Leonard Reed
The "Shim Sham Shimmy Man"

Entertainer, dancer, producer, writer, composer, teacher, coach and more.
Copyright 2023 Mike Strong - kcdance.com, artfulDancer.com, See Also: http://www.artfulDancer.com and http://www.kcdance.com/


Leonard Reed spent his life between worlds, living and working in the black entertainment industry, starting at a time when vaudeville was our most prolific venue.

The T.O.B.A. circuit (Theater Owners Booking Association) was also know as either "Tough On Black Artists" or "Tough On Black Asses."

Leonard was a mix of white, black and Choctaw and looked white. As a boy (8 to 10 years old) he was already in deep police trouble when Hugh Oliver Cook took him in. H.O. Cook was a top national educator and was principal (1921-1944) at Lincoln High School (19th and Tracy building, the building at 2111 Woodland was built during Cook's tenure as principal). (See history of LCPA)

Leonard credits Cook with turning him around and making sure he was educated. At the end of his high school Leonard left Kansas City to join up with a black entertainment troupe. He never stopped.

In the upcoming decades he was a co-creator of the Goofus, renamed the Shim Sham, a producer in the world of black entertainment spending a great deal of career time in Harlem. He produced at the Cotton Club and was with the Apollo when it was still a vaudeville space (Hurtig & Seamon). Leonard travelled the world entertaining.

Photo, Copyright Mike Strong

At 97, Leonard Reed died in his sleep in a West Covina, CA hospital Monday night April 5, 2004 of congestive heart failure. A celebration of his life was held from 1 to 5 p.m. April 24 at the City of Angels Church of Religious Science, 5550 Grosvenor Blvd., Los Angeles.


Click Here for Links to Information on Leonard and to articles on his death.


Earliest Days in Kansas City
(AUDIO) RealMedia: 28kbps,
Getting in trouble and being taken in by H.O. Cook. From there to show business forever.

Modern Nights: The World, Vaudeville, Kansas City

Barbara de Costa, Leonard's wife since eary 1951. Barbara was a multi-lingual entertainer from Guatemala
Hugh Oliver Cook was principal at Lincoln High School. Leonard credits Cook with rescuing a life which could have gone the wrong way. H.O. Cook
A bigger headline than FDR and getting chased out of a theater in Kansas City (about 1923) when, after winning a Charleston contest, the "white" kid was outed as a "nigger" Tough Times
Early entertainment partners The Peanut Boys
The fight champion, Joe Louis, and Leonard were long-time pals and partners. They met when Joe Louis wanted to know where Leonard got his clothes.
Pictures of a few people Leonard associated with.
Just one of many late-in-life honors afforded Leonard.
May 6 2000, Leonard Reed Day in Kansas City at the Bruce Watkins Community Center.
"TAP! - 1900-1955" - Leonard's story is chapter three in Rusty's book. Rusty Frank's book and video tape
Leonard helped to break the PGA's color barrier in 1951 because the PGA unwittingly allowed him in as a member based on his appearance. When the PGA refused to allow Joe Louis in because Joe was "colored," Leonard told them they had already allowed "colored" folk in because he (Leonard) was "colored." Leonard tells this story - media is coming.

Photo, Copyright Mike Strong

Leonard at his piano looking through his song notebook. Songs he has written.

Video from this visit:
Song: "Now I Know"
and a funny bit: "I'll Be Your Band"

RealMedia: 56kb (1.5mb), 128kb (4.5mb)

Leonard Plays piano and Barbara sings then they do a bit they cooked up where Leonard becomes an orchestra.

  These songs and this video are impromptu performances in the office. We were all standing around as Leonard and Barbara reminisced.
  Song: "Got No Love":
(342kb), 56kbps(673kb), 128kbps (2mb)
Song: "Midnite":
(213kb), 56kbps(419kb), 128kbps(1.2mb)

Song: "I'll Be Your Band": A routine in which Barbara's band members have walked out and Leonard rescues the act. 32kbps ( Windows Media 722 kb), 56kbps (Real Media 764 kb)

Song: "You Never Told Me"
56kbps (RealMedia 673 kb), 56kbps (Windows Media 677 kb)
  This is Barbara. Leonard and Barbara have been married since January 1951. I've replaced the flower in the original picture (of the picture) with a picture of a six-iron. When I gave them the picture they howled with laughter. This is a reminder of the start of their marriage and of Leonard's golfing. No sex while in the middle of competition. After she'd had enough of that, and after Leonard had told her that nothing compares to the satisfaction of hitting a six iron "that close" to the hole, it was finally time for intimacy. As Leonard got ready, Barbara said, "Stroke your six-iron!"
Photo Illustration by Mike Strong from a portrait of Barbara and a golf-club image replacing a large flower.
Photo, Copyright Mike Strong

After more than half a century of married life Barbara and Leonard are quite a team. Barbara was a beautiful young singer from Guatemala when they met. She sang in six languages. Leonard proposed to her in English. She remembers that when they first met she immediately didn't like him. They have been everywhere together. Through children, travels, productions.

They are one of the nicest and most gracious couples you'd ever like to meet.


And a few links to YouTube with Leonard Video Material
Leonard Reed Tribute - 2 June 1999
at the Orpheum Theater

in Los Angeles
Direct Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke1DyVZG3O0

Leonard Reed's Revenge of the Shim Sham with Rusty Frank
A short promotional for her tap video series
Direct Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX306BA2rRg


Mike Strong 
 5921 Rockhill Road
 Kansas City, Mo 64110