Cotton Club

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Cotton Club (disambiguation).

The Cotton Club was a New York City night club located first in the Harlem neighborhood on 142nd St & Lenox Ave from 1923 to 1935[1] and then for a brief period from 1936 to 1940 in the midtown Theater District. The club operated most notably during America's Prohibition Era.

The club was a whites-only establishment even though it featured many of the best black entertainers and jazz musicians of the era including - (musicians) Cab Calloway, Andrew Preer, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Fats Waller - (vocalists) Adelaide Hall,[2][3] Lottie Gee, Ethel Waters, Avon Long, Aida Ward, Edith Wilson, the Dandridge Sisters, Avis Andrews, Will Vodery Choir, Berry Brothers, Nina Mae McKinney, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and (dancers) Bill Robinson, The Nicholas Brothers, Stepin Fetchit, Butterbeans and Suzy, Earl Snakehips Tucker and Evelyn Welch.

During its heyday, the Cotton Club served as a hip meeting spot featuring regular "Celebrity Nights" on Sundays, which featured celebrity guests such as Jimmy Durante, George Gershwin, Sophie Tucker, Paul Robeson, Al Jolson, Mae West, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Langston Hughes, Judy Garland, Moss Hart and Mayor Jimmy Walker among others.

History[edit]

In 1920, heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson rented the upper floor of the building on the corner of 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue in the heart of the Harlem district and opened an intimate supper club there called the “Club Deluxe”. Owney Madden, a prominent bootlegger and gangster, took over the club in 1923 while imprisoned in Sing Sing and changed its name to the Cotton Club.[4] " A deal was arranged between the two that allowed Johnson to still be the club’s manager. Madden "used the cotton club as an outlet to sell his #1 beer to the prohibition crowd".[5] While the club was closed briefly in 1925 for selling liquor, it reopened without trouble from the police.[6] A man by the name of Herman Stark became the stage manager from then on.

Cotton Club dancer Mildred Dixon - Duke Ellington's second companion

The Cotton Club was a “Whites-only” venue. The club reproduced the racist imagery of the times, often depicting blacks as savages in exotic jungles or as "darkies" in the plantation South. The club imposed a more subtle color bar on the chorus girls whom the club presented in skimpy outfits: they were expected to be "tall, tan, and terrific," which meant that they had to be at least 5 feet 6 inches tall, light-skinned, and under twenty-one years of age.[7] The skin color of the male dancers was more varied.“Black performers did not mix with the club's clientele, and after the show many of them went next door to the basement of the superintendent at 646 Lenox, where they imbibed corn whiskey, peach brandy, and marijuana.”[8] Ellington was expected to write "jungle music" for an audience of whites. What Ellington contributed to the Cotton Club is priceless and is summed up perfectly in this 1937 New York Times excerpt: "So long may the empirical Duke and his music making roosters reign - and long may the Cotton Club continue to remember that it came down from Harlem".[9] The prices for customers were high so the performers had very high salaries.[10]

The Harlem years[edit]

Cotton Club on 125th Street in New York City, December 2013.

Shows at the Cotton Club were musical revues and several went under the heading of Cotton Club Parade and would have the year they were being presented added to the title. The revues featured dancers, singers, comedians and variety acts, as well as a house band. [11] These revues helped launch the careers of many artists including Fletcher Henderson who led the first house band to play there in 1923. It also helped push Duke Ellington's career, whose orchestra was the house band there from December 4, 1927 to June 30, 1931. In 1927, the first revue that Duke Ellington took over as house band was called 'Rhythmania' and featured Adelaide Hall, who had just recorded several songs with Ellington including Creole Love Call.[12] Their recording of Creole Love Call became a worldwide hit. The club not only gave Ellington national exposure through radio broadcasts originating there (first through WHN, then over WEAF and after September 1929 through the NBC Red Network - WEAF was the flagship station for that network - on Fridays), but enabled him to develop his repertoire while composing not only the dance tunes for the shows, but also the overtures, transitions, accompaniments, and "jungle" effects that gave him the freedom to experiment with orchestral colours and arrangements that touring bands rarely had. Ellington recorded over 100 compositions during this era. Eventually, in deference to a request by Ellington, the club slightly relaxed its policy of excluding black customers.[13]

Cab Calloway's orchestra brought its Brown Sugar revue to the club in 1930, replacing Ellington's orchestra after its departure in 1931; Jimmie Lunceford's band replaced Calloway's in 1934, while Ellington, Armstrong, and Calloway returned to perform at the club in later years.The club was also the first show business opportunity for Lena Horne, who began there as a chorus girl at the age of sixteen. Dorothy Dandridge performed there while still one of The Dandridge Sisters, while Coleman Hawkins and Don Redman played there as part of Henderson's band. Tap dancers Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr. (as part of the Will Mastin Trio), and the Nicholas Brothers starred there as well.

