Category Archives: Jazz Venues

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 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.

Coronet Club

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

Coronet Club - Feature

Ada Brown performed here 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. Truth be told, it was wishful thinking. The talented trumpeter was in the throes of a heroin addiction.

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).