Who played Joe in Show Boat's original cast, premiered in Washington (National Theatre), before it hit Broadway and London's West End. Based on Edna Ferber's book, Show Boat is where modern musical began, far from the operettes and musical comedies of that era. First cleverly written musical with a plot and a theme, also the first one with black performers in a leading role.
Kenn Sisson Orch. [oldest recording (Brunswick); vocal by Irving Kaufman]
Don Voorhees Orch. [vocal: Wilfred Glenn for Columbia]
Bing Crosby [with Paul Whiteman's Orchestra; n°1 US]
Paul Robeson [the Joe in the London cast of Show Boat; the voice most associated with the song; Jerome Kern wrote Joe's part with Paul's voice in mind and gave him co-credits; cut for Victor, also with Paul Whiteman's Orchestra]
Stepin Fetchit [in earliest film version, with Jules Bledsoe's voice]
Paul Robeson [in a later film version]
Frank Sinatra [in film Till The Clouds Roll By]
Ravens [where their bass singer Jimmy Ricks challenges Paul Robeson]
William Warfield [in the third Show Boat film]
Righteous Brothers [Spector arrangement inspired Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water]
Jeff Beck [vocal: Rod Stewart]
Claiming Jerome Kern wrote Ol' Man River was not how the wife of his lyricist saw it. She nuanced Oscar Hammerstein wrote Ol' Man River. Jerome Kern at the most dum dum dum-dum!