Black Hawk (nightclub)

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Black Hawk
Location200 Hyde Street
San Francisco, California, United States
Coordinates37°46′58″N 122°24′55″W / 37.7828°N 122.4154°W / 37.7828; -122.4154Coordinates: 37°46′58″N 122°24′55″W / 37.7828°N 122.4154°W / 37.7828; -122.4154
  • Guido Caccienti
  • Johnny and Helen Noga
Genre(s)Jazz, Bebop

The Black Hawk was a San Francisco nightclub that featured live jazz performances during its period of operation from 1949 to 1963. It was located on the corner of Turk Street and Hyde Street in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Guido Caccienti owned the club along with Johnny and Helen Noga.


The Black Hawk's intimate atmosphere was ideal for small jazz groups and the club was a very popular hangout. In 1959, the fees that the club was able to pay jazz acts rose from less than $300 to more than $3,000 a week.[1]

An area was provided for children behind chicken wire, who drank Cokes. This exception to the liquor laws was set up by an agreement between Black Hawk owner Guidio Caccienti and Mayor George Christopher, and made it possible for children to experience jazz.[2]

A number of musicians recorded albums at the club, including Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, Thelonious Monk, Shelly Manne and Mongo Santamaría.

Notable musicians who appeared there include the Dave Brubeck Quartet,[3] John Coltrane,[4] Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Vince Guaraldi, Stan Getz,[5] Mary Stallings, Johnny Mathis,[6] Art Blakey, Shorty Rogers, Art Pepper, Art Farmer, Gerry Mulligan,[7] Horace Parlan and Russ Freeman. Art Tatum mainly did concert work in the last 18 months of his life; he played the Black Hawk in 1955.[8]

Sunday afternoon sessions at the Black Hawk offered blowing time to young musicians. After a young sextet working at the Black Hawk brought Johnny Mathis in for a Sunday afternoon session, Helen Noga, co-owner of the club, decided that she wanted to manage his career. In early September 1955, Mathis gained a job singing at weekends for Ann Dee's 440 Club. After repeated attempts, Noga convinced George Avakian, then head of Popular Music A&R at Columbia, to see him. Avakian came to the club, heard Mathis sing and sent the now famous telegram to his record company: "Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way."[9]

Billie Holiday and Lester Young played their last West Coast club dates here and the Modern Jazz Quartet played its first.[10] When Charlie Parker was supposed to be opening across town at the Say When Club, he could be found instead jamming at the Hawk. For several months each year, Brubeck, who got his real start at the Black Hawk, returned for extended series of appearances with his quartet, playing for consecutive weekends, sometimes for three months at a time.[11]

Nick Esposito and his Sextet appeared many times at the Black Hawk during the 1950s. Esposito was known for his guitar jazz stylings. He had hit records such as "Empty Ballroom Blues", "Penny", "Fat Cat Boogie" and others. He always enjoyed coming home to San Francisco where he resided and the Black Hawk Nightclub.

The Blackhawk was closed in 1963. After housing a number of clubs including the "Top Drawer," the building was finally demolished, and is now a parking lot. Still standing adjacent to the site, however, is the "222 Club" (also known as "The Three Deuces"), a former green room to the Blackhawk where equipment was stored for live recordings. For his 1962 performance, Cal Tjader wrote a tune entitled "222 Time" as a nod to the Blackhawk's longtime neighbor.

Selected discography[edit]

Year Title Artist Genre Label Recorded
1956 Jazz at the Black Hawk Dave Brubeck Jazz Fantasy 1956
1957 Jazz at the Blackhawk Cal Tjader Jazz Fantasy January 20, 1957
1958 Cal Tjader's Latin Concert Cal Tjader Jazz Fantasy September 1958
1958 A Night at the Blackhawk (Live) Cal Tjader Jazz Fantasy December 1958
1959 At the Black Hawk 1 Shelly Manne Jazz Contemporary September 22-24 1959
1959 At the Black Hawk 2 Shelly Manne Jazz Contemporary September 22-24, 1959
1959 At the Black Hawk 3 Shelly Manne Jazz Contemporary September 22-24, 1959
1959 At the Black Hawk 4 Shelly Manne Jazz Contemporary September 22-24, 1959
1959 At the Black Hawk 5 Shelly Manne Jazz Contemporary September 23 & 24, 1959
1960 Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two at the Blackhawk Thelonious Monk Jazz Riverside April 1960
1960 Live and Direct Cal Tjader Jazz Fantasy September 1960
1961 In Person Friday Night At The Blackhawk, Complete, Volume I Miles Davis Jazz Columbia April 21, 1961
1961 In Person Saturday Night At The Blackhawk, Complete, Volume II Miles Davis Jazz Columbia April 22, 1961
1962 ¡Viva Mongo! Mongo Santamaría Latin Jazz Fantasy 1962
1962 Mighty Mongo Mongo Santamaría Latin Jazz Fantasy 1962
1962 Ahmad Jamal at the Blackhawk Ahmad Jamal Jazz Argo 1962
1962 Saturday Night/Sunday Night at the Blackhawk Cal Tjader Jazz Verve January 27-28, 1962

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nightclubs: Success in a Sewer". Time. August 3, 1959. ISSN 0040-781X.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Music: The Cool, Cool Bards". Time. December 2, 1957. ISSN 0040-781X.
  4. ^ Chambers, Jack (1998). Milestones: The Music And Times Of Miles Davis. Da Capo Press. p. 312. ISBN 0-306-80849-8.
  5. ^ Black Hawk: Stan Getz Archived October 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Ewen, David (1977). All the Years of American Popular Music. Prentice Hall. p. 536. ISBN 0-13-022442-1.
  7. ^ Elwood, Philip (January 26, 1996). "Music Lost Two Friends Last Week". San Francisco Chronicle.
  8. ^ Chilton, John (1985). Who's who of Jazz: Storyville to Swing Street. Da Capo Press. p. 325. ISBN 0-306-80243-0.
  9. ^ Johnny Mathis biography Archived November 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Selvin, Joel (1996). San Francisco, the Musical History Tour: A Guide to Over 200 of the Bay Area. Chronicle Books. p. 76. ISBN 0-8118-1007-0.
  11. ^ Michaels, Leonard (1995). West of the West: Imagining California. University of California Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-520-20164-7.

External links[edit]