Hollywood in Homerton

Studying the Chats Palace past programmes we were surprised to come across two dance acts with the same name. Surely some mistake, they must be the same person?

From the April 1981 Chats Palace programme:

An Evening with Will Gaines – Tap Dancer Extraordinary

Born in Detroit, Will Gaines is one of the few remaining tap dancers of the Vaudeville tradition. Himself a bill-topper at the London Palladium, Will has toured with a host of stars whose names read like a showbiz Who’s Who of the last forty years, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lenny Bruce, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holliday, Judy Garland, Charlie Watts and Ian Dury. A night not to be missed. £2.00. (80p OAPs/kids)

Brian Walker remembers…

Will Gaines was a black American Tap Dancer whose gimmick was to tap dance in a pair of heavy working boots. He appeared at Chats Palace Music Hall quite a few times, and at our shows in Victoria Park etc.

My home is my shoes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs2HFu6_xIs

Will Gaines

©David Corio. Tap Dancer Will Gaines performing at the Wag Club, Wardour Street, London on 21 October 1984

David Corio adds…

The Will Gaines show I photographed was at the Wag Club around the time that the new jazz scene was becoming very hip and fashionable (early 80’s). Will Gaines and Slim Gaillard were the two US veterans who had been in London on and off since the 60s and although they were now getting on in years were still full of enthusiasm and energy for the scene and their music. Will Gaines came on with baseball cap pulled down low and a rectangular piece of plywood under his arm, placed it on the floor, sat on a stool, shut his eyes and started to tap. He was accompanied by sax, guitar and double bass. As the show progressed he became more animated standing up and filling out the musical gaps with great swirls of seemingly effortless tap dancing interspersed with stories about his days with Cab Calloway and the jazz scenes of Harlem and Chicago in the 1950s. Now in his 80s he still makes occasional appearances.

A short conversation with Will Gaines: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPOZChw7EA0

Brian Walker again…

The mysterious Bubba Gaines was another American dancer and actor who came to Chats Palace many years ago, if my memory is correct he was on a tour of London venues, sponsored by the GLC. He was a very genial black man who charmed the about 100 people who attended. I have seen him in a few Hollywood films over the years.

Phil Sawyer remembers Bubba Gaines and Honi Coles performing at Chats Palace:

Alan Rossiter contributes…

Bubba Gaines and Honi Coles were a tap dancing duo and were sponsored by GLAA (Greater London Arts Association no longer in existence). It was one of the most magical nights at Chats as these were genuine Hollywood hoofers, the last remaining pair of the famous Copasetics. They demonstrated ‘buck and wing’ and asked if anybody in the audience had heard of this and there was a guy from Victoria Park who said he did and he had brought his tap shoes with him. Bubba Gaines invited him up on stage and they all danced together. It was brilliant and I am sure that man was totally thrilled and never forgot that amazing evening.

Cookie, Coles and Gaines 1974: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_FimMfUdVg

Black Tap at CP

Mike Gray concludes…

Leslie Bubba Gaines died in 1997 and had an obituary in the New York Times

He was part of a tap dancing group called Copasetics. That was the name which we used for publicity for his appearance in Chats. The two Gaines must be related in some way. Hope I am still dancing at 82!!

Glad we asked! Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say. Or as Lena Horne is quoted in the ‘The Class Act of Tap’ short film: “Honi made butterflies look clumsy”.

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