Sanchez with her son, Sammy Davis, Jr. at Grace's Little Belmont, 1954
|Died||September 2, 2000 95) (aged|
New York City, New York, U.S.
Sammy Davis Sr.
(m. 1923; div. 1928)
During his lifetime, Davis Jr. stated that his mother was Puerto Rican and born in San Juan; however, in the 2003 biography In Black and White, author Wil Haygood wrote that Davis' mother was born in New York City, of Afro-Cuban descent, and that Davis claimed she was Puerto Rican because he feared anti-Cuban backlash would hurt his record sales.
Life and career
Elvera Sanchez was born in New York City to Luisa Valentina (née Aguiar; February 14, 1884 – October 5, 1996), a Cuban immigrant, and Marco Sanchez, who was from Spain. She began her career as a chorus-line dancer at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem, in 1921. She became known as "Baby Sanchez", and married Sammy Davis Sr., also a dancer, in 1923. In 1925 their son and only child, Sammy Davis Jr., was born. He would often accompany his mother and father to the theater. When Sammy Jr. was three, his parents split up and his father obtained sole custody of him, taking him on the road. Sanchez was a chorus-line dancer at Apollo Theater for six years and appeared in Carl Micheaux's 1936 Swing. She continued to dance until the 1940s.
After retiring from her show business career at the age of 35, she began working as a barmaid for Grace's Little Belmont in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She enjoyed telling jokes to customers and was known for sporting a gold napkin. Her connections with entertainers Count Basie, Billy Eckstine, and Sarah Vaughn drew these and other celebrities to her station, and her son Sammy would come to visit after performing across town at the 500 Club "and delighted everyone pouring drinks and singing". Frank Sinatra's valet George Jacobs recalled in his memoirs that Sinatra also liked to drop by Grace's Little Belmont in the early morning hours after his shows at the 500 Club to say hello to Davis' mother behind the bar.
From 1989, until her death in 2000, she was an adviser to the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day. She was survived by a daughter, Ramona.
- Haygood, Wil (2003). In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40354-X. Retrieved April 29, 2006.
- Haygood 2014, pp. 143-144.
- Fishgall 2010, p. 8.
- Jackson, Delilah (27 September 2000). "Remember 'Baby': A Star in Her Own Right!". The New York Beacon. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2016 – via HighBeam.
- "Elvera Davis, 95, Tap Dancer And Mother of Sammy Davis Jr". The New York Times. 8 September 2000. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "Mother Greets Famous Son". Jet Magazine. Johnson Publishing: 37. September 9, 1954. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
- Jacobs & Stadiem 2003, p. 166.
- "In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.: Wil Haygood: 9780375403545: Amazon.com: Books". amazon.com.
- Fishgall, Gary (2010). Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-3157-2.
- Haygood, Will (2014). In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Junior. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0804172523.
- Jacobs, George; Stadiem, William (2003). Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0786259183.