancers use their feet as a means of expression, but for tap dancers, the feet are musical instruments.

14 old time radio show recordings
(total playtime 9 hours, 10 min)
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11 Audio CDs


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Play a sample episode from August 17, 1951:

"If Shoe Doesnt Fit"



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The origins of tap dancing are entrenched in slavery and poverty, but tap dancing is also an expression of the sheer joy of living. One of the methods slave owners used break the spirit of newly arrived African slaves was to take away their musical instruments, so when the masters were not looking, they began dancing in a rhythmic and percussive manner.

Bo Jangles

Most slave owners would have avoided the expense of buying shoes for their slaves, but when the North American climate forced the purchase to protect their "investment", the cheapest shoes which could be bought or manufactured locally often ad inflexible wooden soles. These were the same sort of shoes used in traditional English clog dancing. 

To extend the useful life of the wooden soles, small metal plates would be nailed to the toes and heels of the shoes. As the nails inevitably loosened, the plates would make a distinctive clicking sound that gave birth to tap shoes. When a dancer could afford leather-soled shoes, the practice of extending their useful life with metal taps continued, but the leather soles allowed for more flexible and athletic dancing.

Tap dancing was first seen by a wider audience in minstrel shows. During this era, in many minstrel troupes, the only actual African American was the tap dancer. As minstrelsy evolved into vaudeville, many white performers adopted tap dancing. Tap Dancing was elevated to an art form as a result of the Jazz explosion of the Great Migration, the Chicago Blues scene, and the Harlem Renaissance. 

When Jazz became a feature of the nightclub circuit, tap dancing was a natural complementary art form. The dancers would feed off the improvisations of the band, and the musicians would embrace the frantic rhythms of the dancers' feet. The visual element of a tap dancer going through his steps in front of a hot band could be an even bigger draw than a singer.

When the talkies brought Jazz to the screen, the visual appeal of tap dancing found a natural home. However, rather than the artistic athleticism of black tap dancers, it was the tapping of six-year-old Shirley Temple that helped tap to explode into mainstream culture. The youngster learned to tap from the legendary Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Bojangles came up through the minstrelsy and vaudeville traditions. He was one of the first minstrel players to eschew blackface and his appearance with Shirley Temple in The Little Colonel (1935, Fox Films, co-starring Lionel Barrymore) was the screens first integrated dance routine.

Bojangles was also credited as an influence by Eleanor Powell, Fred Astaire, Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Kelly, and others. Gene Kelly famously combined his tap dancing with ballet, and Fred Astaire's routines were often shot in a single take.

Unlike other forms of dance, tap works surprisingly well on the radio, thanks to the audio clues provided by the dancer's feet.

  • Town Hall Tonight, November 18, 1936, "The Great Dane Mystery". This week the Town Hall Amateurs include Marie Durkin and Genevieve O'Hara, a pair of sixteen-year-old tap dancers from Brooklyn who will perform an Irish reel to the tune of "The Girl I Left Behind Me".
  • Good News of 1939, October 13, 1938. Coming off the success of Rosalie (1937, MGM) Eleanor Powell begins tapping to the "Blue Danube Waltz" but host Robert Young wants to see her dance the rapid-fire number she was rehearsing for her new picture, Honolulu (1939, MGM, Robert Young also appears in the picture, along with George Burns and Gracie Allen and "Rochester" Eddie Anderson).
  • The Gulf Screen Guild Theatre, January 15, 1939, "Miss Brown of Worcester". A play about an engaged English girl who is in love with 'The Rhythm Romeo', played by Fred Astaire. After the story, Fred treats us to a tap routine after his foot fell asleep.
  • The Rudy Vallee Hour, February 16, 1939. The program's second act features entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Bojangles was the highest-paid black entertainer of the first half of the 20th Century. Considered one of the greatest tap dancers of all time, Rudy was able to get Bojangles for tonight's show because the dancer is in town rehearsing for The Hot Mikado (Broadhurst Theatre, 1939, 85 performances), a jazz version of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.
  • Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour, September 21, 1939.  Tonight's "Honor City" is Mansfield, Ohio. After performances from a "Harlem roustabout", a girl singer, an imitator performing bird calls, an operatic banker from Boise, and a pair of girl singers from New Jersey yodeling a cowboy song, the Major recaps the call-in votes to that point before introducing the next act, 12-year-old tap dancer Marion Caruso. Hailing from Wilkesboro, Marion dances to "Melancholy Baby".

