Located on the corner of 16th and South streets, Budweiser was popular throughout Philadelphia. According to saxophonist Sam Reed, Billie Holiday performed here.
Saxophonist Benny Carter played here with Jimmy Tisdale and his orchestra.
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.
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 was a popular South Philly cabaret theater.
Jazz musicians were showcased weekly.
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.
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.
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.
March is Women in Jazz Month. Let’s get the celebration started at Philadelphia’s Memphis Club which opened in December 1934.
Gender-bender blues singer and pianist Gladys Bentley opened the fall season. This photo is on view at the National Museum of African American History and Culture “Musical Crossroads” exhibition.
The drag king pioneer was featured in The New York Times series, “Overlooked”:
When it comes to loosening social mores, progress that isn’t made in private has often taken place onstage.
That was certainly the case at the Clam House, a Prohibition-era speakeasy in Harlem, where Gladys Bentley, one of the boldest performers of her era, held court.
In her top hat and tuxedo, Bentley belted gender-bending original blues numbers and lewd parodies of popular songs, eventually becoming Harlem royalty. When not accompanying herself with a dazzling piano, the mightily built singer often swept through the audience, flirting with women in the crowd and soliciting dirty lyrics from them as she sang.
By the early 1930s, Bentley was Harlem’s most famous lesbian figure — a significant distinction, given that gay, lesbian and gender-defying writers and performers were flourishing during the Harlem Renaissance. For a time, she was among the best-known black entertainers in the United States.
Bentley sang her bawdy, bossy songs in a thunderous voice, dipping down into a froglike growl or curling upward into a wail. In his 1940 autobiography, Langston Hughes called her “an amazing exhibition of musical energy — a large, dark, masculine lady, whose feet pounded the floor while her fingers pounded the keyboard — a perfect piece of African sculpture, animated by her own rhythm.”
Under the proprietorship of Stan Cooper, this West Philly jazz spot was popular in the 1940s and ‘50s.
Club Harlem played host to jazz and blues greats such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Hodges, Ella Fitzgerald, Lucky Millender, John Coltrane, Dinah Washington, Bull Moose Jackson, Erskine Hawkins and Nat King Cole. On May 30, 1952, KYW broadcast a live concert by the Stan Kenton Orchestra.
Club Harlem closed in 1952 following a dispute with Union Local 274, the black musicians union.
Sixty miles north, Atlantic City’s Club Harlem was located at “KY and the Curb,” the block of Kentucky Avenue from Arctic to Atlantic avenues.
The legendary nightclub was jumping from 1935 to 1975.
On August 9, 1969, organist Lonnie Smith recorded a live album at Club Harlem.
Club Harlem is featured in the Atlantic City Experience, a multi-media exhibit which opened earlier this year in Boardwalk Hall. The exhibit includes a photo of The Apex Hair Co. Inc. founded by Sara Spencer Washington in 1920.
The former location of the Apex Beauty College is a stop on the Green Book Philadelphia Walking Tour: Lombard Street Edition.
The walking tour is scheduled for Saturday, May 16, 2020, 10:00am to 12:00pm. To receive notice when tickets are available, send email to: email@example.com.
The Cinderella Café or Inn was located at 16th and Lombard streets.
In response to efforts to delist the property as a contributing resource to the Rittenhouse-Fitler Historic District, archivist J.M. Duffin documented the historical significance of the building:
The Cinderella Inn or Café appears at 1601–02 Lombard Street in the early 1920s. African American band leader Bobby Lee and Ethel Duncan were the managers of the club. Lee started playing the piano in movie theaters in Richmond, Virginia at the age of 13. Around 1914 he formed his own band which by the early 1920s became known as the Cotton Pickers. The club he formed on Lombard Street was a very popular place in its time. It is mentioned in a number of African American newspapers across the country and served a racially mixed clientele. Lee hired an African American interior decorator from New York, Harold Curtis Brown, to decorate the club with orange and black silhouettes. Lee’s band had a regular Philadelphia radio broadcast at the time he was operating the club which no doubt contributed to its broader notoriety. His popularity and skill was so great that when he was asked to go to New York to be a regular at the Cotton Club he refused and Duke Ellington got the job instead. As late as 1937, there were still references to the Cinderella Inn in national publications.
The property is associated with Sarah Spencer Washington, founder of the Apex College of Beauty Culture.
The building is a stop on All That Philly Jazz Cultural Heritage Walking Tour: Lombard Street Edition. To be added to the mailing list for 2020 tour schedule, send email to: greenbookphl@gmail.
In September, I will lead a walking tour of Green Book sites in Philadelphia. The stops include the Douglass Hotel which offered transportation to Atlantic City, or more accurately, to Chicken Bone Beach.
After complaints from white bathers, African Americans were restricted to a stretch of the Atlantic City beach near Convention Hall. The segregated area became known as Chicken Bone Beach.
This two-part audio doc provides an overview of Chicken Bone Beach and the entertainment district that became a magnet for black vacationers, day-trippers and luminaries such as Martin Luther King Jr., Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sammy Davis Jr.
For more info, visit Chicken Bone Beach.
Gert’s Cocktail Lounge was located in the 1400 block of South Street.
The house band featured:
Shirley Scott: organ
Johnny Williams: drums
Jesse Morrison: sax
Bob Gibson “The Boxer”: sax
In 1980, Rich Brotman and H. Scott Bayer filmed a Monday Night Jam Session.
For more information, contact Rich Brotman.
Located on the southeast corner of Broad and Bainbridge, Club Alabam opened in 1925 in the midst of the Jazz Age.
Like the famed Harlem nightspots after which it was fashioned, Club Alabam was racially segregated. Black performers played for white audiences; black patrons were barred.
The club was in business during Prohibition. Also like the Harlem gangsters who owned nightclubs, the owners had repeated brushes with Philadelphia police for liquor law violations.
Club Alabam closed in 1928.