Josh White Jr. is a folk/blues, pop, jazz, secular, vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, actor, adult and children’s concert performer and recording artist, teacher and social activist. He was born November 30, 1940, in New York City, one of five children, to Joshua Daniel White, famed singer/guitarist/actor/social leader, and his wife, Carol (Carr) White.
Josh White, Jr., became, a ‘hit’ literally overnight at the age of four, by performing with his legendary father Josh White one night at New York’s famed “Café Society” night club (America’s first integrated nightclub). For the next five years, Josh, Jr. performed with his father from New York to Boston to Philadelphia. In 1949, Josh, Jr. landed his first role on Broadway, and as Josh says, “It was type casting…” he played his father’s son in “How Long Til Summer?” with Dorothy Gish and Don Hanmer. While continuing a solo acting career, Josh went on to perform and record with his father for the next seventeen years on radio, television, Broadway, concert halls and nightclubs around the world.
Josh attended New York’s famed Professional Children’s School, along with Elliott Gould, Sandra Dee, Brandan de Wilde, Leslie Uggams, Christopher Walken, and, among others, Marvin Hamlisch, who co-wrote Josh’s first solo recording for Decca in 1956, “See Saw”.
Between the years 1949 and 1960 Josh was in five Broadway plays and one off-Broadway play: “How Long Til Summer,” in which he was honored with a Special TONY Award as “Best Child Actor” of the year in 1949; “The Man,” with Josh White, Sr. (1950); “Touchstone” (1955); “Take A Giant Step” (1957 – the popular, long-running Off-Broadway play, in which he was the third person to take over the starring role, following Billy Gunn and Josh’s friend Lou Gossett); “Only In America” (1959) starring Nehemiah Persoff; and “The Long Dream,” (1959) book by Richard Wright, directed by Lloyd Richards, whose cast included Al Freeman, Jr. and newcomer Clarence Williams III. Some other actors he shared the stage with in these plays were Arthur O’Connell, Godfrey Cambridge, Patty McCormick, and Beah Richards.
By 1961 Josh had already guest starred in more than 50 American television dramas, and costarred with his father in Great Britain for North Grenada television in “The Josh White Show.” However, as he was approaching his 21st birthday, the number of acting jobs available on Broadway, TV and film for young Black actors was limited, while musically, the Folk Revival in America was beginning to take storm and offer more lucrative opportunities. Accordingly, Josh decided to focus on his career as a singer/guitarist, put his acting career on hold, and branch out from his long association with his father, to go on the road alone to pursue his solo concert and recording career.
After the 1956 Decca Records release of “See Saw”, and after more recordings with his father (such as “Josh White at Town Hall” 1960), Josh, Jr.’s solo recording career continued with “Do You Close Your Eyes” – Mercury 1962, (which is a “golden oldie” in the Pittsburgh area to this day); “Good & Drunk & Goozey” (with sister, Beverly White) – Sonnet 1963; “I’m On My Own Way” – Mercury 1964; “The Josh White, Jr. Album” – United Artists 1967; “One Step Further” – United Artists 1968; Spoken Arts multi-media production, “The Dream Awake” with James Earl Jones, Josh White, Jr. and Josephine Premice, an educational aid complete with film strips, teacher guide and seven long-playing recordings containing performances by the cast, with an original text by Owen Dodson; “Josh White, Jr.” Vanguard 1978; “Sing A Rainbow” – Mt. Railroad 1979, “Josh White, Jr. Sings Traditional Folk Songs” – National Archives 1980; the 1980 recordings of “The Strangest Dream” and “The King’s Highway” (official Theme Song recordings for the “Peace Corps” and “VISTA” – both composed by his old friend Ed McCurdy); “May The Brush Be With You” (with Jimmy Carter, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, and Lily Tomlin) – Cornucopia 1981; “Delia’s Gone” – FFMM 1983; “Almost Alone” – Eagle 1984; “Jazz Ballads & Blues” (GRAMMY nominated instrumental jazz album tribute to his father) – RYKODISK 1986; “Live at the Soft Rock Café” – RTG/Oceansong 1990; “My Favorite Toy” (children’s album) – Coden/White Records 1994; plus numerous appearances on festival, compilation and tribute albums; the recent “House of The Rising Son” (Silverwolf 1999), “Cortelia Clark” (Silverwolf 2001), and “Josh White, Jr. – LIVE” (Silverwolf, 2003)
After appearing on countless television variety and talk shows around the world as a solo artist, including such American shows as “Today,” “Merv Griffin,” “Steve Allen,” “Joey Bishop,” ”Mike Wallace,” “Mike Douglas,” ”Della Reese,” “Gary Moore,” “Arthur Godfrey,” “Kate Smith,” “Donald O’Connor,” and “Hootenany,” Josh, Jr. starred in his first PBS/TV Concert Special in 1979 “Ramblin” with Josh White, Jr.”, and costarred (with Odetta, Tom Paxton, and Bob Gibson) in the 1980 “Soundstage – Just Folks” Concert TV Special, followed by two more PBS/TV Specials: “The Making of JOSH: The Man & His Music” 1984, and “Josh and Ron’s Family Adventure”, 1993, with Ron Coden. Josh Jr.’s composition “Say A Prayer For A Stranger” was performed by Harry Belafonte on the ABC-TV prime-time Special, “100 Years at The Music Hall.”
