Pseudonym Update: Blanche Klaise Is Really Blanche Klaise [Klaiss]

MSP_klaise-variety-1930Blanche Klaiss & Ed Pressler listing from a 1930 Keith-Orpheum-RKO ad. The name was  spelled both “Klaise” (which appears on the Cameo labels, as well as in various trade-paper and newspaper reports) and “Klaiss” (which appears as early as 1920 and appears to be the more common spelling from the mid-1920s onward).

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Another great finding among Bill Bryant’s biographical clippings: We now know beyond any reasonable doubt that Cameo “blues singer” Blanche Klaise was really Blanche Klaise (or Klaiss — both spellings appear in the clippings), not the famous Harlem cabaret and stage star Edith Wilson. Chatter about Klaise and Wilson being one-and-the-same is all over the web lately, even though the newest edition of Pseudonyms on American Records (2013) has this to say:

“[Klaise] has been suggested as a pseudonym for Edith Wilson (Cameo), but Cameo’s original documentation does not exist, and the aural evidence is unconvincing. Not cited as a Wilson pseudonym in BGR [Blues and Gospel Records] or other reliable works.”

The Bryant files include numerous original and photocopied clippings mentioning Klaise/Klaiss, from Variety and other trade papers and newspapers of the day, which we’re in the process of conserving and scanning. From early 1920 through at least 1930, Klaise toured widely in vaudeville, on the B.F. Keith (later, the Keith-Orpheum-RKO) circuits, usually teamed with pianist-comedian Ed Pressler. The clippings show them performing in Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. A 1928 review describes their act as “hot jazz vocals with novelty piano.”

Klaise and Pressler toured on all-white circuits, so presumably were white themselves (Wilson, of course, was black), although Klaise found her way into a recent derivative discography — compiled from secondary sources of widely varying degrees of reliability — of recordings by African-American artists. More than one online auction dealer has misrepresented Klaise’s very common Cameo release of “Daddy, Change Your Mind” as “really” being by Wilson.

For a similar bit of discographical confusion that’s finally been laid to rest, see our posting on Flo Bert vs. Florence Cole-Talbert.