Fletcher, Clinton “Dusty”
African-American entertainer famed for “Open the Door, Richard” comedy routine and 1947 hit song, also coined “Here Come De Judge”
Description: (1900-1954) Arkansas-born African-American vaudeville performer best known for the comedy routine which became a 1947 hit record, “Open the Door, Richard”.
He got his start in Hollywood in Rufus Jones for President (1933), but it was his role in Open the Door Richard (1945) that served as a showcase for his comedic talents. Fletcher refined his act over 20+ years in vaudeville before the 40s. He came on stage in rags, acting drunk, muttering and complaining about trying to find his way home. He would bring out a ladder and try to set it up so he could get in through a window. Every so often he would crash sprawling on the floor while shouting “Open the Door, Richard!” Fletcher began to be billed as Dusty “Open the Door Richard” Fletcher, as he was in 1947’s Killer Diller. He appeared as himself in Bomboola (1929), Fast and Furious (1931), King for a Day (1934) and Hi-De-Ho (1947). In 1948, he starred in Boarding House Blues and Killer Diller. For more than 20 years, Dusty Fletcher was recognized as one of the top Black comedians with a good voice, excellent delivery and a talented physical comedian, a secret known only to Black audiences. That changed in 1947 with “Open the Door, Richard.” For a short while, there was no more famous Black comedian than Dusty Fletcher. Novelty tunes were all the rage and “Open the Door, Richard” became a 1946-47 hit song and a catchphrase that endured into the Civil Rights Era, revived by editorial writers and social activists to decry segregated public facilities.
In August-September 1931 he was one of 90 performers in the all Negro revue, Fast and Furious, produced by Forbes Randolph, at Brandt’s Boulevard Theater and later at the New York Theater on Broadway. Fletcher performed in at least 5 numbers: Football Game (as the Captain of Lincoln’s Team); Ham What Am (as Dusty); Macbeth (as MacDuff); The Silent Bootlegger (as the bootlegger; and Clinton Dusty Fletcher (as himself in his comedy act).
In 1946, bandleader Jack McVea fashioned Fletcher’s routine into the lyrics of a song, which he recorded with his band. McVea’s record became a big hit, and Fletcher, semi-retired, was found living in South Carolina by Herb Abramson of National Records. He made his own recording of the song, using McVea’s arrangement, which made #3 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The song was also covered by others incl. Count Basie, Lois Jordan, and Pigmeat Markham. National Records sued to claim Fletcher’s royalties as originator of the routine which led to McVea’s hit. However, a blackface vaudeville comedian, John “Spider Bruce” Mason claimed that Fletcher had stolen the routine from him in the 20s. Eventually, McVea, Fletcher and Mason were all co-credited with writing McVea’s version. Fletcher is credited with originating the “Here come de Judge” line used on TV’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In comedy show. The NAACP publicly attacked the song, particularly Fletcher’s version, for making light of public drunkenness and playing on the stereotype of Black men as shiftless and ignorant. Fletcher performed the routine, particularly at Harlem’s Apollo Theater until just before his death.
Early 1950’s 4 ½ x 6 light green autograph album page (in-person signature) signed “Dusty Fletcher/Open the Door/Richard”.
Condition: Very good, light toning atop, bottom and right edges