Henry "Bel" Belcher - "Cotton Picker & Dancin' Demon"
Obituary by Evan Frazier, nephew
Henry Louis Belcher, the son of the late Louis Belcher and Ethel Belcher.(Frazier), passed quietly on April 1, 2009. He was born on January 15, 1915 on "Old Man William's Plantation in Pendelton, South Carolina. Henry and his family migrated to the Hill District area of Pittsburgh, PA in 1925. He completed his vocational training in carpentry, plumbing, machine and shoe repair at Summers Trade School in 1928. At age 15, Uncle Bel started tap dancing in the streets of Pittsburgh to earn money. By 1938 he was a tap dancer in the original "Fantastic Rhythm" by billy Strayhorn at Westinghouse High School in Homewood. Henry Belsher, James Hambrick and Henry Kelly formed a tap group called the "Hot Shots." In 1940 Henry and his group appeared at the Apollo Theater in harlem under the name of "The Mad Magandis." In 1950 Henry returned to Pittsburgh to work at Golomb Paint and Glass Company for 10 years and Don Allen Chevrolet for 20 years. In 1954 he married Sylvia Cannon and moved to Homewood. Subsequently, they moved to Indianola, PA. His wife preceded him in death in 1974. After retiring from Don allen, Henry and Naseeh Hameed frormed "The Dancin' Demons" group to choreograph, teach and preserve tap dancing which was managed by his brother Andrew Frazier. The Dancin'Demons received several awards in recognition of their talents and contributions. their accomplishments inclided being featured in the Emmy Award winning TV special "Wylie Avenue Days;" Pennsylvania Folk Arts Award; the Living Legends Award given by Renaissance Publications; and the Manchester Craftsman's Guild event entitled "168 Years of Tap Artistry."
The Dancin' Demons performances included the opening of the John Heinz History Center; Pittsburgh First Nighters; Sophisticated Ladies for the 100th Anniversary of Duke ellington; an opening act for Etta Cox's one woman show "The Cotton Club Revisited;" and "A Fantastic Rhythm: A New Revue,: a historic gathering of performers at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty.
He leaves to mourn his brothers Dozia N. Frazier, Jr. James Frazier and Andrew Frazier and his sister Elsie Chatman; his beloved niece Kenneta Lark and his devoted companion Mildred Simone Lurito. His sister Ethelyne Woods preceded him in death. He is also survived by a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
Contributions toward the scholarship on behalf of Henry L. Belcher can be made to the Greater Pittsburgh NAACP Scholarship Fund.