SISSLE, NOBLE (10 Aug. 1889-17 Dec. 1975), black composer, bandleader, and vocalist, was born in Indianapolis, son of Rev. George A. and Martha (Scott) Sissle. He moved with his family to Cleveland in 1909, graduated from CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL in 1911, and studied at DePauw University (1913) and Butler University (1914-15). Sissle began singing professionally in 1908, in 1915 organizing his own short-lived group in Indianapolis, also singing in Baltimore where he met Eubie Blake and formed a songwriting team, with Sissle as lyricist. The two would remain collaborators until Sissle's death. Sissle joined a New York society dance orchestra in 1916. In 1917 he joined the 369th Infantry Regimental Band and served overseas until 1919. Sissle and Blake toured the vaudeville circuit. In 1921 their production of "Shuffle Along" opened an 18-month Broadway run, followed by another 2 years on tour. Sissle and Blake toured Europe in 1926.
After dissolving the partnership, Sissle performed as a soloist and with his own band in Europe before returning to New York in 1931. From the mid-1930s to mid-1950s, Sissle led his own Noble Sissle Orchestra, touring the U.S. In 1937 he helped found the Negro Actors' Guild, serving as its first president. During WORLD WAR II he toured with a USO troop. Throughout the 1940s, Sissle wrote columns for the New York Age and Amsterdam News. In the 1950s, he and Blake attempted to revive their Broadway hit Shuffle Along, and later, Happy Times, but neither play was successful. During the 1960s, he continued managing his own publishing company and nightclub, as well as leading his own orchestra. Sissle and Blake's last collaboration was the 1968 composition, Didn’t The Angels Sing For Martin Luther King, honoring Dr. King and assigning royalties to the King Foundation. Their last performance together was in Tampa, Florida in 1972.
Sissle married Harriet Toye, who had one daughter, Helen, from a previous marriage. After a divorce from Toye, he married Ethel Watkins, a Cotton Club showgirl from Miami. With Watkins he had two children, Cynthia and Noble, Jr. After retiring from his orchestra career, Sissle moved to Florida to live with his son and work on his papers. Noble Sissle passed away in 1975. He is buried in Long Island National Cemetery.
Kimball, Robert. Reminiscing with Sissle and Blake (1973).