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Noble Sissle Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1951. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1040 P&P).


Sissle, Noble (10 July 1889–17 December 1975), popular songwriter and bandleader, was born Noble Lee Sissle in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of George Andrew Sissle, a Methodist minister, and Martha Angeline Scott, a public school teacher and juvenile probation officer. Sissle was a boy soprano in church and school choirs, and from 1906, after the family moved to Cleveland, he was the tenor soloist in the Central High School glee club. He began singing professionally in 1908 with the Edward Thomas Male Quartet, which performed on the Chataqua circuit. Having interrupted his schooling for various work, he graduated at the age of twenty-one in 1911. After touring with Hann’s Jubilee Singers, he briefly rejoined his family to move back to Indianapolis after his father’s death in 1913. He spent one semester at De Pauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, before transferring to Butler University in Indianapolis in January 1914. Concurrently he worked as a singer and dancer and in 1915 formed his first orchestra....