Henry Meadows


Henry Meadows


Born and raised in South Philadelphia, Mr. Meadows was an elegant tap dancer. He always gave credit to his mother, Ethel, and his sister Penny for being his first dance teachers, and for their continuous support. A jazz singer, Penny rehearsed around the house; other artists visited their home and Mr. Meadows had a chance to learn from Pearl Bailey, Pepper Welch, Jerry Taps and many other performers.

Mr. Meadows grew up trading dance steps on South Philly streetcorners with other aspiring dancers, including such tap greats as the Nicholas Brothers, Honi Coles, and others from their neighborhood, in a time when it seemed that almost everyone knew a step or two and almost every streetlight was a spotlight for aspiring talents.

For many years, from the time that the two met as teenagers, Meadows danced as a partner with his neighbor LaVaughn Robinson. Meadows also toured with other artists in a number of duos. Robinson and others credit Mr. Meadows as "the granddaddy of paddling in Philadelphia" - paddling being a kind of continuously rolling flow of taps. Meadows, in turn, credited dancer Darby Hicks for first showing him paddling when they served together in the Army's Special Services unit during World War II. Meadows recounted that he perfected paddling by trading rhythms with drummer Kenny Clark, also in the same unit.

Returning home, Meadows went on the road with Robinson, touring the country as a duo through the 1960s when he decided that he wanted to stay at home and devote himself to his family. He couldn't abandon music entirely, however and returned to an old passion, drum and bugle corps. In the mid-1980s, he began performing again, this time with partner Peter Briglia. Mr. Meadows performed as part of the Philadelphia Folklore Project's "Stepping in Time" production in 1984. For more information, see WIP 8:2 (1994) 18-20.