America’s Best Dance Crew-1933: The Four Step Brothers

You may remember a performance  by The Harlem Hot Shots on Thursday night of  Frankie95.  Someone uploaded the original clip and I thought it would be nice to put them together.

The scene is from a 1933 short film entitled “Barber Shop Blues” featuring Claude Hopkins and His Orchestra.  He was leader of one of the house bands at the Savoy Ballroom in 1931.

The original dancers in the 1933 clip were known as The Four Step Brothers.  Despite the name, none of them were related.  They got their start at the Cotton Club performing with Duke Ellington.

Great dancers, they had a pretty long run eventually going into the 1960’s although the lineup changed a bit over the years.

You can find a pretty in depth article about them by clicking here.

I did a little clicking around and found a bunch of great clips.  Unfortunately some of them reflect the times in terms of racial attitudes towards black performers, but the dancing is still amazing.

With Bob Hope

With Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.  The riff that the band plays at the end while everyone does the Shim Sham sounds vaguely like the riff for the Big Apple in the “Keep Punchin” clip.

The Four Step Brothers appeared twice more with Martin & Lewis over the years, reprising the same act with a few changes here and there, leaving Martin & Lewis to bring on the funny at the end each time.

One last time to figure out if Dean Martin is a comic genius or just piss drunk.

Huge finale from the film “Carolina Blues” spotlighting Harold Nicholas (Of the Nicholas Brothers) but also featuring the Four Step Brothers.

The number includes one of my favorite lesser known singers from that era, June Richmond, who sang with Jimmy Dorsey and then later with Andy Kirk.

One of the female dancers, Marie Bryant, also danced in the Duke Ellington short, “Bli Blip.”


  1. Ann said,

    August 25, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I love the Four Step Brothers! I’ve stolen a move from them in the past and would steal more if I could. Any idea whether they shared personnel with Tip Tap Toe? That last guy who does the slidey bit looks awfully reminiscent of some TTT material.

    • Jerry said,

      August 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm

      Good eye. If you check out the link to the article in the post it mentions that Freddie James of Tip, Tap, & Toe joined the Four Step Brothers in the 1930’s.

  2. Alice said,

    September 6, 2009 at 12:53 am

    AWESOME POST. I wish more people would write about the history of our dance as information filled and as intelligent as you do!

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