He was the first African American performer at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 1946 when President Harry Truman invited him to play and wished him well before the show. Frank “Sugar Chile” Robinson was only 7 years old at the time. A prodigy who was entirely self-taught, Robinson began playing piano in imitation of what he heard on the radio, sometimes banging on the keys or using his elbows to great effect. Always with enthusiasm, Robinson would go one to perform with some of the greatest jazz musicians of the era, including Count Basie as seen in the clip below.
If you’ve never heard of this big personality in a little package it could be because he retired from his child prodigy profession in order to attend school- he graduated high school at the age of 15. Robinson was invited back to the White House in 2016 to be honored. Have a look below at this lovely clip of Robinson performing “Numbers Boogie” in 1951! And, check out another star who started young right here!