See also: Ann Miller, Fred Astaire, Gene KellyGinger RogersHoofers, and Eleanor Powell.

Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2020 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

These classic recordings are available in the following formats:

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  • MP3 CDs are delivered by mail. These archival quality MP3 CDs are playable in your computer and many MP3 player devices.



    14 recordings on 1 MP3 CD for just $5.00
    total playtime 9 hours, 10 min
    Add MP3 CD Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      14 shows - total playtime 9 hours 10 minutes
      1. Bob And Ray 590813 034 BSawoff.mp3
      2. Calling All Detectives 490310 394 Dance Team Member Taps Out.mp3
      3. Command Performance 440617 125 Jack Benny Harpo Bing Crosby.mp3
      4. Fleischmann 350718 300 Third Angle Gladys George Roy Smeck.mp3
      5. Good News Of 381013 042 Lionel Barrymore.mp3
      6. Grand Central Station 510818 If Shoe Doesnt Fit.mp3
      7. Great Talent Hunt 480406.mp3
      8. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio.mp3
      9. March Of Time 390303 16th Anniversary Of Time M.mp3
      10. Rudy Vallee Royal Gelatin Hour 390216 Maurice Evans.mp3
      11. Screen Guild Theater 390115 Miss Brown Of Worcester.mp3
      12. Texaco Town 361129 11 Script Is Found.mp3
      13. Town Hall Tonight 361118 099 Great Dane Mystery.mp3
      14. Town Hall Tonight 361125 100 Egg Baron.mp3
  • MP3 downloads are available instantly after purchase!



    14 recordings on 1 MP3 Collection Download for just $5.00
    total playtime 9 hours, 10 min
    Add MP3 CD Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      14 shows - total playtime 9 hours 10 minutes
      1. Bob And Ray 590813 034 BSawoff.mp3
      2. Calling All Detectives 490310 394 Dance Team Member Taps Out.mp3
      3. Command Performance 440617 125 Jack Benny Harpo Bing Crosby.mp3
      4. Fleischmann 350718 300 Third Angle Gladys George Roy Smeck.mp3
      5. Good News Of 381013 042 Lionel Barrymore.mp3
      6. Grand Central Station 510818 If Shoe Doesnt Fit.mp3
      7. Great Talent Hunt 480406.mp3
      8. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio.mp3
      9. March Of Time 390303 16th Anniversary Of Time M.mp3
      10. Rudy Vallee Royal Gelatin Hour 390216 Maurice Evans.mp3
      11. Screen Guild Theater 390115 Miss Brown Of Worcester.mp3
      12. Texaco Town 361129 11 Script Is Found.mp3
      13. Town Hall Tonight 361118 099 Great Dane Mystery.mp3
      14. Town Hall Tonight 361125 100 Egg Baron.mp3
  • Standard Audio CDs are delivered by mail on archival quality media with up to 60 minutes on each CD and play in all CD players



    14 recordings on 11 Audio CDs
    total playtime 9 hours, 10 min

    Tap Dancing Disc A001

    1. Fleischmann 350718 300 Third Angle Gladys George Roy Smeck

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A002

    1. Town Hall Tonight 361118 099 Great Dane Mystery

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A003

    1. Town Hall Tonight 361125 100 Egg Baron

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A004

    1. Texaco Town 361129 11 Script Is Found

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A005

    1. Good News Of 381013 042 Lionel Barrymore

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A006

    1. Screen Guild Theater 390115 Miss Brown Of Worcester

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A007

    1. Rudy Vallee Royal Gelatin Hour 390216 Maurice Evans

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A008

    1. March Of Time 390303 16th Anniversary Of Time M

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A009

    1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A010

    1. Command Performance 440617 125 Jack Benny Harpo Bing Crosby
    2. Great Talent Hunt 480406
    3. Calling All Detectives 490310 394 Dance Team Member Taps Out

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Tap Dancing Disc A011

    1. Grand Central Station 510818 If Shoe Doesnt Fit
    2. Bob And Ray 590813 034 BSawoff

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
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