Black Hawk (nightclub)

Coordinates: 37°46′58″N 122°24′55″W / 37.7828°N 122.4154°W / 37.7828; -122.4154
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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; -122.4154
  • 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]

A "cage" area separated by woven wire fencing was provided for patrons under 21 years old who could not legally consume alcohol. 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 Gordon "Dutch" Nieman's[11][12][13][14] Say When Club at 952 Bush Street,[15][16][17] near Powell, he could be found instead jamming at the Black 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.[18]

Oakland-based guitarist and guitar builder Nick Esposito, known for his 1940's recordings with Barney Bigard including "Empty Ballroom Blues", "Penny", and "Back Fat Boogie," appeared many times at the Black Hawk during the 1950s.

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. ^ "Bill Mays: Mays' Days".
  3. ^ "Music: The Cool, Cool Bards". Time. December 2, 1957. ISSN 0040-781X. Archived from the original on November 21, 2007.
  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. ^ Duncan, Stephen Riley (2014). The Rebel Cafe: America's Nightclub Underground and the Public Sphere, 1934-1963 (PDF). Retrieved 21 February 2021. From 1934 through 1963, New York and San Francisco nightspots were community institutions and public forums for radical cultural producers, intellectuals, and political dissidents. This dissertation explores bars, nightclubs, and coffeehouses in bohemian Greenwich Village and North Beach as nodal points in alternative social networks connecting patrons and performers marginalized by their Left politics, race, gender, or sexual orientation.............The previous year, Parker had debuted in San Francisco, at the Say When Club—an appearance memorable for both its musicality and social stridency. Drawing large crowds who came to marvel at his virtuosity, Parker was fired for spontaneously announcing onstage that the club would match audience contributions to a local charity drive. Cornered into matching a thousand dollars in donations, the club's notoriously tough owner, Gordon "Dutch" Nieman, was not amused.
  12. ^ "February 27, 1953". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California: p. 19. Retrieved 21 February 2021. Dutch Nieman's Say When Club is packed these nights, which it should be, with Billie Holiday and Leomine Gray on the bill
  13. ^ "Connie Jordan will be Friday's college hour rally". The Guardsman. San Francisco: City College of San Francisco. 1950. Retrieved 21 February 2021. Among other engagements, he has been appearing nightly at San Francisco's Say When Club, where he has performed for over a year.
  14. ^ "October 31, 1952". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California: October 31, 1952. p. 14. Retrieved 21 February 2021. & "Dutch" Nieman has scored again with an excellent Say When Club show. Harry The Hipster's back with his screwbally piano antics, Teddy Bunn and his...
  15. ^ Silva, Elizabeth Pepin (22 November 2017). "Earl Watkins". Harlem of the West. Retrieved 21 February 2021. The Say When club, it was a mixed house. You had Harry the Hipster there, you had Slim Gailliard to appear there, Charlie Parker, Billie Holliday. Connie Jordan and the Five Knights of Rhythm, that's the group I played with.
  16. ^ Santoro, Gene (2001). Myself when I Am Real: The Life and Music of Charles Mingus. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514711-7. Retrieved 21 February 2021. She was engaged to a young bebop trumpeter, Jon Nielsen. But when the slender five-foot, four-inch redhead caught an afternoon jam session at the Say When club on Bush Street, she felt drawn to the handsome twenty-seven-year-old bassist with the mobile, tortured face. He was strutting his unusual stuff, and she was intrigued.
  17. ^ "February 23, 1954". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California: February 23, 1954. p. 18. Retrieved 21 February 2021. Taverns cited by McClure as places needing investigation and action by the board include the following: The Say When Club at 952 Bush Street, the Sarong....
  18. ^ Michaels, Leonard (1995). West of the West: Imagining California. University of California Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-520-20164-7.

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