Scatman Crothers, an African-American actor and musician, was born on this date [May 23] in 1910.
Born in Terre Haute, IN, Benjamin Sherman Crothers (his name at birth) was the son of a cobbler. At the age of 14, he began to teach himself to play the drums and guitar. Soon he got a job entertaining customers at one of the local speakeasies, and at the age of 19, he and his brother, Louis, moved to Indianapolis to find work as entertainers.
This proved to be difficult at first, so Crothers found work cleaning and blocking hats for a Greek merchant. Eventually he landed a job with Montague’s Kentucky Serenaders traveling band. Touring the Deep South, Crothers experienced the harsh realities of racism. In 1931, he left the group and moved to Dayton, OH where he had heard work was more plentiful. It was here he acquired his distinctive nickname, during an audition at radio station KMSK. He felt he needed a name that was not so bland; hence, Scatman was created. [Continue reading at the African American Registry.]