.Sadie Crawford was a jazz pioneer, featured a few years ago in a BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Lost Women of British Jazz’. She is believed to be the first British female musician to play with visiting American jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Seth Mitchell and Gordon Stretton. To commemorate her, the Tooting Summerstown project plan to put a plaque on her childhood home at 143 Fountain Road where she was most likely born.
Much of the research on her has been done by Black and Jazz music historian Howard Rye in connection with the radio programme. The family are extremely interested
Sadie was born Louisa Marshall in 1885. She worked in domestic service from the age of eleven but was drawn to the stage and at sixteen she became involved in ballet at the London Empire. Here she caught the eye of a visiting American troupe called ‘The Darktown Entertainers’ (Pete Hampton and Laura Bowman were two leading members) and ended up touring with them.
At some stage she became a saxophonist and played with ‘The Gwen Rogers Musical Dolls’. In London during the First World War she entertained troops with her own all-girl orchestra. In 1918 in Southwark she married another jazz musician Adolph Crawford and they lived in Paris for some time, also touring extensively in South America.
After Adolph died in 1929 Sadie moved to America. She died aged 80 in 1965.
Pete Hampton and Laura Bowman lived not far away in Colliers Wood at 14 Marlborough Road which they named ‘Darktown Villas’.
Laura was born in 1881. Her mother was Dutch and her father was half European and half African. She came to Liverpool in May 1903 as a cast member of ‘In Dahomey’, the first show written and performed by Black Americans. The actors performed at Buckingham Palace for the ninth birthday of one of the Royal children. The company went on tour around Britain playing to packed theatres in London, Hull, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Scotland.
Laura settled in London with one of the male actors, Peter Hampton. They both had successful theatrical and musical careers in Britain and Europe. They returned to the States during the First World War.