Medoff, David

Photograph of David Medoff, from Zalmen Zylbercweig, ed., Leksikon fun Yidishn teater, Vol. 2: 1339.
Medoff, David
Birth Date:
February 3, 1888
Death Date:
August 28, 1978
Place of Birth:
Elizavetgrad, Russia
Place of Death:
Queens, NY

David Eli Medoff was one of the most prolific artists of the 1910s and 1920s, recording over 300 sides primarily for Columbia and Victor. Born in 1888 in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine (then Elizavetgrad, Russia), Medoff began his career singing with the synagogue in Kremenchuk in 1900. He started acting in 1907, touring with various theater groups and eventually making his way to Harbin, a Russian settlement in what is now the People’s Republic of China. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1915 and quickly found work on Chicago's Yiddish stages, appearing in the Goldfaden operettas Shulamis and Bar Kokhba. By 1916 he was in New York working with Thomashefsky’s National Theatre and the Jewish Lyceum Theater.

 

Listen to David Medoff's "In Shtedtele Nikolayev" (Columbia 8006-F, recorded October 1923)

 

 

Medoff made his recording career in 1917 when he signed an exclusive contract with Columbia that lasted until 1925. He recorded dozens of sides per year throughout the 1920s, including at least 27 recordings with his wife, the soprano Rachael (Ray) Solovyeva. He primarily recorded folks songs in Russian, Yiddish, and Ukrainian, though his repertoire also included settings of Russian poetry, Yiddish theater tunes, and a few comedic sketches. 

His son, Sam Medoff (Dick Manning), was a major songwriter and bandleader whose radio show, Sam Medoff and His Yiddish Swing Orchestra, featured the Barry Sisters as the band's vocalists. 

Sources
Bennett, Robert J. "The Folk Songs of David Medoff: An Exploratory Discography." Record Research 90 (May 1968): 3-5.

Photograph of David Medoff, from Zalmen Zylbercweig, ed., Leksikon fun Yidishn teater, Vol. 2: 1339.