Brooks Sneed, 80 Singer, Actor, Personal Manager, and Broadway
Producer, with almost six decades of an entertainment presence, most
recently known for conceiving and producing the longest one-woman
musical in the history of Broadway "Lena Horne, The Lady and
Her Music", died suddenly of a heart attack Thursday, April 19,
A proud and distinguished man known for his many creative contributions,
and just as many stories in tow, had an infectious spirit with a voice
that sang even while speaking.
Sherman was born in and raised in Oklahoma City, OK. After having
traveled the world, Brooklyn became home for him and his family.
Born November 18, 1920, the third child of Retta and Walter G. Sneed,
Sherman graduated in 1938 from Douglas High School. Shermanšs
entertainment wings sprouted at Douglas High, as a result of actively
singing in the Chorus, playing in the band, and being part of a Quartet.
In addition, he was a talented member of both the football and
While attending Dillard University in New Orleans, LA, he continued his
musical training as a baritone soloist with the choir, while also
actively participating in athletics as quarterback for the football
team. When faced with the need to be back in Oklahoma, Sherman
transferred to Langston University. There, he was a baritone
soloist with the A Cappella Choir, a member of the Drama Club, and still
played football. In 1942, he was chosen for the third team on the
Pittsburgh Courieršs Negro College All-American Football Team.
As a result of the war, Sherman became a member of the Armyšs U.S.O.,
entertaining our troops overseas. He received an honorable
discharge in 1943, due to a previous football injury.
After his discharge, he joined the acclaimed "Wings Over Jordan
Choral Ensemble", which broadcast over the CBS radio network
nationwide every Sunday morning. Sherman was a featured soloist
and narrated several broadcasts until 1945.
After a three-month whirlwind courtship, Sherman married Frieda Roye, a
graduate from Lincoln University. Although raised in Kansas City, MO,
Frieda was a native daughter of his home state, Oklahoma.
While living in Cleveland, OH, Sherman became associated with the Karamu
Theatre, appearing in performances of "The Medium",
"Mikado", and "Lost in the Stars." At the
renowned Cleveland Playhouse, he sang in Menottišs "The
Consul", and sang with the Karamu Quartette. He directed the
Festival Choir at the St. James A.M.E. Zion Church from 1950-51, and was
director of the International Brotherhood Speech Ensemble.
Sherman and his wife moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1952, when he was
cast in the role of "Jim" in the Breen Davis production of
"Porgy and Bess," starring William Warfield and Leontyne
Price. The production toured Europe and the United States. He
left the show in 1954 to pursue a solo career.
From 1952 to 1957 he had several appearances on TV in "Sergeant
Bilko", "The Nat King Cole Show", and on stage in "Jamaica"(the
first-Black Broadway show), "The King and I", and "Carmen
In 1957, Sneed began a fifteen-year long association with Harry
Belafonte, first, as a member of the Belafonte Folk Singers,
participating in multiple concerts and making television appearances and
RCA recordings; secondly, as Assistant Manager and Public Relations
Although touring the world and frequently out-of-town, Sherman was
devoted to his family. He was known to call in words of love and
"fatherly lectures" from overseas to his son, Gregory Jay
Sneed (born 1957), and daughter, Sherri Gayle Sneed (born 1960).
In October of 1972, Sherman became production manager for Lena Horne
and, subsequently, her personal manager. With a 25-year commitment to
Lenašs career, it was his idea and concept for her highly acclaimed
one-woman Broadway show, which had an unprecedented 14-month run, and
subsequent international tour (for which he was the co-producer of the
show). He also produced two albums and was executive producer of both
"Lena Horne at Carnegie Hall" in 1994, and the production of
"Lena Horne at the Supper Club" the same year.
Sneed retired in January of 1997, at the age of 76. Since his
retirement, he has been very active with the Sterling Street Block
Association, and serving on the Board of Directors with the Society of
Singers Inc.šs Chapter East, a non-profit organization founded by Ginny
Mancini (the widow of Henry Mancini), that is dedicated to helping
singers in need. The organization raises funds to help singers in
need. At the time of his death, he was passionately working on the
First Annual Louis Armstrong Award Dinner, which will honor Bobby Short
in October 2001.
Married for 56 years, Sherman is survived by his wife Frieda, son
Gregory, daughter Sherri, sister Vertna Jones, nephew Mackenzie Jones,
Jr., great nephew Ryan Jones, great niece Tiffany Jefferson,
daughter-in-law Tina Sneed, and grandson Wesley Thompson.
A private ceremony for the family was held in Brooklyn on Tuesday,
April 24, 2001 with a memorial service held in May. In lieu of
flowers, the family requests that donations in his memory be sent to The
Society of Singers, Inc. Chapter East, 500 E. 77th Street, #633, New
York, NY 10162.