055-image4_revue2g.jpg (18763 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Harlem and the Heights

The Cotton Club


Harlem Shadows -- 644 Malcolm X Boulevard, corner of W. 142nd Street, 1918-1946


The original Cotton Club, was at 644 Lenox Avenue, in New York (at West 142nd Street and Lenox Ave.). Former heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson first opened the club in 1920 as the Club Deluxe. Then, Owney Madden took it over, and in 1922 changed it's name to the Cotton Club. The club's manager in the early 1920s was Don Healy, and the stage manager was Herman Stark. the club had an "all-White" policy, - only the performers were Black. In the Fall of '23, the club opened with a high stepping line of the most beautiful "sepia skinned" chorines. The shows had the best choreography, and soon everyone was coming up to Harlem. Here's the Front Cover of the Cotton Club Menu. Oh, -Here... let me light your cigar with a match from this little Box of Matches, here on the table. During it's years of operation, the Cotton Club spawned a generation of top flight talent. In 1927, Duke Ellington's orchestra was hired, and was replaced a few years later by Cab Calloway's band. It was at the Cotton Club that a young 16 year old Lena Horne began singing. Duke Ellington discovered that one of the showgirl dancers, Adelaide Hall, had a beautiful singing voice. Her first fame came when she sang the Obbligato on Ellington's recording of "Creole Love Song" (composed by the Duke's trombonist, Juan Tizol). The club even had the finest composers writing music for the shows, such as composer Jimmy McHugh, and Lyricist Dorothy Fields 

After the 1935 race riots in Harlem, the area was considered unsafe for Whites (who formed the segregated Cotton Club's clientele and the club was forced to close (February 16, 1936). It reopened in September 1936, downtown on West 48th Street, in premises that had formerly housed the Palais Royal, and Connie's Inn (1933-'36); the Cotton Club continued to operate at this location until June 1940.

Just up the street from the Savoy Ballroom, this was the most famous of the NYC nightclubs in the 1920's and 30's. Renowned for the stars who started and continued their illustrious jazz careers here, the Cotton Club's black singers and dancers entertained white patrons from downtown while management banned blacks in the audience. After years of importing entertainment from Chicago, Duke Ellington was lured from the Kentucky Club on Times Square to become the leader of the house band on December 4, 1927. Billed as "The Aristocrat of Harlem," the club's radio broadcasts were heard live nationwide from in the 1930's, featuring such performers as Billy Holiday, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald. With the demise of prohibition, the club, originally started as a speakeasy, lost some of its appeal as a "den of iniquity" and closed on February 16, 1936, following the exodus of other clubs to downtown locations. In its new location at Broadway and 48th Street, it continued to present its glamourous reviews but at higher prices. It closed for good on June 10, 1940. The original site of the Cotton Club was demolished in 1958 along with the Savoy Ballroom for the construction of Bethune Towers/Delano Village; however, its legacy lives on at a new site under the same name at 666 West 125th Street.

Harlem Shadows: Jazz Clubs
The following list give the addresses of other jazz clubs that are no longer found in Harlem, their fate and/or their most famous featured band or star:
a. Congo Room of the Capitol, West 115th & Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1940
b. Bamville Club, 65 West 125th Street, c. 1920-1930 - Coleman Hawkins
c. The Plantation, West 126th near Malcolm X Blvd., c. 1930 - rivaled Cotton Club; Cab Calloway
d. Club Cabaret, 416 Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1923-25
e. Club Baron, 437 Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1940-46
f. Goldgraben's, I.G. Café, 439 Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1919-30; In 1964, was renamed Baron's Lounge - favorite hangout for musicians after work at other clubs
g. Elk's Rendezvous, 464 Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1930-45 - held social club dances
h. Club Harlem, West 130th & Malcolm X Blvd., c. 1927-29; In 1964 was renamed Harlem Grill
i. Gee-Haw Stables, West 132nd Street between 7th & Malcolm X Blvd., c. 1940-45; In1964, was a Gulf Gas Station - had a horse's head over the entrance, an after-after-hours club
j. Lincoln Theatre, 58 West 135th Street, c. 1909-1964 - installed a $10,000 Wurlitzer organ for Fats Waller; now a church (1964 data)
k. The Elk's Café, Malcolm X Blvd. between West 137th and West 138th Streets, c. 1917-20
l. Capitol Palace, 575 Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1922-50 - now a playground
m. Brittwood Bar & Grill, 594 Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1932-42 - Willie Gant's Musical Maniacs;
n. Golden Gate Ballroom, Malcolm X Boulevard & West 142nd Street, c. 1939-50 - luxurious ballroom
o. Rhone's Orchestra Club, 625 Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1920-35 later Lenox Club, a.k.a. "The Breakfast Club," 652 Malcolm X Boulevard, c. 1935-45 - Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, 3 shows nightly with an 8-girl line; demolished 1958 for Bethune Towers/Delano Village.


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