The club also drew from white popular culture of the day. Walter Brooks, who had produced the successful Broadway show Shuffle Along, was the nominal owner. Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, one of the most prominent songwriting teams of the era, and Harold Arlen provided the songs for the revues, one of which, Blackbirds of 1928, starring Adelaide Hall featured the songs I Can't Give You Anything But Love and Diga Diga Doo, produced by Lew Leslie on Broadway.

In 1934, Adelaide Hall starred at the Cotton Club in Cotton Club Parade 1934, the biggest grossing show that ever appeared at the club. The show opened on 11 March and ran for eight months, attracting over 600,000 paying customers. The score was written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and featured the classic song Ill Wind. During Hall's performance of Ill Wind, to add authenticity to the production, a dry ice machine was used on stage to create a fog effect. It was the first time such equipment had been used on a stage.[14] Featured on the bill was the 16-year-old Lena Horne.

The Midtown years[edit]

The club was closed temporarily in 1936 after the race riot in Harlem the previous year. Photographer Carl Van Vechten vowed to boycott the club for having such racist policies in place.[15] The Cotton Club reopened later that year at Broadway and 48th.[16] The site chosen for the new Cotton Club was ideal. It was a big room on the top floor of a building on Broadway and Forty-eight Street, where Broadway and Seventh Avenue meet – an important midtown crossroads, and in the heart of the Great White Way, the Broadway Theater District.[17] While Herman Stark and the club's owners were quite certain the club would do well in its new location, they realized that depended on a smash-hit opening show.[18]In fact a 1937 New York Times article writes, "The Cotton Club has climbed aboard the Broadway bandwagon, with a show that is calculated to give the customers their money’s worth of sound and color – and it does".[19] The most lavish revue in the Cotton Club’s thirteen-year history opened on Broadway on September 24, 1936. Robinson and Calloway headed a roster of some 130 other performers.[20] Stark agreed to pay tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson $3,500 a week, the highest salary ever paid to a black entertainer in a Broadway production, and more money than had ever been received by any individual for a night club performance.[21]

It closed for good in 1940, under pressure from higher rents, changing tastes and a federal investigation into tax evasion by Manhattan nightclub owners. The Latin Quarter nightclub opened in its space and the building was torn down in 1989 to make way for a hotel. All in all, the Broadway Cotton Club was a highly successful blend of old and new. The site may have been new, the décor may have been slightly different, but once a patron entered and was comfortably seated, he knew he was in a familiar place.[22]

Jazz writer James Haskins wrote in 1977, "Today, there is a new incarnation of the Cotton Club which sits on the most western end of the 125th Street under the massive Manhattanville viaduct. The windowless block of a building has a less dramatic display out front but seems to be popular with tourists for Sunday jazz brunches."[23]

Other branches[edit]

A Chicago branch of the Cotton Club was run by Ralph Capone and a West Coast branch of the Cotton Club existed in Culver City, California in the late 1920s and early 1930s, featuring performers from the original Cotton Club such as Armstrong, Calloway and Ellington. A newer club has opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There is currently a Cotton Club in Bamako, Mali.

Cotton Club Revues[edit]

The show at the Cotton Club was a musical revue, loosely based upon the “Ziegfeld’s Follies” shows on Broadway and featured singers, dancers and guest stars. There were two performances a night, at midnight and 2:00 am, and two new revues were produced each year. The late show began after the late shows at other venues were over, allowing performers from other shows to see the show. [24] [25]

  • 1923 – Cotton Club Parade

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators. Show produced by Lew Leslie [26] [27]

  • 1923 – Cotton Club Parade (2nd Edition)

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators.

  • 1924 - Cotton Club Parade (3rd Edition)

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators.

  • 1924 – Cotton Club Parade (4th Edition)

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators.

  • 1925 – Cotton Club Parade (5th Edition)

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators.

  • 1925 – Cotton Club Parade (6th Edition)

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators.

  • 1926 - Cotton Club Parade (7th Edition)

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators. Featured act: Johnny Hudgins (comedian)

  • 1926 – Cotton Club Parade The Creole Cocktail (8th Edition)

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators. Featured acts: Lottie Gee, Loncia Williams. Henry and LaPearl, Louie Parker, White and Sherman, Eddie Burke, Ruby Mason and Albertine Pickens. Shoe directed by Henry Creamer. [28]

  • 1927 - Cotton Club Parade (9th Edition)

(House band) Andy Preer's Cotton Club Syncopators.