As a concert artist, Josh, Jr. has performed on the world’s greatest stages of four continents, including Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Odeon Hammersmith Hall, Berlin Philharmonic Hall, and Madison Square Garden to name a few.
From 1963 through the 80s, Josh headlined more than 2000 college concerts. At the peak of this folk boom, in the mid 60s through the late 70s, Josh was considered one of NACA’s most celebrated and honored performing artist. C. Shaw Smith, from Davidson College, North Carolina, penned him the ‘Dean of College Concert Attractions’.
Josh returned to the theatrical stage in 1983, in his first musical – a musical revue – “One for Me, One for You.” An original regional theater production, with all of the songs written by his good friend Mayon Weeks who was also one of the performers. In 1983, he premiered the musical dramatic biography of his father Josh White, Sr., entitled “JOSH: The Man & His Music” (written and directed by Broadway veteran Peter Link) to ‘rave reviews’ at the Center for the Arts, Boarshead Theater, in Lansing, Michigan, for a five-week, sold out, limited-run engagement. Every few years Josh, Jr. reprises the play on the road with great success and is proud to maintain the image, story and songs that his father gave us all. Josh also sang “The John Henry Suite,” as Guest Star with the “Dance Theatre of Harlem” in a limited tour which took him from New York to San Francisco with one of the stops at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Josh, Jr.’s marriage in 1963 to Jackie Harris produced two children – Joshua ‘Buddah’ White III, an actor/playwright born in 1963, and Jason White, born in 1969. In November, 1971, following the death of his wife and just two years after the death of his father, Josh, Jr. left New York City, and moved to upstate New York with his two sons and slowed down his touring. During that time, he established an artist-in-residence program at many college campuses he performed at during the regular school year so he, his sons and their Malamute, Robin, could spend their summers together. Josh White, Jr. moved to Detroit in 1976 and married Sara in 1978. Sara brought four children to the marriage and Josh brought two. Their children, now all adults, have blessed Josh and Sara with 13 grandchildren.
Josh White, Jr. received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from the University of Maine, and the University of West Florida; was named the “Voice of The Peace Corps” and “Voice of VISTA” by the US Government in 1980; in 1982, he shared the stage with his mother at the Smithsonian Institution’s 100th Birthday Celebration of Franklin Roosevelt. In 1983, he was presented with “Keys to the City” by Detroit and Lansing, Michigan, and on April 20, 1983, the State of Michigan honored he and his father with “JOSH WHITE and JOSH WHITE, JR. DAY”; in 1984, he was named “Michigan Man of The Year;” in 1984, NACA (National Association of Campus Activities) honored Josh with its first “Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award” at Opryland in Nashville; in 1987, he was honored to be named the Host and Emcee for the final two legs of festivities for Pope John Paul II’s grand tour of America. In earlier years, he also appeared with his father at President Johnson’s Inauguration and at a Command Performance for the Prime Minister of Canada. In July, 1997, Josh was the Special Guest Star Performer at the National Community Service Conference’s Annual Banquet in New York honoring cofounder of the Peace Corps, Harris Wolford, with its Lifetime Achievement Award; Josh performed “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream”, the Peace Corps Theme Song he had recorded for Mr. Wolford and Sargent Shriver years earlier.
In recent years, Josh, Jr. has added to his multi-dimensional talents and touring schedule, by becoming a “single-digit” (as he calls it) performer, doing children and family concerts, including school concerts for grades K-4. And with the release of the U.S. Postal Service’s stamp honoring his father (and Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Sonny Terry) he does a music/lecture session on his father, Josh, Sr. for grades 5 through 12. He provides an extraordinary, interactive experience for young people.[Read comments from some of the schools.] He has appeared many times on the Nickelodeon Network and he along with his good friend, Ron Coden, hosted their own PBS special, “Josh and Ron’s Family Adventure.”
In 1991, Josh teamed up with the founder of “StoryLiving,” Rändi Douglas, to create a highly successful outreach alternative educational program now called “Living History.” The program’s purpose is to teach history and social studies using multiple interactive intelligence systems, and as Josh says, “It is where you become the people you are learning about and then when you become emotionally involved, you never forget.” And all this happens in the classroom with music, imagination and role-playing. Sessions are held in schools, universities, churches, temples, community centers and at seminars.
Some Memorable Concerts. . .
