Category Archives: Jazz Venues

Located in North Philly, the Starlite Supper Club was owned by jazz impresario Benjamin “Ben” Bynum Sr. Musicians who performed here included Kenny Gamble and the Romeos, Nina Simone, Jimmy Smith, Kim Weston, bagpiper Rufus Harley, and percussionists Babatunde Olatunji and Willie Bobo.

Philadelphia native Cullen Knight recorded a live album, A Knight at the Starlite, in 1965.

For roughly 10 years, the property was home to Club Upscale. The nightspot closed circa 2019.

Opened in 1948, the 820 Club was located on the first floor of North Philly’s Hotel La Reve. The Black-owned hotel was listed in the Green Book travel guide.

Musicians who performed here included the Art Ray Trio, Sally and Stella, aka the Rhythm Girls, blues singer Tiny Williams, pianist Tom “Mr. 88” Kennedy, and saxophonist Jimmy Hinsley and his Quartet.

Gray Manor Apartments, named in honor of Rev. William H. Gray Jr., former senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church, is located in the footprint of the 820 Club.

The Cheeko Club

The Cheeko Club opened on January 19, 1955 in a space formerly occupied by Philadelphia ShoBar. Billie Holiday was the headliner.

The Philadelphia Tribune reported:

Harry Cherry, owner of the Mermaid Bar on Germantown Ave., is presenting Billie Holiday, better known as “Lady Day” in the opening show.

“Lady Day,” who has long been a favorite in Philadelphia, has for years been top female vocalist in polls across the country.

She will share the bill with Jimmy Mosley, young, new, exciting mimic; Saxey Williams, versatile emcee; Faye Richmond; Carlos and his dancers; Vinnie Tano and his all-star orchestra.

Brandi’s Wharf

Holton Brandi opened Brandi’s Wharf, a restaurant-ballroom located on the Delaware riverfront, circa 1970. Drummer Buddy Rich was a regular.

Duke Ellington performed here for one night on February 12, 1971.

Brandi’s Wharf hosted jazz greats of the era, including Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Getz, Della Reese, Lionel Hampton, Erroll Garner, George Shearing, Morgana King, the Kingston Trio, and Carmen McRae.

Brandi’s Wharf closed in the late ‘70s.

Red Hill Inn

The Red Hill Inn was located in Pennsauken, New Jersey.

The jazz spot played host to jazz luminaries, including Nina Simone, Anita O’Day, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Morgan, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Billie Holiday and Sonny Rollins.

Mel Tormé recorded a live album at the Red Hill Inn on March 24-25, 1962.

Joe Pitts’ Musical Bar

Joe Pitts’ Musical Bar was located in his “hostelry,” the Pitts Hotel. Joe Pitts’ and Watts’ Zanzibar were mentioned in the August 24, 1946 issue of Billboard.

From Jazz.com:

Ray Bryant and [Benny] Golson played regularly in late 1946 with bassist Gordon “Bass” Ashford. They performed one night a week at Joe Pitt’s Musical Bar, and weekends at the Caravan Republican Club, for as long as six months at a stretch.

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Sciolla’s Supper Club

Gaetano “Pop” Sciolla opened Sciolla’s Supper Club shortly after the end of Prohibition. Along with the Latin Casino and Palumbo’s, the Northeast nightspot was one of the “Big Three” nightclubs in Philadelphia.

Sciolla’s booked top acts, including Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Tony Bennett, Chubby Checker, Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, Bobby Rydell, Della Reese, Jackie Wilson, The Mills Brothers and The Platters.

Sciolla’s was later managed by Pop’s son, Anthony J. Sciolla.

Sciolla’s was the place “where the unknowns got their start.” One such unknown was Teddy Pendergrass whose mother, Ida, was a cleaning woman at the club. In interviews, Pendergrass said he taught himself how to play drums at Sciolla’s.

Sciolla’s closed in the 1970s.