Useless But Compelling Facts – June 2008 Answer

Last month we asked you how Jack Benny got his stage name. Congratulations to Nigel Sloam, principal in Nigel Sloam & Co. in London—long-time client and friend—who gave us the correct, speediest response. Jack Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky in Chicago on Valentine’s Day, 1894. His parents lived in nearby Waukegan and there, working as a violinist in the pit band of a local Vaudeville house, Benjamin broke into show business. He hit the road working with a female pianist in an act known as “Salisbury and Kubelsky—From Grand Opera to Ragtime,” but when concert violinist Jan Kubelik’s lawyer objected to the comedic violin-playing and similarities in name, Benjamin changed his name to Ben Benny. With a new partner, “Benny and Woods” continued, but when World War I broke out, Benny enlisted, working in a Navy-sponsored revue touring the Midwest. After the war, Benny went back to vaudeville, doing a monologue as “Ben K. Benny, Fiddleology and Fun.” Although he changed the spelling to “Bennie,” Ben Bernie, an entertainer (also a violinist-bandleader who did monologues), had been doing a similar act longer and guess what—his lawyer contacted young Kubelsky objecting to the similar names. This time, Benjamin changed his stage name for the last time to Jack Benny. The rest, as they say, is history.