Thursday, October 18, 2007

Orange - Club Alabam

"History of jazz followed the history of a people, black oppression, race, movement of the race across the Earth, across this country. Ended up here in South Central. Count Basie and the Duke playing on Central Avenue."

Here is where Buzzworm is talking about the importance of jazz in his life. The narrator goes to mention that "once he had you listening to the jazz station, then he'd be talkin to you about personalities, syncopation, improvisation, blues... pretty soon you'd find you getting yourself an education." (pg 103).

Here is some history on the jazz club called the Alabam:

(coutesy of

Situated on "The Block" in the heart of Central Avenue, the Club Alabam served as a central site for the "West Coast Renaissance of Jazz" in Los Angeles. Previously called the Apex Club, the club opened in the Fall of 1928 and was owned by the drummer Curtis Mosby. "Mosby's Blueblowers" provided the house big band that performed for top entertainers like Duke Ellington. Mosby's brother Evan, another Central Avenue fixture, became known as the "unofficial mayor" of Central Avenue (Otis 43). While the Club Alabam faced Central Ave. competition from other "blues incubators" like the Last Word, the Down Beat, Shepp's Playhouse, Watt's Joe Morris's Plantation and the Barrelhouse, locals considered the Club Alabam the classiest establishment on Central Avenue, complete with valet parking and a house chorus-line (Cox 257, Anderson 33-4, 38, Reed 423). The Club Alabam served mainly the black upper-middle class, but it became a popular spot among the black working class as well. Alex Lovejoy owned the "Breakfast Club," the club's second floor room, which served fried chicken, hot biscuits, and drinks from an open bar (Reed 29).

Using his contacts in New York, Chicago, and Hollywood, Mosby promoted and imported musicians for Apex Club shows from all parts of the country. The Apex Club featured singer/dancer showgirls such as the Creole Cuties who performed at both the Apex Club and the Lincoln Theatre, a popular venue during the 1920s where blacks enjoyed movies, late night minstrels, live dancing, comedy, and musical shows. The Lincoln Theater provided the only large venue for entertainment in the black community until the Apex Club opened its doors in 1928.

The Club Alabam catered to the stars of the jazz music world. Celebrities like the two former black heavyweight boxing champions, Jack Johnson and Joe Louis, frequented the Club Alabam and became known as Central Ave. regulars. Joe Louis even used the Club Alabam to train in when he was in Los Angeles. One Central Avenue legend recalls W.C. Fields becoming so inebriated while enjoying a show at the Club Alabam that he unintentionally "integrated" the Dunbar Hotel by falling asleep there (Reed 26, 31). Charlie Parker and Miles Davis once sat in with Johnny Otis's house band at the Club Alabam (Otis 43). Johnny Otis later became the bandleader of the house band at the Club Alabam. Otis, a musician, songwriter, and bandleader, formed a 16 piece group that served as the house band at the Club Alabam during the mid-1940s. Otis' experiences brought him in contact with some of the most important figures in African American life and culture, including Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Art Tatum, and Count Basie. And although the Club Alabam offered nationally renown talent, Otis' performances also provided a constant diversion for both locals and visitors to Central Avenue in the 1940s.

While the end of the war drained money and people away from Central Avenue the Club Alabam continued as a gathering place for blacks. Organizations such as the Recondites Social Club held events at the club and enjoyed singers such as Edythe Carr to the wee hours of the morning.


Anonymous said...

Do you know when Club Alabam closed?

Call Me Mom said...

Thank you for the information. It is helpful.