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Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Jr.

Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Sr., Salina Daily Union, July 24, 1919Born: Stockton, Rooks, Kansas, March 22, 1919
Died: New York City, January 8, 2011

Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Jr., was born to Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Sr., and Effie S. (Green) Fuller, in Stockton, Rooks County Kansas, in 1919. The younger Fuller was raised to be a musician.

His father, Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Sr., born in Troy, Alabama, began studying music at an early age. Moving to Texas to join his brother Frank. Lorenzo Fuller moved to Colorado then Kansas City, collecting instruments and learning to play the harp. With his brother, the duo relocated to Coffeyville, bringing their vaudeville music and cakewalk act to Kansas audiences, performing as the Fuller Brothers alongside area bands like the Modern Woodmen. In Coffeyville, the Fuller brothers operated a barber shop. Lorenzo married Earnestine Wallace in Coffeyville in 1896; they had one child, Mabel, born about 1899. Lorenzo Fuller joined a partner to co-publish The American in 1898 and 1899. During performing tours in northwest Kansas in 1913, Fuller stayed with Giles W. Green, a Civil War veteran who served with the First Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment, and had moved to Stockton around 1871 where he operated a farm. Fuller continued to winter in Stockton, establishing the Fuller Concert Company around 1915. “Professor” Fuller offered musical variety shows for community centers, churches, and fairs around the Midwest and in Canada. Fuller’s printing knowledge was useful to create the company’s publicity posters, handbills, and advertisements. He married Green’s daughter, Effie, in Osborne County in 1916.

Lornzo Dow Fuller, Kansas City Plaindealer, 1941Lorenzo Dow Fuller, Jr., began touring with his family at a young age. He learned to play the harp by eight years of age, performing for audiences on stage and in churches. After graduating from Stockton High School in 1935, he attended the University of Kansas. There he was the first African American to participate in many of the musical ensembles, singing with the university orchestra, as a featured soloist, and on the college radio station, KFKU. While a student Fuller performed on tour in northwest Kansas and Nebraska from 1941 to 1942. More than 2,000 people attended his senior recital. Fuller received a scholarship to the Julliard School in New York City, then he earned a doctoral degree in music from Columbia University.

Fuller returned to his hometown church to give a benefit concert in 1945. He was host of a 15-minute music, "Man About Music,” for NBC in 1947, making him the first African American to host a television show. He was cased in Finian’s Rainbow, a musical by E. Y. Harburg, which opened on Broadway in 1947, performing “The Begat,” then in Kiss Me Kate, a musical by Cole Porter, performing “It’s Too Darn Hot.” Fuller hosted a radio music show, “Van and the Genie,” on WPIX, New York City, in 1950, co-starring with Rosamond Vance Kaufman. They marched in the next year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. His work for NBC included "Musical Miniatures," "Young Broadway," "TV Screen Magazine," and the "Jerry Lester Show." Fuller competed successfully on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts show.

He was a voice coach for the American Theater Wing, he composed music for NBC-TV and nightclub artists, and a featured soloist on Sunday morning radio program for Riverside Church, New York; he was the only African American in the congregation. Fuller performed a wide range of music genres in multiple languages; he played the harp, piano, organ, clarinet, drums, violin, guitar, and trombone. Stockton welcomed Fuller in 1953 when he returned to celebrate his birthday.

George Gershwin’s last effects contained music arrangements Fuller had completed for an unpublished opera scheduled to air on NBC. These were among Fuller’s numerous projects in the 1950s and 1960s. He was cast as lead for Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess on European tour in 1954, performing in Paris, the Soviet Union, and South America, putting his language skills to use in foreign lands, and receiving standing ovations in appreciation. He was a chief announcer at a radio station, taught music students from 1957 to 1960, and composed a Broadway musical. He hosted and arranged music for a weekly CBS program, “American Musical Comedy Theatre.” He was arranger and conductor for recording companies, hosted TV specials for rebroadcast in Europe, and broadcast in French, German, and Italian for “Voice of America.” Fuller returned to Stockton for his father’s funeral in 1960, then again to attend professional art classes with his 95-year-old mother in 1974. He returned to Stockton once more for a special tribute in his honor, playing piano for the patriotic finale song, in 2003. He died January 8, 2011, in New York City.

Entry: Fuller, Lorenzo Dow, Jr.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2009

Date Modified: February 2023

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