Henry Belcher (left) and Major A. Mason III
In this week's StoryCorps Griot, we hear from two friends, Henry Belcher and Major A. Mason III. Belcher talks about his tap dancing days on the streets of Pittsburgh in the 1930s.
Belcher says he learned the basic tap moves from a friend and then picked up steps from dancers at shows.
He earned money by "hoofing," a form of tap dance. From his earliest teenage days, Belcher and his friends traded steps like the Sham, the Boogie, and the Apple Log. He joined with two friends to become the Six Sensational Sizzling Shoes.
However, the group's success brought troubles with drugs and alcohol and led Belcher to drop out. He says he stayed away from dancing for years, choosing instead to get a regular job and get married.
But a chance encounter with dancer Gregory Hines, who was on the lookout for old-time Pittsburgh dancers, got Belcher dancing again. Soon after, Belcher formed a new hoofing team.
The StoryCorps Griot Initiative travels the country collecting the recollections of black Americans. Right now, the StoryCorps Griot Booth is in Chicago; the next stop is Oakland, Calif.
On Tuesdays, News & Notes features one of these stories. To find out where the StoryCorps Griot Initiative will be next, visit the StoryCorps website. To locate a StoryCorps recording booth, visit News & Notes' new blog, News & Views.
All the Griot recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. A copy of each interview will also go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.
This week's segment was produced by Katie Simon. Senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.