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Cole, Bob (01 July 1868–02 August 1911), actor, director, and composer, was born Robert Allen Cole, Jr., in Athens, Georgia, the son of Robert Allen Cole, Sr., a successful carpenter and political activist in the black community. Cole received musical training in Athens and finished elementary school after his family moved to Atlanta. He made his first stage appearance in Chicago, performing in Sam T. Jack’s ...

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Emmet, J. K. (13 March 1841–15 June 1891), actor and songwriter, was born Joseph Klein Emmet in St. Louis, Missouri. (His middle name is frequently spelled Kline.) Nothing is known of Emmet’s parents except that his father died young, leaving behind a son who had been able to find sporadic employment as a drummer with several St. Louis bands while unsuccessfully trying to become a photographer. On the elder Emmet’s death, Joseph became an apprentice to a sign painter who also made sets for local theaters. While working in the playhouses, the musically talented Emmet became fascinated with the stage and developed his own act with original songs and dances....

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Olcott, Chauncey (21 July 1860–18 March 1932), actor, singer, and composer, was born John Chancellor Olcott in Buffalo, New York, the son of Mellen Whitney “Jack” Olcott, a horseman and stable operator, and Margaret Doyle. Olcott became interested in performing while growing up in Buffalo. He sang continually, influenced, he said, by his father’s fine voice and his mother’s stories of her Irish heritage. His first professional appearance was in blackface with Emerson and Hooley’s Minstrels. He also appeared with Haverly’s Original Mastodon Minstrels (he traveled to London with the company), Carncross’s Minstrels, and Thatcher, Primrose, and West’s Minstrels. In these companies Olcott sang sentimental songs and sometimes appeared in comic sketches....