Category Archives: Jazz Venues

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.

Coronet Club

Opened circa 1944, the Coronet Club was located on South Broad and Cypress streets.

Coronet Club - Feature

Ada Brown performed there on August 30, 1945. The blues singer appeared in “Stormy Weather” accompanied by Fats Waller.

On August 16, 1946, Ella Fitzgerald opened a two-week engagement opposite Tiny Bradshaw and his Orchestra.

Coronet Club

The Postal Card

Organist Austin Mitchell, Jr., was a featured attraction at the Postal Card. The two-story jazz spot was first listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book in 1947.

Postal Card - Austin Mitchell

WRTI Jazz Host Bob Perkins shared that “Michel [sic] and his Hammond organ was his calling card.”

Trumpeter Lee Morgan performed at the Postal Card in December 1961. According to a story published in the Philadelphia Tribune on January 6, 1962, Morgan didn’t finish his gig:

Here’s why Lee Morgan, the jazz trumpeter, cancelled out his week’s engagement at that South Philly club before it was over. He’s Army bound.

The Tribune later reported that Morgan was not drafted.

New Foxhole Café

While an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, Jon Hinck co-founded the New Foxhole Café in West Philly. Now a lawyer, environmentalist, and former member of the Maine House of Representatives, Hinck recounts:

The space in the basement of the parish hall of St. Mary’s Church hosted two jazz clubs. The one opened by Geno Barnhart [Geno’s Empty Foxhole] perhaps as described above. It closed by the end of 1972. In 1974 a club called the New Foxhole Café opened in the same space started up by a collective including Larry Abrams and myself, Andy Charnas, Rene Charnas, Jules Epstein, Michael Shivers and others.

New Foxhole Cafe, exterior view

Sam Rivers, Sun Ra, Hank Mobley, Philly Joe Jones, Rufus Harley, Dave Liebman, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Pharaoh Sanders and Anthony Braxton all played there.

Foxhole concerts were broadcast over Penn’s radio station, WXPN-FM. Sun Ra & His Arkestra’s “The Antique Blacks” was recorded in the radio station’s studio on August 17, 1974 (the album was not released until 1978).

Grendel’s Lair

Grendel’s Lair was a popular South Philly cabaret theater.

grendels-lair-cropped

Jazz musicians were showcased weekly.

Grendel’s Lair - Dizzy Gillespie

Regina DeAngelo shared her story:

It was around 1987. I was 22. I brought my mom with me to see Dizzy Gillespie at Grendel’s Lair. As Dizzy warmed up on stage, he looked out at the audience. “A lot of young people,” he said. “I don’t see any old people like me.” My mom lifted her bourbon into the air and shouted “I’m old!”

After the show, we waited at 4th and South for my father to come and pick us up. He must have been late because we were still waiting when Dizzy and the band came out. They crossed the street to a busted old white station wagon. They opened the doors, sat sideways facing the street, and had some fun blowing off bottle rockets.

Regina is a technical writer with Keeley DeAngelo LLP.

Cosmopolitan Café

The Cosmopolitan Café opened in 1934 under the ownership of Boykin G. Collier. It was located in the Ridge Avenue jazz corridor. The building is still there.

Cosmopolitan Cafe Collage

On February 19, 1955, Dakota Staton, the Five Keys and the Valentines played a one-night stand. The Five Keys was one of the first black acts to appear on Dick Clark’s  “Bandstand” which was originally taped in West Philly.