Biography

Known all over the world as "the Last of the Red Hot Mamas," entertainer Sophie Tucker is best remembered for her live performances. She was born Sonia Kalish in Russia while her mother was en route to America. Her father, fleeing from Russian authorities, had preceded them there and taken the last name Abuza as a cover. When Tucker and her mother arrived in the U.S., they used that name, too. Tucker got her start occasionally singing in her father's restaurant in Hartford, CT. Because her parents refused to allow her to continue performing, Tucker ran away to New York in 1906. She successfully auditioned for a local talent show, but because the show manager felt that she was too brawny and plain-looking, he forced her to wear black-face makeup. Later, she became a popular part of the Ziegfeld Follies and would sing between major acts. She became so popular that other stars became jealous and eventually they had her expelled. Tucker went into vaudeville afterward and became much loved for her bawdy songs. It was there that she got her notorious nickname. She had a major hit song during WWI with "Mother (The Word That Means the World to Me)." In addition to her innumerable live performances, Tucker also occasionally appeared in feature films. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi