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|Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Jr.
he could sing in several languages and could play multiple instruments
Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Jr. was born in Stockton, Kansas, on March 22, 1919. He was the son of Effie Green Fuller, the first Black child in Rooks County, Kansas, and the grandson of "Cap'n" Giles Green, a member of the 79th Colored Regiment of Kansas during the Civil War. His father was a self-made man who had had success as a publisher, a barber, and a musician; he was also the founder of the Fuller Concert Company, which entertained audiences throughout the Midwest, and as far away as Canada and Mexico. Lorenzo, Jr., began performing with his family's troupe at the age of eight.
At the age of fifteen, Fuller was accepted as a sponsored student at the University of Kansas, where he received training in opera and other classical forms. While at the university he performed monthly on KFKU radio and became the first Black man to sing with the KU Symphony. He further secured his place in KU history when he performed the Ballad for America. More than two thousand people showed up for his solo senior recital, compared to an average audience of 75 or so for such an event.
In 1945, Fuller went to New York to study voice at Juilliard. His ability to sing in several languages and to play multiple instruments thrust him into the spotlight and placed him in immediate demand by every medium of show business. Cheryl Crawford, producer of the Group Theatre Movement, had Fuller write music for her shows. He became the coach to many stars, with producers and writers often sending their talent to him to be prepared for their shows.
On Broadway, Fuller brought the house down in Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate with his rendition of the song "Too Darn Hot." In fact, his rendition of that song became so popular that a single was produced with Fuller singing the song on the A side of the record and Sarah Vaughn singing "Tenderly" on the flip side. He was also in the original cast of the musical Finian's Rainbow and a member of the touring cast of Porgy and Bess.
Fuller had his own radio shows on WLIB, were he was known for his jingles, and at the Mutual Network Radio, where he would occasionally speak about the people of Kansas in his broadcasts.
In television, Fuller performed both before the camera and behind the scenes. He was the first Black to host a national television show, a musical-variety program called "Man About Music" for NBC Television. In 1947, he became the first Black man to star opposite a white woman, when WPIX-NBC aired "Van and Genie," in which he starred opposite Rosamond Vance Kaufman. The show was so successful that its sponsor's product, Scotty Pops Lollipops, quickly acquired 3,300 new dealerships. Fuller went on to work for NBC until 1952, during which time he served as the musical director and special materials writer for such programs as "Musical Miniatures," "Young Broadway," "TV Screen Magazine," and the "Jerry Lester Show." He also competed on and won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts show.
Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Jr. died in New York City on January 8, 2011.
This page was last updated on 03/21/2017.