Category Archives: Jazz Landmarks

Franklin Motor Inn

The Franklin Motor Inn was located off Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street and Spring Garden.

Franklin Motor Inn - New York Magazine Ad 1980

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stayed here on his final visit to Philadelphia. It is also where most of the acts performing at the legendary Uptown Theater stayed. From Philadelphia magazine:

Built in 1959, the hotel used to be called the Franklin Motor Inn. New York boxing promoters used to put up their guys here. Hookers idled, businessmen prowled, and the bar used to stay open till 4 a.m.

There was an A-list presence too. The last time Martin Luther King ever visited Philly, according to a 1994 piece in the Philadelphia Tribune, he spent the day sick in bed at the Franklin Motor Inn, his favorite hotel in the city. Joe Frazier, a regular, always sat in the same seat, on the far right end of the bar. (Marvis Frazier tells me his father ate breakfast at the hotel at least once a week for more than 30 years, but really came to “play the numbers.”)

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Dunbar/Lincoln Theater

African American bankers E. C. Brown and Andrew Stevens opened the Dunbar Theater in 1919, with plans to offer refined entertainment. However, within two years, business floundered and Brown and Stevens sold the theater to John T. Gibson, the black owner of the more raucous Standard Theater on South Street.

Later during the Depression, Gibson was forced to sell the theater to white owners who renamed it the Lincoln Theater.

Dunbar Theatre - Lombard Street Sign

From the 1920s to 1940s, the 1600-seat theater hosted major performers such as Duke Ellington, Louise Beavers, Willie Bryant, Lena Horne, Don Redman, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Paul Robeson and Fats Waller.

Lincoln Theater 1.2

The joint was jumping.

Empire Records

Empire Records Shop was located on the edge of “The Strip” at 52nd and Market Streets.

Empire Record Shop - Overlay -Zoom

Empire Records was the oldest, continually-operated Philadelphia jazz record shop (1930 to 1970). In an online profile, Bill Morlitz shared his story:

I was born in Camden NJ since my mom’s cousin was head of Obstetrics at West Jersey Hospital on February 1, 1950 and have lived my whole life in Philadelphia and/or its suburbs. My dad had the first jazz record shop in Philadelphia so at an early age, I was immersed in the music business. Maybe that’s why I can’t sing a note on key nor have the 10 years of piano lessons stayed with me. Chopsticks is beyond me.

During my teens, I was fortunate to personally meet many great jazz artists including Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Buckner (who developed the locked wrist rhythm style of piano playing and was Lionel’s pianist), Lionel Hampton and many others. Grover Washington, Jr. worked in the store on the weekends and we used to go listen to jazz sets together. My photography is included on his “Live at the Bijou” album.

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Ripley’s Music Hall

Ripley’s Music Hall was located in the former Hippodrome in South Philly. The music venue played host to greats of all genres, including McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Sam & Dave, Gil Scott-Heron and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Ripley's Music Hall - Stevie Ray Vaughn - Live In Philadelphia

Ripley’s Music Hall was demolished. A new building constructed on the site was occupied by Tower Records, which closed in 2012.

1st Quaker City Music Festival

The 1st Quaker City Music Festival, a three-day jazz festival produced by George Wein, was held at Connie Mack Stadium in 1960.

connie-mack-stadium-1st-quaker-city-jazz-festival-cropped-e1482697357248

From the August 29, 1960 edition of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin:

The stage was situated at third base with the fans sitting in both the upper and lower stands from home plate to left field.

The lineup included Gloria Lynne, Dizzy Gillespie, Chico Hamilton, Herbert Mann, Nat Adderly and Ornette Coleman.

Connie Mack Stadium was demolished on July 13, 1976.

2nd Quaker City Jazz Festival

On September 30, 1967, the 2nd Quaker City Jazz Festival became the first event hosted by the Spectrum.

spectrum-2nd-quaker-city-jazz-festival

The two-day festival was produced by Herb Spivak, owner of the legendary Showboat. According to Joe McAllister:

Spivak went to Ed Snider and company (the Flyers were still in their infancy and the Sixers played at the Convention Center) and said he’s like to book a two-day jazz concert. Initially rebuffed because the Snider group didn’t believe a jazz bill would sell, Spivak replied, “That’s my problem.”

Spivak booked 10 groups a day and once again sold out the concert in two days. Dizzy Gillespie opened up the Spectrum with “God Bless America” followed by performances by Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, Sarah Vaughan and Flip Wilson among others.

The lineup also included Cannonball Adderley, Astrud Gilberto, Groove Holmes, and Arthur Prysock.

The Spectrum formally closed on October 31, 2009. Demolition was completed in May 2011.