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Q: 1940s R&B singer ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: 1940s R&B singer
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Music
Asked by: wonderin-ga
List Price: $4.50
Posted: 15 Apr 2003 15:18 PDT
Expires: 15 May 2003 15:18 PDT
Question ID: 190932
I'm looking for biographical information about Bonnie Davis, who had a
hit record in 1943 called Don't Stop Now. It reached number one on
Billboard's black chart, then called the Harlem Hit Parade. All I know
about her is that she is the mother of singer Melba Moore. When and
where was Bonnie born? Is she still alive and if so where.
Subject: Re: 1940s R&B singer
Answered By: luciaphile-ga on 16 Apr 2003 11:33 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi wonderin-ga,
Thanks for your question.
This was a tough one. Fortunately, through articles and references to
Melba Moore and a great book (that I may read for myself), I was able
to find quite a bit. One of the confusing things is that Bonnie Davis
apparently went by several names (maiden, stage, married, etc.). In
order to keep this clear, I'm going to refer to her as Bonnie so as
not to confuse her with her daughter.
Various reference sources on Melba Moore indicate that her mother's
maiden name was Melba Smith and that her mother also went by the name
"Bonnie." From what I've pieced together, it appears that she was born
on June 10, 1920.

According to the book "Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50," Bonnie
was from Bessemer, Alabama and initially planned to become a school
teacher. She attended Alabama State for several years before coming to
New York, now with the intent of having a career in music. She landed
a job with Teddy Hill's band in the late 1930s.

She later joined a band named "the Picadilly Pipers" and its members
were: Clement "Clem" Moorman, Al Henderson, Ernie Ransome, and as
their second vocalist: Bonnie Davis.

"Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50," by Barbara J. Kukla.
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991, pp. 135-137.

Now we come to "Don't Stop Now." Its credits include both Davis and
Clement Moorman. The artist listed for the song is actually the Bunny
Banks Trio.
Chuck N. "savoy/ bunny banks/ hackensack/ clem moorman." Online
Posting, (12/14/2000). bit.listserv.blues-l

The mystery as to the name change arose because at the time in 1942, a
musicians' strike was going on. Rather than risk losing their union
cards (at a time when the union didn't want African Americans to have
union cards), they opted to record the song under the new name for the
Savoy label.
"Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50," by Barbara J. Kukla.
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991, p. 156.

In an interview, Melba Moore told a reporter that she [Melba Moore]
was born out of wedlock.
"Music, Drama, 'Reopen' Railroad," by Laura Knowles. Sunday News
Lancaster, August 15, 1999, p. H1.

The entry in Contemporary Black Biography for Melba Moore shows that
her mother was Melba "Bonnie" Smith and that her father was Teddy Hill
(a saxophonist) [the same man whose band she performed in]. After they
broke up, Bonnie married pianist Clement "Clem" Moorman.
"Melba Moore." Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 21. Edited by
Shirelle Phelps. Gale Group, 1999.
Moore was born in (Harlem) NYC in 1945 and then the family moved to
Newark, NJ. Bonnie had another child from her marriage to Moorman, who
had three children from a previous union. Bonnie and Clem toured a
great deal.
"Melba Moore." Contemporary Musicians, Volume 7. Gale Research, 1992.
Bonnie continued to play local clubs with the Pipers locally in Newark
and also in Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Baltimore.

"Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50," by Barbara J. Kukla.
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991, p. 218.

An article in the Sacromento Observer indicates that Bonnie and
Clement continued to perform, now as a duo. In 1971, they were active
in the cocktail lounge circuit.
"A New Black Superstar." The Sacromento Observer, March 4, 1971, p.

Melba, who went on to create and produce a show called "Songs My
Mother Taught Me" spoke of her mother in a newsarticle and it is
mentioned that Bonnie died in 1976.
"Songs Her Mother Sang: Show is Tribute to Past," by Karen Sandstrom.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 8, 1993, p. 20.
Clement Moorman was still alive as of 2002. It looks like, however,
that Bonnie died in 1976. A search of the Social Security Death Index
for Melba Moorman shows that she had a birth date of 10 Jun 1920 and
died in August 1976 in Essex, New Jersey.
Family Search/Social Security Death Index

Google search:
"bonnie davis" "melba moore"
"bonnie davis" "clement moorman"
"bonnie hill"
"bunny banks trio"
"picadilly pipers"
Print Sources:
Biography and Genealogy Master Index
Newspaper Indexes

I hope this answers your question. If you need additional information
or if the links do not work, please ask for clarification before
rating my answer and I will do my best to assist you.


Clarification of Answer by luciaphile-ga on 18 Apr 2003 12:14 PDT
Hi wonderin-ga,

I happened across this and thought perhaps you'd like to see it. It's
a group shot of the Piccadilly Pipers [which is spelled Picadilly in
the book I found cited above, but seems to use this spelling as well],
including a pic of Bonnie Davis. It also looks like you can hear one
of their songs.

Let Me Play with Your Poodle

wonderin-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
luciaphile, you did a beautiful job. All I wanted to know plus new
directions for me to explore. I've been stuck with these questions
about Bonnie for over a year and will now enjoy the music all the
more. And, dear luciaphile, that was a very speedy response. I'm
impressed. Best wishes, wonderin'

Subject: Re: 1940s R&B singer
From: googlenut-ga on 16 Apr 2003 20:01 PDT
Great answer!
Subject: Re: 1940s R&B singer
From: wonderin-ga on 18 Apr 2003 13:44 PDT
Dear luciaphile, Thank you a second time. Great to hear more music
from that era and especially good to now be able to see Bonnie, Clem
and the others. I'm most grateful to you. Best wishes, wonderin'

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