Leazar “Baby” Scruggs

Cover of the Paris to Piccadilly show that made Baby Scruggs a sensation in London.

Leazar’s mother was Irene Scruggs, the famous delta blues singer who also performed under the pseudonym Chocolate Brown.  Though little is known of her early life, Leazar was most likely born in 1920 in Saint Louis, Missouri.  The only known record of her childhood is the 1930 US census, which recorded a 10 year old Leazar residing in Saint Louis with her mother Irene and her grandmother, Lillian Smith.  In the mid-1940s Leazar, who began using the stage name “Baby” Scruggs – a nickname she got when traveling with her mother, was performing as a dancer on carnival circuits.  Baby was reportedly an accomplished shake, or shimmy, dancer and her performances culminated with her twirling her breast tassels in opposite directions while she swayed her hips making a fringe skirt dance. By the early 1950s, Baby Scruggs was working as a dancer and showgirl in Baltimore, but real recognition eluded her in the United States.

Signed photo of Baby Scruggs from her time in London.
Signed photo of Baby Scruggs from her time in London.

On 27 March 1952 Baby Scruggs and her mother arrived in England, aboard the ship the Ile De France, where Baby won fame while appearing in the show Paris to Picadilly in London.   The show was staged at the Prince of Wales Theater and was created by Paul Derval of the famous Paris Folies Bergère. Londoners immediately adored Baby Scruggs, and she reportedly received hundreds of piece of fan mail per week. In early 1953, Baby Scruggs insured her bosom against damages with Lloyd’s of London, pre-dating the white burlesque dancer Evelyn “$50,000 Treasure Chest” West’s famous insurance policy by at least 2 years. After her London success, theaters in Paris and Milan were fighting to contract Baby, but she and her mother announced intentions to return to the United States and develop a mother-daughter act. Little is known about the pair after their projected return to the United States. It is thought that Irene Scruggs died in Germany in the early 1980s, but there is no further mention of her daughter Leazar “Baby” Scruggs.

Cover of the Paris to Piccadilly show that made Baby Scruggs a sensation in London.
Cover of the Paris to Piccadilly show program that made Baby Scruggs a sensation in London.
Baby Scruggs from the program for the Paris to Picadilly show that made her famous i London.
Baby Scruggs from the program for the Paris to Picadilly show that made her famous in London.

 

 

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