Known as ‘Dancing Man,’ James Henry Snow began his run of entertaining the public at 38th and College in 1974
James Henry Snow picked up several nicknames as an impromptu entertainer near the intersection of 38th Street and College Avenue across more than 45 years: “Dancing Man,” “Guitar Man,” Radio Man” and simply “Radio.”
But the sidewalks are no longer brightened by Snow’s music and moves. He died earlier this week at age 77.
Seen and heard by hundreds of thousands of motorists, Snow generated enough attention to be featured in the pages of IndyStar more than once.
“You dance, and it takes stuff off your mind,” he said in 2011.
“I don’t consider myself good,” he said of his guitar talents a decade earlier, “but a lot of people think I am. I say, ‘I’m glad y’all got faith.’ “
In this 2011 photo, James Henry Snow dances next to his radio near the intersection of 38th Street and College Avenue. (Photo: Danese Kenon/IndyStar)
Snow apparently died of natural causes and his body was found Tuesday at his home after a wellness check, according to his sister, Hazel Young.
Indianapolis rock band the Born Again Floozies paid tribute Snow in a 2008 song titled “Prince of 38th Street (Freak Flag).” The song includes this tribute to Snow’s dancing: “There’s a man in our town who rides high on life with his small boombox. Yeah, he’s got the power, the prince of 38th Street, poppin’ and lockin’ nonstop.”
The band recorded a video with Snow to accompany the song, and vocalist-guitarist Joe Welch recalled that day in a Facebook post Wednesday.
“He was such a kind, generous soul,” Welch wrote. “When we played on the corner with him, people in cars gave us money. We gave it to him for batteries. Instead, he said he was going to use it to buy his friend a bike.”
Snow’s life began in Holly Springs, Mississippi, where he was one of 11 siblings. In 1972, he moved to Indianapolis and worked as a dishwasher and construction worker.
Beginning in 1974, his stints on the corner initially happened only on weekends or late afternoons. After Snow stopped working in the early 1990s and collected disability benefits, he played guitar and danced at the high-traffic intersection nearly every day, eight months a year.
When describing Snow’s interaction with the public, former IndyStar reporter Will Higgins wrote, “He spins, twirls, flaps his arms gracefully and elicits approving honks from motorists. … Snow likes it when people honk. He lowers his head and shoots his hand high in the air. It’s more than a wave; it’s almost a blessing.”
A self-taught guitarist, Snow did not seek compensation for his playing or dancing.
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“I grew up around music – outdoor picnics and things – that’s where I got most of that from,” Snow told IndyStar.
He played cassette tapes of B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson and the Beatles on his boombox. His radio station of choice was WTLC-FM (106.7).
Members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department viewed Snow as a positive fixture in the neighborhood.
“He’s not like a wild dancer,” officer Jeff Parmalee told IndyStar in 2011. “He’s just got a little flow to him, a little wave – he does that thing with his arms.”
Snow is survived by two older siblings who live Indianapolis: Lee Eddie Snow and Hazel Young. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Contact IndyStar reporter David Lindquist at [email protected] or 317-444-6404. Follow him on Twitter: @317Lindquist.
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