Hello Family! I started this blog post in January and was never able to finish it. I am not sure if many of you know but for the last year I have worked on a documentary researching the History of Vocal Harmony called Street Light Harmonies. It features some of the great Doo Wop artists still alive from the 50’s and early 60’s. I hope to complete it in July.
The last 20 years my life has been in and around entertainment. As I thought about my career it made me reflect on how much music has influenced and been a part of our ancestors and current family lives.
The funny thing is that I did not grow up in what I would call a musical household. It was years later that I realized my mother could even play the piano. We all took the obligatory band lessons. I chose the flute (never really learned to play), my sister Audrey the saxophone, Bubba the trumpet (marching band!), and Frank drums. My brother Billy fiddled with the guitar, Holly was a majorette, and Woody was always trying to get us to form a group. It was not until my father was getting older that stories of music and the connection within family came out. There were so many great stories that I wish I had known as a child. For this blog I want to highlight a few stories of music from our ancestors that continue to resonant in our current lives.
Augustus Brooks Steele (1846 – 9/15/1903) the son of Sally Brooks Keen and William Steele was a tinsmith by trade. He was also a popular violin player. In his obit of 1903 it showed how loved and well known he was in the community. To receive this kind of mention in the Union – Recorder as a Black man was rare.
September 15, 1903 Union-Recorder
Guss Steel, a well-known negro, died at this home in the city Thursday night. He was a tinner by trade, having served his apprenticeship under Mr. Joseph Staley, and worked for him a long number of years. Guss was a violin player of local reputation, and played and called at dances through many years, in this city. His remains were buried Friday afternoon.
The First Boy Band
These amazing looking guys are none other than the Steele boy’s musical group. They are the sons of Martha Tompkins (8/19/1852 – 4/16/1927) and Frank Steele (4/1848 – 6/28/1904). From left to right: Johnnie (1890 – 1941) James (1870 – 1902), George (1884 – 1973), Frank (1886 – 1943 sitting on wheel), and Leo (1894 – 1948 on ground). Backstreet has nothing on them!
I am not sure what happened to their musical aspirations but we do know from cousin Kathleen that George went on to form another group and embarked on a tour. Here is a great photo of George on one of his tour stops in Saratoga Springs, NY. 1907
Cousin Kathleen has a complete book of all the places he played while in his vocal group. I can’t wait to see all the locations.
Mary Steele (sister Mary) daughter to Frank P. Steele and Martha Tompkins taught piano lessons. Cousin George Jarrett remembers her piano and many of the photos that adorned the top of the piano.
Mary Steele and Sarah Steele Jarrett
Warren Bell Sr. (father to Warren C. Bell) came to town possibly from Alabama in a traveling band.
Daddy told me that my grandmother Annie Laura Bell Steele (daughter to Mollie and Warren C. Bell) played so well and “had such a light touch” on the piano that people would turn off their radios at night to hear her play.
Annie Theresa Steele, my namesake taught and played piano. I have several pieces of sheet music that belonged to her.
Rosa Steele Houston (daughter of Charlie Steele) played piano in her husband’s church.
Rosa Steele Houston
This photo came from Laura Pauline. I am positive there are a few relatives in the crowd. If anyone recognizes anyone please let me know. I think the two men on the far right are probably Steele’s. Maybe the one standing is William Anderson Steele? Also the gentleman in the center with the suit looks like Rev. Houston (husband to Rosa Steele Houston).
Music continues to live on in this generation as well. Kara Elsye (Bebe Henderson’s granddaughter) is a talented singer and songwriter. Here is a link to her website. http://www.karaelyse.com/
My son Trevor Page is also blessed with great musical talent. Here is a link to his website. http://www.trevorpagemusic.com/Welcome.html
Ariel Steele (father Warren ‘Bubba’ Steele) is an accomplished pianist.
Warren Bell Steele III (Trey) (father Warren ‘Bubba’ Steele) can belt out a song that will make everyone stand and take notice.
Tria Steele (father Frank Steele) has a beautiful voice.
Barbara Braddock’s grandson is part of a rap group. Barbara send us a link!
Everyone please share other family member’s musical talents! Let’s support and share these talents in our family!
Other Family News
On January 30 cousin Denise hosted a great Birthday party for our beautiful matriarch of the family Roslyn Wall. Roslyn is the daughter of Willie Bell (Mollie Reid Bell and Warren Charles Bell). Roslyn turned 90 this year.
Attending left to right was Karen Braddock, me, Bonnie Miramontes. Roslyn, a very nice neighbor, Denise Wall, Kathleen Lloyd, and Holly Burns.
I just turned in my application for the Daughter’s of the American Revolution. For you Reid’s we have a connection through Samuel Reid, the great grandfather of David Henry Reid. You may be asking why? Well, we are part of a great American story and should be represented in all aspects. I will keep you posted on the process in case anyone else would like to join.
Lastly I wanted to post an unknown photo. The same gentleman was in my grandmother Annie Laura Bell Steele's photo album and Laura Pauline Johnson’s photos. If anybody recognizes this handsome man let me know!
Happy Researching! Theresa