Sonny Watson's Homepage
Ballrooms | Burlesque | Contests | Dances | Dancers | Marathons | Movies | Posters | Sheet Music | Troupes | Refresh
Music Lists: Contemporary WCS| Trad'l WCS| C/W Swing| Big Band| Disco| Gospel| Holiday| Hustle| Late Night| Latin| Latin WCS| Mash-Ups| NC2S| Techno
You Are here: Search Streetswing Site Site Search --->

Leon James & Willa Mae Ricker (legendary Life Magazine photo 1943)

Stage Name

Birth Name

Leon James

Leon James

Poke (of Moke and Poke, Coke and Poke), The Jazz Dancers 

        Leon was one of the main Swing dancers with the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers in the 1930's and also danced with the Shorty Snowden Trio. Danced at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem and Harvest Moon Ball Contests in New York winning first place with Ricker.

   He can be seen in the movie ' Cabin in the Sky' (as Poke) as well as in the 1961 Dupont Show of the Week ( Remade as 'Chicago and All That Jazz') with Al Minns doing Charleston, Lindy Hop etc.

   In trying to keep the Lindy Hop dance alive, Leon and Al Minns ( Also known as "The Jazz Dancers") developed a novelty act in which they danced together. Leon and Willa Mae Ricker are featured in the legendary photo on the left in the 1943 Life Magazine.

[ Photo: 1943 Life Magazine]
   Leon toured with the "Ink Spots" in the mid 1940s as Moke and "Poke" and Coke and "Poke." in the issue of "The Providence Journal," ( September, 12&14, 1945) addresses the Moke and Poke / Coke and Poke question. Listings for this team have varied during the year (c.1945.) Apparently, Leon (Poke) became ill in Dec/44 and Moke (Fletcher Rivers, not Al Minns) took on a new partner and continued with the same name. Poke (Leon James) was left "out in the cold" until Leon took on Harold Cromer and started performing as 'Coke & Poke' but many continued to confuse the new name ( Including me) with the old Moke & Poke.

    Al and Leon were approached by Johnny Carson to be part of the daily pre-show entertainment for his TV show. Very soon after, Leon had his first heart attack and plans were scrapped. Later Al was a guest on the show by himself (courtesy of Mike Thibault). Leon died of a Cardiac-Arrest in NYC in 1970.

Birth Place

Birth Date



New Jersey, USA 4/1913 - 11/1970 Hazel James (2nd wife) Nina Cecily James
      Susan James
        (6 Children in Total)

Dance Types

Dance Partners

Music Titles

Air Steps!( Adagio, Tricks etc.) Al Minns n/a
Big Apple Whitey's Lindy Hoppers      
Black Bottom Wila Mae Ricker      
Lindy Hop            
Ostrich Walk            
Shim Sham            

Night Clubs



Savoy Ballroom Metropolitan (Providence) Hot Mikado?
Dance Players Studio (NYC)     1935 Harvest Moon Ball Championships
Central Plaza Dance Hall            




1937 - The Big Apple ( Jittering Jitterbugs, Minns) 1954 - Jazz Dance 8/23/1943 - Life Magazine
1937 - Day at the Races 1960 - Am Musical Special 9/12&14/1945 - Providence Journal
1938 - Paramount News: Savoy Contest 1961 - Dupont Show*      
1938 - Prisoner of Swing 1964 - Playboy Club(w/ Minns)      
1940 - Cootie William's & His Orchestra Johnny Carson Show  
1943 - Cabin In The Sky
has a good Swing dance scene! Swingin' At The Savoy by Norma Miller
$ Cabin In The Sky $ Swingin' at the Savoy
1944 - Lindy Hoppers  
1946 - Midnight Menace  
1950 - The Spirit Moves  
1954 - Jazz Dance (w/ Minns)  
1961 - Chicago and all That Jazz* ( Dupont)  
1964 - Twelfth Street Rag (w/Minns)  
  • NOTE: Thanks to Leon's daughters ... Nina and Susan for information on Leon. Also, it was reported to me by a grand daughter that Leon was born in West Indies - St. Croix. However, that is deemed as incorrect by the daughters.
Site Map| Disclaimer| Privacy Policy