Thursday, April 12, 2012


Irving Kaufman was the youngest of five sons (Jack, Phil, Charles, Harry & Irving) born to Isadore Burnet A. Kaufman a Russian immigrant in Syracuse on February 8, 1890. Brought up in a musical family where his father and two uncles sang in a local synagogue. At age five Irving started singing for money passing the hat when he performed on street corners, hotels, street cars, trains and even in bars. When he turned eight Kaufman sang for Soldiers leaving Syracuse for the Spanish-American War. That year he and his brother Phil were signed by a booking agent to sing with Vaudeville personality Jenny Eddy Trio touring across Upstate New York and New York City. After two years traveling with the Trio, Irving joined the Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Circus singing with the Merrick Band some 50-piece string. He traveled with the Circus for two seasons and after its closing was offered a job singing by John Ringling. Kaufman only appeared once with Ringling Brothers Circus in Denver before heading back to Syracuse.

While in Syracuse he worked various jobs including elevator operator and greeter with the L.C. Smith Typewriter Company. Now age 14, Kaufman obtained a $10 a night position singing at a local motion picture show. Then it was on to New York in 1911 gaining employment pushing songs for $35 a week for Leo Feist Music Company Inc. one of New York City's largest sheet music companies.

In 1913, Irving Kaufman headed to Vaudeville landing in the comedy act "The Avon Comedy Four". Tours in the USA, Canada, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England followed. September 21, 1915, he married his childhood sweetheart Syracusan Sara Lazarus and settled in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Soon after joining  the Avon Comedy Four Irving attracted the attention of the (Thomas) Edison Recording Company as a solo singer. The Edison Company was located at 75 Fifth Avenue where he went to make his test recording. In 1914 Edison Company issued Irving Kaufman's fist recording on Blue Amberol Cylinder titled "I Love the Ladies" (Edison #2328).

Irving then moved to Victor Records in April 1914 and then to the Columbia Records studio in 1916. The Avon Comedy Four appeared in Flo Ziegfeld's melodrama "Why Worry" with Kaufman playing the role of Dubin opening in New York in July 1918.

After his departure from the Avon Comedy Four, Kaufman worked in  the Shubert Brothers (Syracuse natives) production of "The Passing Show of 1918." He left the show after the untimely death of his brother Phillip who fell victim to the flu epidemic. Phillip was one-half of the singing group "The Kaufman Brothers' along with Irving's other brother Jack. Jack & Irving then teamed in a new Kaufman Brothers in 1919. This partnership lasted through 1923.

Irving rejoined the Shubert's in "Passing Show of 1919" playing at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway. In September 1919, Irving, Jack along with band leader Arthur Fields (The Kaufields) signed a three-year recording contract with Emerson Records. Kaufman next appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1920, then it was back on the Vaudeville road with Keith's Theater circuit in 1921.

Irving Kaufman's amazing recording career lasted from 1914 through 1974 (cylnders, 78's, 33 1/3 & 45's). In those sixty year his voice was heard on over twenty different labels (hundreds on recordings) such as- Edison, Apex, Banner, Bennett, Bell, Cameo, Columbia, Conqueror, Diva, Diamond, Domino, Emerson, Gennett, Harmony, Okeh, Paramount, Perfect, Regal, Silvertone, Star, Sterling, Velvet Tone, Vocalion and Victor "His Masters Voice"  recording under ten different names. His radio broadcast names included "Happy Jim" Parsons, "Lazy Dan" and Johnny Prentiss.

This amazing American Recording Pioneer died on January 3, 1976 in Indio, California at age 85.

No comments:

Post a Comment