Al Jolson Home Page|His Works|Radio|16 Sep 50 Japan Show

Starting with his serving as a unit's mascot in the Spanish American War, Al Jolson never failed to serve the needs of the men and women in uniform. First up to entertain the troops during both World Wars, Al Jolson paid his own way to be the first entertainer to brighten the spirits of the forces fighting in Korea. That trip served as the climax of an incredible career. Upon his return from Korea, he died on October 23, 1950, while preparing to appear on a Bing Crosby radio show in San Francisco.

Al Jolson and Harry Akst
performing during the Korean War
This incredible half hour recording may well represent the last transcribed performance of the World's Greatest Entertainer, Al Jolson. Having paid his own way to the combat theaters in Korea and Japan, Al Jolson set upon a grueling schedule to lift the morale of the men and women overseas.

Although the quality of this recording is not the best, and there are some obvious cuts, here is Jolson at his best, singing, joking, and talking to his most appreciative audience. As best as can be determined, this show took place on Saturday, September 16, 1950, at the Itazuke US Air Force Base, in Japan. Jolson's accompanist and companion on this trip was composer, and long time friend, Harry Akst.

Listen closely for the jokes, some topical and some risque, of this man in his element. And as for the singing, you won't be disappointed. During the half hour, Jolson responded to the requests called out with selections including "April Showers," "Swanee," "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" (which is unfortunatly cut short in this transcription), "My Mammy" (with an ending stolen from the film Big Boy), and "Sonny Boy."

This is not a well-rehearsed radio show, stage performance, or film. This is Jolson, a piano, and a loving audience. Recorded only about a month before his death, it somehow captures the essence of what Al Jolson was, and why his memory will endure forever.

Listen to this radio program and watch a Video Podcast with an excerpt of the show illustrated with photos of the stars.

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     This is an excerpt of the 16 Sep 1950 Al Jolson performance at the Itazuke Air Force Base in Japan. This excerpt includes three songs from the half-hour transcription, which includes Jolson joking and singing for his favorite audience, soldiers at the front, and photographs of Al Jolson on that final tour. "Swanee," "April Showers," and "The Anniversary Song" are the three songs heard here, there is quite a bit more in the original program. This is likely the last transcribed performance of Al Jolson; he died about one month after this show.

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This listing and material Copyright © 1995-2017 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
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