Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Sylvia Roberti "Birds in a Border" Outsider Art collection Jim Linderman

Sylvia Roberti was from near Chicago and her drawings were created in the 1960s and 1970s. About all that is known comes from the information she diligently provided on the reverse of each work. It isn't unusual for outsider artists to boast of their accomplishments. Also common is her technique of "framing" her work through a decorative border. In her series of bird drawings, some are so contained within her frame that they seem walled in! "Cereal Box" cardboard cut and glued together. "Bird and design creative original by Sylvia Roberti Artist Italian descent. Water color+perm+ in crayon on pencil color. Free lance pen + ink" Two works by Sylvia Roberti, 1969, 1971. Collection Jim Linderman

Outsider art Folk art Baseball Greats Collection Jim Linderman

Five baseball star outsider art portraits by a woman (a Braves fan!) created in the late 1950s. The amateur artist surrounds each with colorful misshapen borders. Rocky Colavito of the Cleveland Indians, Jackie Jensen of the Boston Red Sox. Roger Maris,then of the Kansas City Athletics, Don Drysdale from the Los Angeles Angels and finally, the great Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs. The pieces were obtained by an auction house back in the 1970s. Apparently there were less than ten pieces at the time. Five drawings on lined paper, mounted on Manilla. Collection Jim Linderman / Dull Tool Dim Bulb ORDER JIM LINDERMAN ART and PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS from BLURB

Lonnie Simmons The African-American Musician and Photographer who never slept

Samuel "Lonnie" Simmons is an Unsung Hero of Photography, so let's  bring another great African-American artist out of the dust of obscurity.  Once known as "The Man Who Never Sleeps" Samuel "Lonnie" Simmons was an African-American jazzman (more than anything else) in his younger days playing with no less than American treasures Fats Waller, Hot Lips Page, Chick Webb and more.  Many more. He recorded under his own name as well, including "I Can't Get Started" on the Parrot label (in which he played both organ and saxophone, probably at the same time.)  If you are not yet impressed with Lonnie's musical chops, his Jet Magazine obit reports he also played with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie.  Parrot was a label which lasted only three years in the early 1950s, but some of the recordings were reissued later on Chess Records. 

Though Simmons performed up until the the end, He passed after a fatal stroke at age 80 according to Euguene Chadbourne, it is his work as a photographer of primary interest here.

A photographer too?  I'm getting a little tired of finding great talented people no one taught me about in school.  

So Lonnie, or Samuel, is called "a free-lance photographer" in passing in the few places you might find information about him. 

Born in Charleston, South Carolina (Actually, in Mt. Pleasant, an isolated pocket in the low-country coast and a plantation-era place near where slaves landed. A bridge to Mount Pleasant was built in 1928.

Lonnie's father was a blacksmith who went back nearly to slave days, passing at the age of 82 in 1955. Lonnie's father was just one notable blacksmith named Simmons from the Charleston area.  On his father's passing, Lonnie went back to Mt. Pleasant to bring his mother back to Chicago with him, and it was her first plane airplane ride.  His appearance at the funeral was notable enough for the local paper to interview him, where Simmons is reported to have "gradually drifted into take pictures for newspapers and magazines" and that he maintains his own darkroom in his Chicago home.  The headline reads "Mt. Pleasant Negro Musician Becomes Press Photographer" and adds a few more musical giants among his playing partners.

It was not unusual for Mr. Simmons to leap from the bandstand with his camera to capture events, including crimes. A one-man forerunner of the surveillance camera, his pictures were used by the Chicago Police for evidence and he earned honorary membership in the Chicago Patrolman's Association.  Much of his photography was taken at the legendary Chicago Club De Lisa and I now believe the photograph below was taken by Mr. Simmons in his "spare time" as picture maker who roamed the club supporting his income with snapshots. 

The dance photos shown above were Lonnie's. Scarce not only because they show the "Black and Tan" nightclub era (an era not generally regarded as worthy of documentation at the time by most photographers) but also because most of Mr. Simmons photographs have not been exhibited.  The originals may be lost. We can hope a relative finds this post, digs them out and produces the coffee-table book he earned but no one made.

Somebody has some, as Mr. Simmon's photographs were apparently used in the 1995 documentary PROMISED LAND narrated by Morgan Freeman for the History Channel, which while acclaimed was forgotten. You can read about it in web comments where people keep asking why it isn't available on DVD…one of whom writes "It is a shame that this great work of truth has been overlooked." Par for the course. The documentary is about the migration of southern African-Americans to Chicago. Lonnie Simmons was one of them, and fortunately he brought his camera.

Samuel "Lonnie" Simmons photographs appear in Ebony, Jet, The Chicago Defender, The Pittsburgh Courier, The Crusader and Cabaret (a magazine which documented burlesque in the 1950s and from where the photographs above were taken) and I suspect others once considered unsavory race and pinup magazines from the 1950s on. The portrait of the young musician is from the Charleston Jazz Initiative at the School of the Arts, College of Charleston, South Carolina. Jet Magazine recognized Lonnie's talents and skills…as well as using his photographs (including the astounding picture of a dancer flying above a drummer, which I have cribbed but credited) they also reported on his adventures, including being bitten by an eel and having his instruments stolen HERE.

PHOTOGRAPH OF SAMUEL LONNIE SIMMONS Charleston Jazz Initiative Archives


Original Club DeLisa Photograph and Sleeve collection Jim Linderman 


Dan Burley : An African-American popular culture hero


Dan Burley is the most famous folk you never heard of. Why? Because he was an African-American man. Sorry, but that's just the way it was. (Is?) If you did a six degrees of separation chart for Dan Burley, it would include everyone of any importance in the music and publishing world, but yet again I'll ask. Do you know who Dan Burley was?

Well, let's see...He appeared in films with Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. He wrote music for Cab Calloway. In fact, one can trace his own piano playing right to the Beatles song Lady Madonna. Are you humming that piano run in your head yet? Thank Dan Burley.

Some people can do more than play. Burley was editor of Ebony Magazine way back in the 1930s. He married the first African-American woman to sing in Madison Square Garden. He invented the word Bebop, reportedly, and also created the Harlem Handbook of Jive. I mean, get HEP!
During World War Two, the USO show he organized was the black version of Bob Hope's entertainment for the troops.

He wrote for Elijah Muhammad.

He helped create Jet Magazine

He was personal friends with Ed Sullivan. NO ONE was friends with Ed Sullivan!

He had a radio show. No, he had TWO radio shows.

More importantly for our purposes here...Dan Burley published a GIRLY MAGAZINE!

He published the first serious African-American Men's magazine with sisters posing! DUKE! 1957. That's right...A skin mag with class and Beautiful Black Babes (Not to mention the writing of Chester Himes.) It was a high-fashion lifestyle magazine for the African-American man, a Playboy magazine for the Hood! As such, it SHOULD end my ten-part series on the African-American pin up and should also goose a real writer into a serious biography.

If you search Dan Burley, you'll find him identified as a sports writer. A Journalist. A Jazz Musician. A Poet. And yet he only lived 54 years. His Wiki Biography (which also omits his smut magazine) is HERE

Unfortunately, Duke Magazine lived for only six issues.

There's a few other interesting stories I'm leaving out...but it seems like a pretty high life.