Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates was born and raised in Fountain Inn, South Carolina, in the early 1900s. His parents were sharecroppers. When he was a young child, he would dance for nickels in front of local street audiences. In 1919, Clayton took a job in a farm factory to help his family survive, yet it only lasted a few days when fate struck. He lost his left leg to a cotton gin accident at age 12. Clayton subsequently taught himself to tap dance with a makeshift wooden peg leg from which he took his nickname.
From the 1920s to the 1940s, Peg Leg entertained audiences with his unique brand of tap dancing, traveling all around the US on the Vaudeville circuit. By this time, he had established himself as a world-famous tap dancer, even performing for Queen Elizabeth II. He was landing roles in movies and on TV, especially The Ed Sullivan Show (1948), which was hosted by Ed Sullivan. He was one of the most popular and regular guests of that legendary show, making over 20 fabulous appearances.