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Stage Name

Birth Name

"King Rastus"

? Rastus Brown ?
"Mister Tap" (not confirmed)

      "King Rastus" was probably not his real name, as many Minstrel and Vaudeville performers often times used a racially stereotypical stage name such as Sambo, Rastus, Jazzbo, Hickory, Moke, Coon etc. to appeal to white audiences. Many brand labels of the day would also portray "darky ads" using Rastus in the name such as the Cream of Wheat and Rastus Cigars ads. (see photo left.) So in a sense it might have been reference to "King of the darkies," either given or self named.

   Not much is really known about "King Rastus Brown" except that he was a legend among Buck and Wing as well as Tap dancers and one of the best at that, but was rarely known outside of this circle of dancers. Rastus performed in the Minstrel circuits with

the Black Patti's Troubadours in 1895 and later Vaudeville and Harlem stages and nightclubs. Rastus helped many great Tap dancers gain an understanding of this art form like: Eddie Rector, Bill Bailey etc. Rastus would frequent the Hoofers Club and show many generations of younger aspiring dancers how to do simple and complex steps as well as professionally teaching future stars like Bob Hope. Why nobody ever interviewed Hope on Rastus is beyond me ( Maybe they did, but I haven't found it.)

    Legend has it that Rastus was a brown skin negro about 5' 9" tall and slim. He was born in Louisville or Boston and came to New York as a grown man around 1903 and would later live in Philadelphia or Baltimore. He always wore his many medals on his coat, wore a derby hat, spats and smoked long cigars and drank white lightnin', Corn Whiskey or Gin. During his Buck dances he would dance flat footed, close to the floor and from the hips. Willie Glenn says "Rastus was always willing to perform at the drop of the hat" but goes on to say "Trouble was ... you couldn't get him to quit." Rastus only problem was he was a real dancer, a dancers dancer if you will and not a comedic or acrobatic dance performer, which at the time was all that was being promoted. Rastus was not very fond of the new "Acrobatic" style of Tap dancing that was emerging and thought it "a waste of time."

   He was considered a master of Improvisation and Imitation. Audiences would call out things for him to imitate and would try to stump him but never did. He could imitate a Train, a Drunk, a Horse, different nationalities and even himself with great appreciation by the onlookers or audience. However, he never copied anyone's style and was very unique in what he did. His stamina was un wavering as he could dance for over two hours; one hour standing up and the other sitting down which was no small feet within itself and is said to have never missed or repeated a step. Some dancers have mentioned that he could do everything, do it forever and did it well, a real "HOOFER!!!."

   Competed in many dance contests in the U.S.A. and London. In 1910 he won a Buck dancing contest in old Madison Square Garden. Rastus even accused Bill "Bojangles" Robinson of stealing his stair dance routine. Rastus was not very fond of Robinson and challenged him many times in 'Cutting Contests,' but Robinson always refused or was busy. He is said to have passed away in the 1940's in New Haven, CT.

Note: Any Racial slurs are not the way this webmaster thinks, only used when repeating a reference to the times.

Birth Place

Birth Date



Louisville, KY. ?1880's-1940s? n/a n/a
Or Boston, MA.                  

Dance Types

Dance Partners

Music Titles, Name*

Buck Dance Rufus Greenlee (1906) Buck Dancers Lament
Cakewalk       Rastus On Parade*
Cane Dance       Rastus Thompson's Ragtime Cakewalk*
Irish Jigs          
Sand Dance        
Tap Dance        




n/a 1906 - Huber's Museum (N. Y.) 1901 - The Casino Girl
    1932 - Yeah Man
        Old Madison Square Garden


Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...





Vaudeville, Old and New An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers
Cullen, Frank 2005 ~
$) Jazz Dance Marshall Stearns 1964 Da Capo Press




n/a n/a n/a

NOTE: Eddie Brown is said to be the nephew of Rastus Brown

Wiki on the name Rastus.

    Rastus is a pejorative term traditionally associated with African Americans in the United States. It is considered highly offensive. The name is sometimes given as ‘Rastus, and it is likely a shortening of Erastus, a disciple of St. Paul mentioned in Acts 19:22, Romans 16:23, and 2 Timothy 4:20. “Rastus” has been used as a generic, often derogatory, name for black men at least since 1880, when Joel Chandler Harris included a Black deacon named “Brer Rastus” in the first Uncle Remus book. Contrary to popular belief, however, “Rastus” has never been particularly popular as a Black name.

    For example, the 1870 census reported only 42 individuals named “Rastus” in the United States, of whom only four were Black or mulatto. Rastus—as any happy black man, not as a particular person—became a familiar character in minstrel shows (see, for example, Every Time I Turn Around: Rite, Reversal, and the End of Blackface Minstrelsy, retrieved May 3, 2006, and Racism and Poverty in Ford City, PA, 1959: Minstrel Show, retrieved May 3, 2006), in books such as
Adventures of Rufus Rastus Brown in Darktown
Rastus Comes to the Point: A Negro Farce

In popular songs such as
, Take Me Back and (Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown)
What You Going to Do When the Rent Comes ‘Round, on radio,

And in films, most notably the Rastus series of short films, with titles that included
How Rastus Got His Chicken and
Rastus Runs Amuck.

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