How did Al Jolson get his name?
Al Jolson was born Asa Yoelson.
In 1985, upon being introduced to show business by entertainer Al Reeves, Asa and his brother Hirsch became fascinated by the industry. By 1897, the brothers were singing for coins on local street corners, using the names "Al" and "Harry".
In the spring of 1902, he accepted a job with Walter L. Main's Circus. Although Main had hired Jolson as an usher, Main was impressed by Jolson's singing voice and gave him a position as a singer during the circus' Indian Medicine Side Show segment. By the end of the year, the circus had folded and Jolson was again out of work. In May 1903, the head producer of the burlesque show Dainty Duchess Burlesquers agreed to give Jolson a part in one show. Asa gave a remarkable performance of "Be My Baby Bumble Bee" and the producer agreed to keep him for future shows. Unfortunately, the show closed by the end of the year. Asa was able to avoid financial troubles by forming a vaudeville partnership with his brother Hirsch, now a vaudeville performer known as Harry Yoelson. The brothers worked for the William Morris Agency.
Later in his career, Asa changed his stage name to Al Jolson.