Samuel George “Sammy” Davis, Jr. was born on December 8, 1925. He was an African- American entertainer who broke many barriers and paved the way for entertainers in all disciplines. Davis was primarily a dancer and singer, but he also received acclaim as an actor of stage and screen, musician, and impressionist. Davis died at age 64 in 1990, after spending 61 years in the profession he loved.
Samuel George Davis, Jr. was born in the Harlem section of Manhattan in New York City. He was the only child, of Sammy Davis, Sr., a black entertainer, and Elvera Sanchez, a tap dancer of Afro-Cuban descent. At age six, Davis he sang and danced with Ethel Waters in the film Rufus Jones for President.
Davis’s parents were vaudeville dancers. As an infant, he was reared by his paternal grandmother. When he was three years old, his parents separated. His father, not wanting to lose custody of his son, took him on tour. Sammy Davis Sr. and his “uncle” Will Mastin, who led the dance troupe taught young Sammy to dance. Davis joined the act at age three, and they became the Will Mastin Trio.
After his discharge from the army following WWII, Davis rejoined the Will Mastin Trio.
Davis returned to the stage in 1964’s Golden Boy, directed by Arthur Penn and choreographed by Donald McKayle. Based on the 1937 play of the same name by Odets. The musical focuses on Joe Wellington, a young man from Harlem who, despite his family’s objections turns to prizefighting. For Wellington boxing was a means of escaping his ghetto roots and find fame and fortune. Both Davis and McKayle were nominated for Tony Awards; Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical and Best Choreography respectively.
Taps is a 1980’s film featuring Gregory Hines and Savion Glover. In this scene Sammy Davis Jr is joined by tap royalty Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde, Harold Nicholas, Steve Condos, Sammy Davis Jr., Sandman Simms, Bunny Briggs, and Arthur Duncan.