Al Jolson’s Personal Collection, Tennessee State Museum, On View Through May 3


An Exhibition Showcasing American Entertainer and Patriot Al Jolson’sAl Jolson pic

Items from the personal collection of the legendary American entertainer Al Jolson will be on exhibit at the Tennessee Military Museum. On view through May 3, 2014, the exhibition “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!” Al Jolson Entertains American Troops, will showcase photographs and other memorabilia from his time touring with the United Service Organizations (U.S.O.).

Jolson, born in 1886 in Lithuania, immigrated to America in 1894, where he went on to become a famous singer, comedian, and actor. In his heyday, he was known as the “World’s Greatest Entertainer,” and was the highest-paid performer of the 1930s, following his successful 1927 role in The Jazz Singer, the first full-length talking picture.

Jolson’s heartfelt patriotism drove him to serve as the tireless host of numerous war bond rallies during World War I, to become the first star to perform in the newly formed U.S.O. for GIs in World War II, and to be the first entertainer in Korea, performing 42 shows in 16 days.

Jolson continued to sing and joke his way into the hearts of American soldiers around the globe, raising their spirits and reminding them of home, as well as reinforcing the ideals for which they fought. He mainly traveled at his own expense, and lost a lung to malaria after performing for troops in the tropics. When Jolson died of a massive heart attack in 1950, it was reported that his last words were, “Boys, I’m going.”“

There wasn’t a man in uniform or out who did more for our boys in Korea than Al Jolson,” remarked General Douglas McArthur upon learning of Jolson’s death. When President Harry S. Truman awarded the Medal of Merit to Jolson, the citation said: “This country owes to Al Jolson a debt which cannot be repaid. In two world wars and in the present Korean action, he contributed immeasurably to the success of our efforts through his ability to boost troop morale.”

In late 2010, the Tennessee State Museum received a donation of Jolson’s personal collection, which included master recordings, hundreds of photographs documenting his career and family, the original script of “The Jazz Singer,” portrait paintings, and hundreds of press clippings from articles about Jolson. It also includes a private record collection, an autographed songbook from Jolson’s friend Irving Berlin, and a photograph of the singer with Gen. George Patton. Tour schedules, militarycorrespondence, and many personal letters from people he wrote to on behalf of the soldiers he met on his U.S.O. tours are also part of the trove. Jolson’s son, Asa Albert, has resided in Nashville for several years and has been active in the local music industry. He selected the State Museum as the repository of the collection, so that it could be on public view.

More than 40 photographs from the Al Jolson Collection of the Tennessee State Museum will be shown as part of the exhibition. Other highlights include Jolson’s original 1927 final script from his groundbreaking movie, “The Jazz Singer,” along with the 1938 Irving Berlin songbook inscribed by Berlin. The Medal for Merit, given posthumously to Jolson’s widow, Erle, and son Asa by Defense Secretary George Marshall, will be exhibited along with the citation from President Harry S. Truman.

“Our museum is most honored to receive this tremendous collection from the family of Al Jolson. It has provided us with an exceptional opportunity to exhibit many of these items in the gallery of the Tennessee Military Museum,” Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell said.

The exhibit, “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!” Al Jolson Entertains American Troops, is free to the public. The Tennessee Military Museum is located in the War Memorial Building in downtown Nashville. The Military Museum, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily Tuesday through Saturday. The Military Museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays. For detailed directions and additional information, visit the museum website at

Tennessee State Museum
505 Deaderick Street
Nashville, TN 37243-1120
(615) 741-2692