Wally's Cafe located in the South End of Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest continually operating jazz club in the United States. It has been home to talent from the greater Boston area, including many coming from the nearby Berklee College of Music.
Wally's was founded by Joseph L. Walcott who was a Barbadian who immigrated to America in 1910. After reaching Ellis Island, Mr. Walcott, better known as "Wally," joined his brother, who had migrated a few years earlier, in Boston. Wally held many jobs, and with his savings he opened Wally's Paradise at 428 Massachusetts Avenue in 1947. Wally was the first African American to own a nightclub in New England; he brought new acts to town and the nightclub became an attraction for jazz aficionados who rushed to see the famous bands of the day.
The Sixties arrived, and the Big Band era was diminishing. Wally maintained his commitment to jazz by featuring young musicians who were attending prominent academic institutions such as Berklee College of Music, the Boston Conservatory, and the New England Conservatory of Music. Mr. Walcott hired these young music students and mixed them with seasoned professionals who were veterans of the Big Band era. This mix of talent was special, and the format enabled Mr. Walcott to continue to serve the jazz loving audiences of New England.
In 1979, Wally closed its original location at 428 Massachusetts Avenue and moved across the street to 427 Massachusetts Avenue, the present location of the nightclub. Wally's Café now features live music 365 days a year. Many of the musicians are professionals, but Wally's still maintains its tradition of providing students with a stage to perfect their craft.
After Wally's death in 1998 at age 101, his three children took over the bar, and today Wally's is a family club managed by Walcott's daughter, Elynor, and his three grandsons, Paul, Frank, and Lloyd Poindexter.
Joseph L. Walcott (Wally) adopted Elynor as a child, whom at birth was named Elynor Penn. Elynor's birth mother Laurice Penn, Wally's actual daughter is Joseph L. Walcott's only child. Laurice aka "Penny" gave birth to eight children of which Elynor is the oldest. Penny worked at Wally's cafe when it originally began at 428 Massachusetts Avenue for many years and died in the 1960's. Joseph L. Walcott had several grand children who worked at Wally's Paradise in the 70's until the late 90's: Darrell Penn, Sharon Penn, Doreen Penn, Michael Penn, Sandra Penn and Laurence Penn. Kathleen Penn the second to the oldest child raised her sisters and brothers after Laurice's death. Each of Elynor's siblings supported the family business in a variety of ways for many years. These family members listed are the actual birth grand children of Joseph Lloyd Walcott. Wally's Cafe was in jeopardy of closing according to the Boston Globe's article after Wally's death due to the inheritance dispute between Madeline Walcott (Wally's wife until the day he passed) and Elynor Walcott. This situation adversely affected the entire family. Columns written by Adrian Walker from the Boston Globe and other local newspapers followed the ongoings of the probate battle but never wrote an article concerning the settlement or the resolve between the siblings which the news reporters instigated. However in spite of all that happened they are a very close family in full support of Wally's Cafe.
Moreover, the award winning, legendary, and oldest Jazz Club in the United States, maintained and held by one family, is still thriving under the management of Elynor and her three sons whom from blood lineage are his actual great grand children. Four generations going strong maintaining Wally's Cafe.
- Adrian Walker, "Riff may sign Club's last note," The Boston Globe, Thursday, January 21, 1999
- Thomas, Jack, "Ghosts of yesterday: Memories of Boston's jazz heyday live on at Wally's Cafe", The Boston Globe, August 8, 2005
- Wally's Cafe website
- Sunday Jam with Jason Palmer at Wally's Cafe - All About Jazz