(House Band) Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra. Songs: Creole Love Call (Written Bubber Miley, Rudy Jackson, Duke Ellington), White Heat, Papa De Dah Dah, The Mooche (Written by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills), Shake That Thing (Written by Charlie Jackson), Oh! Lady Be Good (Written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin), Harlem Holiday, If Dreams Come True, Go Back to Where You Stayed Last Night, Dinah (written by Harry Akst, Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young). Show produced by Dan Healy.

  • 1928 – Cotton Club Parade (11th Edition)

(House band) Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

  • 1928 – Cotton Club Parade (12th Edition)

(House band) Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

  • 1929 – Cotton Club Parade (13th Edition)

(House Band) Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

  • 1929 – Cotton Club Parade (14th Edition)

(House Band) Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

  • 1930 – Cotton Club Parade / Brown Sugar-Sweet but Unrefined

(House band) Cab Calloway and the Missourians (covers for Duke Ellington Orchestra whilst they are on tour). Songs: by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler

  • 1930 – Cotton Club Parade (16th Edition)

(House Band) Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra.

  • 1931 – Cotton Club Parade / Rhythmania

(House band) Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Orchestra. Song: Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea (Written by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler). Show staged by Dan Healy, dancers by Clarence Robinson

  • 1931 - Cotton Club Parade / Black Berries of 1931 - Brown Sugar

(House Band) Duke Ellington Orchestra. Song: Linda (Written by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler). Show staged by Dan Healy, dancers by Clarence Robinson

  • 1932 – Cotton Club Parade (20th Edition)

(House band) Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Orchestra. Song: Minnie the Moocher's Weddin' Day (Written by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler). Show staged by Dan Healy.

  • 1932 - Cotton Club Parade (21st Edition) featuring Lucille Wilson.

Song: I've Got The World On a String (Written by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler)

  • 1933 – Cotton Club Parade (22nd Edition) starring Ethel Waters and George Dewy Washington.

(House band) Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra. Song: Stormy Weather (song) (Written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler). Show staged by Dan Healy, dancers by Elida Webb.

(House band) Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Orchestra. Song: Keep Tempo (Written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler). Show staged by Dan Healy, dancers by Elida Webb.

(House band) Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Orchestra succeeded by Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Songs: Ill Wind, Primitive Prima Donna, As Long As I Live (Written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler). Show staged by Dan Healy.

  • 1934 – Cotton Club Parade (25th Edition)

Song: Like A Bolt From The Blue.

  • 1935 – Cotton Club Parade (26th Edition) featuring Nina Mae McKinney, Miller and Mantan.

(House band) Claude Hopkins and his Orchestra. Song: Truckin’ (Written by Rube Bloom and Ted Koehler).

  • 16 February 1936, the Cotton Club closed its doors in Harlem.
  • September 1936, the Cotton Club reopened at 200 West 48 Street and Broadway.

Song: Alabama Barbecue (Written by Benny Davis and J. Fred Cootes). Dancers staged by Clarence Robinson.

Song: She’s Tall, She’s Tan, She’s Terrific (Written by Benny Davis and J. Fred Cootes).

Song: Where is the Sun? (Written by John Redmond and Lee David). Show staged by Clarence Robinson.

Song: Miss Hallelujah Brown (Written by Benny Davis and J. Fred Cootes). Show produced by Benny Davis and J. Fred Cootes.

Song: Don't Worry 'bout Me (Written by Ted Koehler and Rube Bloom). Show staged by Ted Koehler, dancers staged by Clarence Robinson.

  • 1939 - Cotton Club Parade (sixth edition).

Song: You're A Lucky Guy (Written by Sammy Kahn and Saul Chaplin).

10 June1940, the Cotton Club closed its doors.

In popular culture[edit]

The Cotton Club is a movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola, which offers a playboy history of the club in the context of race relations in the 1930s and the battles between Madden, Dutch Schultz, Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, Lucky Luciano, and Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson. It is discussed in the 2001 Ken Burns PBS documentary, Jazz.

The Cotton Club was briefly depicted in the 1997 movie Hoodlum featuring Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth, and Andy Garcia. The club, frequented by Dutch Schultz (Roth), was the site of a confrontation between Schultz and Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Fishburne).

A fictionalized version of the club, renamed the Cotton Pickers Club, also appears in the James Cagney film Taxi!.

