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Peg Leg Bates
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    (October 11, 1907-December 8, 1998)
    Born in Fountain Inn, South Carolina
    Birth name was Clayton Bates
    Lost his left leg in a cotton mill accident at age 12
    Learned to tap dance using a wooden leg
    Performer on the minstrel and vaudeville circuits
    Opening act for many big bands, including those of Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Billy Eckstine and Louis Armstrong
    Appeared on Broadway in the revue ‘Blackbirds of 1928’
    He did not initially realize how serious losing a leg was: ‘'I thought it was just like stubbing my toe and knocking off a toenail that was going to grow back.’
    He had thirteen wooden legs, each designed to match a different suit.
    During a performance at Atlantic City’s Paradise Club, he came down so hard on his wooden leg that he punctured the floor. It took half an hour to free him.
    His first wooden leg was designed by his uncle, a WWI veteran.
    Fellow tap dancer and occasional partner Dixie Roberts said he ‘danced better with one leg than anyone else could with two.’
    He toured hospitals for the USO during World War II.
    He appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 22 times, more than any other tap dancer.
    He gave two Command Performances for the British Royal Family (1936,1938)
    He was the first black owner of a resort in the Borscht Belt of New York’s Catskill’s Mountains (1951).
    His performing career lasted more than six decades, from his teens to his early 80s.

Credit: C. Fishel

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