The Explosion of Philadelphia Jazz Clubs

Philadelphia’s Black Musicians’ Union, Local 274 PART III/IV

Philly Jazz: An Overview to the Founding of Musicians’ Protective Union Local 274: A four part series 

Black musicians in Philadelphia performed jazz to audiences in clubs, theaters, restaurants, cafes, inns, ballrooms, hotels, halls and other establishments.Their performances ranged from masquerade balls to the celebrations such as that of the Emancipation Proclamation Day. A survey of the local Black newspapers in Philadelphia in 1934 gives some indication of Black musical activities at the time. Forty-one Black musical units and fifty-five “live” music venues were identified through newspaper advertisements that year. The smallest musical units identified were The Apache Duo and the Three Dukes of Rhythm (with “Fish Tail” at the piano). The largest musical groups identified were orchestras such as Doc Hyder’s Orchestra with His Twelve Famous Southernaires and Clarence McCrary’s Orchestra with His Eleven Missourians. There were other orchestras advertised with an undetermined number of pieces such as Johnny Bowden’s Orchestra, Charlie Gaines and His CBS Orchestra and others. Big bands continued to be popular during the 1930’s. The units identified included Willie Bryant and His Band featuring Mabel Scott, Bert Hall and His Jungle Band and others.  

Black musicians were hired in “live” music venues that were dispersed throughout the city. For example, there was Club Hy-De-Ho known as “Germantown Harlem” located at Alfred and Penn Streets, The Sharpnack Inn at 75 E. Sharpnack Street and The Yah-Man Cafe, Banyton and Rittenhouse in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. In South Philadelphia, there were a number of places such as the Mickey Mouse, N.W. Corner of 18th and Federal Streets, New Lincoln Inn, 18th and Carpenter Streets, and O.V. Catto Elks Home, 16th and Fitzwater Streets. North Philadelphia also contained its share of venues with Dixon’s Wonder Bar, 19th and Montgomery, Dreamland Cafe, Ridge and Jefferson Streets and Uptown Little Harlem, 22nd and Columbia. In West Philadelphia, there was the Alden Grille, 5714 Girard Avenue, The Wonder Bar Cafe, 5329 Market Street and LaRue Roof Garden, 5946 Vine Street. There were also a number of establishments in Center City such as the Postal Card, 1504 South Street, the Show Boat, 327 N. 9th Street and Lincoln Theater, Broad and Lombard Streets.There were still places that did not hire Black musicians in Philadelphia. In surveying The Evening Bulletin for 1934, none of the Black musical units nor the venues where they played were advertised. The advertisements that were listed in the newspaper included white musicians and several Black renowned musicians, who appeared in the city. For example, Luis Russell and His Orchestra with Tiny Bradshaw performed at the Cotton Club, 703 S. Broad Street on February 6, 1934. On May 25, l934, Cab Calloway and His Cotton Club Orchestra was advertised in performance at the Earle, 11th and Market Streets. Most of the ads listed white musical units. For example, Larry Funk and His New York Orchestra performed at the Wagner, 1750 N. Broad Street on May l2, 1934. The Meyer Davis Orchestra played at the opening of The Roof Garden, Bellevue Stratford on June 4, l934. The Ludy String Ensemble appeared at Green Hotel, 8th and Chestnut Streets on June l9, 1934. On November l0, l934, Leo Zollo and His 12-Piece Dance Orchestra were listed at The Benjamin Franklin. Jack Hart’s Orchestra performed at the French Grotto, l309 Walnut Street on November 28, l934.

Read Part IV or go back to Part I & Part II

Dr. Diane D. Turner is Curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries. Dr. Turner holds three Temple University degrees.  Her areas of specialization and research include African American Labor, Cultural and Social History, Philadelphia Jazz History, Independent Black Filmmakers, Oral History and Public History.  Her dissertation is entitled Organizing and Improvising: A History of Philadelphia’s Black Musicians’ Protective Union Local 274, American Federation of Musician.  She has taught African-American history at the university level including Brown University, Northeastern University, Rowan University, University of South Florida (Tampa, FL) and other institutions.  She has authored My Name is Oney Judge (2010), Feeding the Soul: Black Music, Black Thought (2011) and Our Grand Pop is a Montford Point Marine (2018), co-authored with her father, Corporal Thomas S. Turner Sr.  Her writings appear in anthologies and scholarly journals.  She serves as a consultant on a number of advisory boards and committees such as Bethel Burial Ground Historic Site Memorial Committee, Third World Press Foundation, Scribe Video’s Precious Places and others.  She is president of the Montford Point Marines Association, Philadelphia Chapter #1 Auxiliary.  Her current book projects document Philadelphia jazz history.

A footnoted version is available here

This is part three of a four part series.

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