In 2006, Josh appeared at the African-America Music Foundations’ First Annual Spirituals Festivals; at San Diego State University’s Tribute Concert to Josh White (Sr.) for their Black History Month; and at the Black History Month tribute to his father at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York, where he used to play as a boy when it was the home of Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt. In 2004, he celebrated his father’s music at the Montreal Jazz Festival. In 2002, he joined Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Odetta, John Sebastian, David Amram, John Hammond, Jr., Bethany Yarrow (Peter’s daughter), and Oscar Brand at New York’s Cooper Union Theatre for the fund and conscious-raising concert to establish the “Folk Music Museum” in New York’s Greenwich Village City, from which came the Bitter End Records’ compilation album “The Folk Music Museum in Greenwich Village” where he performed “The Strangest Dream” and “Southern Exposure.” In 2001, he co-starred with Odetta, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Richie Havens, Tom Paxton and Oscar Brand in the National PBS-TV Tribute Special to Woody Guthrie, “Woody & Me.” In 2000, he was chosen as the sole performer representing the State of Michigan (his home state) on the Millennium stage at Washington’s Kennedy Center, celebrating “Michigan State Day.” On June 26, 1998 Josh gave a Tribute Concert to his father on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., celebrating the unveiling of the first American Folk Artists 32¢ stamp, sponsored by the United States Postal Service and the Smithsonian Institute – honoring Josh White, Sr., Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Sonny Terry, followed by other Stamp Tribute Concerts in Boston and Philadelphia. IN 1995, he co‑ starred with (sister) Beverly White, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Peter Yarrow, Richie Havens, Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie and Oscar Brand in a ‘live’ radio concert at New York’s Cooper Union Theatre, celebrating Oscar Brand’s 50th Anniversary radio show “Folk Song USA” on WNYC Radio. In 1994, he co-starred with Burl Ives (in his last concert performance), Pete Seeger, Art Garfunkle, Theodore Bikel, Tom Paxton, Oscar Brand and the Chad Mitchell Trio at New York’s “92nd Street Y’s 50th Anniversary Folk Festival,” and later that year was a co‑sponsor/co‑host (with Peter Yarrow) at Chicago’s Park West Theatre, where a cast of folk stars performed in a Tribute Benefit Concert for folk legend Bob Gibson before his passing. He also felt a privilege of appearing with Ray Charles at the Peace Center Theatre in Greenville, South Carolina — the birthplace of his father, Josh White (Sr.).
Other projects and recordings Josh has been involved in recently are: “The Guitar of JOSH WHITE,” an instructional video tape on Homespun Video; the award-winning instructional video “It Starts With A Book,” a reading inspiration for children, distributed by Vince Deur Productions. He can also be heard singing his father’s 1944 classic, “Freedom Road” (by Langston Hughes & Josh White), on Tel Arc’s new compilation album “My Country Awake: The Freedom Compilation;” and “Come On Into My Kitchen,” on Tel Arc’s release of the Robert Johnson Tribute CD, “Dealin’ With The Devil – Songs of Robert Johnson” (historically interesting, because Robert’s 1937 recording of that song used the same melody line from Josh White’s 1932 recording of “Things About Coming My Way”). In addition, he can be heard singing duets with Roger McGuinn on “Trouble In Mind” and “Dink’s Song,” for the Grammy nominated “Roger McGuinn –Treasures From The Folk Den” album; plus a live festival duet with Pat Humphries of “If I Had A Hammer” on Siren Records. A biography on his father’s life, JOSH WHITE “Society Blues,” by Elijah Wald, was released by the University of Massachusetts Press, followed by Josh joining Mr. Wald on a national book signing tour. AND, throughout 2001/2002/2003 & 2004, Josh joined his long-time friends Odetta, Oscar Brand and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott in the Americana touring package show, “GLORY BOUND – a historic salute to Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Josh White.
In the wake of America’s tragedy on September 11, 2001, Gateway Records recorded Josh performing two of his father’s patriotic and civil rights classics, “The House I Live In,” and “Free and Equal Blues,” for their 2002 compilation release “CELEBRATE AMERICA.” Concurrently, with that release Josh White, Jr., was the first artist authorized and invited to sing a set of inspirational songs at New York’s hallowed Ground Zero site.
Following the success of Silverwolf Record’s rave-reviewed CD release tribute to his dad, “House of the Rising Son” and the CD, “Cortelia Clark,” Josh’s long-awaited live band album “JOSH WHITE, JR. LIVE” was released in December, 2003. In 2006, Silverwolf released “Delicate Balance,” and in 2007 “Josh White, Jr. & Ron Coden – “All The Children,” was released, which includes many of his youthful fans’ favorites, including “My Favorite Toy,” “All the Children,” “Sing a Rainbow,” “Eat an Elephant,” “The Unicorn Song,” “Cloud People,” and “One Meatball.”
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