The video for the 1983 song "Joanna" by Kool & the Gang features the eponymous Joanna reminiscing back to her days as a dancer at the Cotton Club.

In an episode of the hit Disney Channel TV show Ant Farm, the main character wakes up as Ella Fitzgerald and she sings in the Cotton Club.

After Midnight is a 2013 Broadway musical revue about the music of Duke Ellington's years at the famed Harlem nightclub.[29]

The Cotton Club was featured in a 2013 episode of White Collar entitled "Empire City".

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Black Past: (retrieved 9 September 2014): http://www.blackpast.org/aah/cotton-club-harlem-1923
  2. ^ Chapter 15, 'Underneath A Harlem Moon ... the Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall' by Iain Cameron Williams, ISBN 0826458939 http://www.amazon.com/Underneath-Harlem-Moon-Paris-Adelaide/dp/B005ZOLV7C
  3. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0KA9AAAAIBAJ&sjid=visMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4392,9375602&dq=adelaide+hall&hl=en
  4. ^ "Dry Padlocks Snapped on Nine Wet Doors; 'Owney' Maddens 'Club' is One of them." New York Times (1923-Current file) Jun 23 1925: 23. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2008). 14 Mar. 2012.
  5. ^ Haskins, James. "The Cotton Club Comes To Broadway.[4] Cotton Club. New York: Random House, 1977, p. 62.
  6. ^ "Dry Padlocks Snapped on Nine Wet Doors; 'Owney' Maddens 'Club' is One of them." New York Times (1923-Current file) Jun 23 1925: 23. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2008). 14 Mar. 2012.
  7. ^ Bruno, "The Cotton Club".
  8. ^ The Harlem Renaissance, Steve Watson
  9. ^ New York Times, 1937.
  10. ^ {pg 76,The Harlem Reader, Duke Ellington}
  11. ^ Black past See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/cotton-club-harlem-1923#sthash.6gbErETg.dpuf
  12. ^ Chapter 8, pages 122 - 124, 'Underneath A Harlem Moon ... the Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall' by Iain Cameron Williams, ISBN 0826458939, http://www.amazon.com/Underneath-Harlem-Moon-Paris-Adelaide/dp/B005ZOLV7C
  13. ^ New York Times, 1974.
  14. ^ Chapter 15, Underneath A Harlem Moon ... the Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall by Iain Cameron Williams, ISBN 0826458939, http://www.amazon.com/Underneath-Harlem-Moon-Paris-Adelaide/dp/B005ZOLV7C
  15. ^ {The Harlem Renaissance, Steve Watson}
  16. ^ Bruno, "The Cotton Club",
  17. ^ Haskins, p. 113.
  18. ^ Haskins, p. 114.
  19. ^ New York Times, 1937.
  20. ^ Haskins, p. 116,
  21. ^ Haskins, p. 127.
  22. ^ Haskins,p. 118.
  23. ^ Haskins, p. 112/
  24. ^ http://www.newsfinder.org/site/more/the_cotton_club/
  25. ^ The Cotton Club Revues: http://jass.com/cotton2.html
  26. ^ http://cw.routledge.com/ref/harlem/cotton.html
  27. ^ http://jass.com/cotton.html
  28. ^ An account of the Cotton Club revue ‘Creole Cocktail’ in rehearsal. November 20, 1926 The Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 10: http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/40138287/
  29. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Jack Viertel-Conceived Cotton Club Parade, Entitled After Midnight, Sets Dates at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson" Playbill.com, June 24, 2013

References[edit]

  • "Cotton Club." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition.318
  • Bruno, Joseph. "The Cotton Club." Ezinearticles. 25 Jan. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2012.
  • The Harlem Reader, Duke Ellington
  • Haskins, James. "The Cotton Club Comes To Broadway," in his The Cotton Club (New York: Random House, 1977, ISBN 0-394-73392-4 pbk.), p. 113-127.
  • The New York Times, "Dry Padlocks Snapped on Nine Wet Doors; 'Owney' Maddens 'Club' is One of them." New York Times (1923-Current file) Jun 23 1925: 23. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2008). 14 Mar. 2012.
  • The New York Times, "Night Club Notes." New York Times (1923-Current file) Mar 20 1937: 22. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2008). 4 Mar. 2012.
  • The New York Times, "Duke Ellington, a Master of Music, Dies at 75." New York Times (1923-Current file) May 25, 1974: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2008). 14 Mar. 2012 .

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°49′08″N 73°56′13″W / 40.819°N 73.937°W / 40.819; -73.937