(n.): A new music venue bringing entertainment back to Chicago nightlife, expected to open Memorial Day weekend 2009.
Joseph Russo, The Shrine’s founder and principal, has a number of legendary nightlife establishments in Chicago, including: The Funky Buddha, Thyme Restaurant, and its upscale lounge component Sinibar. The Shrine’s Myspace page promises: “A fusion of a sensuous nightclub, state-of-the-art live performance space, and high-end lounge, …a next generation nightlife venue.”
I am ready to stop fantasizing about 63rd street back in the day….
“Chicago In Song: Street Signs”
by Robert Pruter (as published in the Beachwood Reporter)
“Chicago city limits, that’s what the street sign on the highway read
I’m going to keep moving, until I get to that street called 63rd…” from “Hitch Hike” by Marvin Gaye
Sixty-Third Street was bisected by Cottage Grove Avenue, and for a couple of decades it was the dividing line between the black and white sections of Woodlawn. The black nightclubs first arose on the west side of Cottage Grove, south and north of 63rd, and then a string went from Cottage Grove along 63rd west to South Parkway (now King Drive). When the color line of Woodlawn broke in 1951, black nightclubs then blossomed on the east side of Cottage Grove and east on 63rd to Stony Island Ave.
One of the most famous clubs on 63rd Street was the Kitty Kat, established in 1953, and which featured King Fleming, John Young, Ahmad Jamal and other more art-oriented jazz musicians. On the west side of Cottage Grove could be found another legendary jazz club, Basin Street, with such stellar acts as Johnny Griffin and Eddie Vinson, and about a block south at 64th Street was the Pershing Hotel complex of venues – the ballroom, the first-floor lounge and the basement club called Budland, which at first was a jazz club featuring such acts as Arnett Cobb, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday, but later was booking rhythm and blues acts.
On the west side of the Cottage Grove was the Trianon Ballroom, where teenagers saw huge rhythm and blues stage shows, and McKie’s Lounge, which booked a host of great sax blowers. Further east on 63rd Street was the famed Crown Propeller Lounge, which booked both jazz and rhythm and blues acts. The 63rd-Cottage Grove intersection was anchored by the largest theater on the South Side, the Tivoli, which put on rhythm and blues shows as well.
The 63rd Street Stroll also emerged as the South Side’s new “sin strip” during this period. The attraction of the area was “the forbidden,” where one could find not only jazz and rhythm and blues, but smoking, drinking, dope dealing and women. The area attracted not only ardent music fans, both black and white, but also those on the lookout for “action.”
My most rhythmic sisters, The Shrine is holding open auditions for dancers next weekend (I wanted to give you time to prep)…. Here’s the deal:
We invite young, passionate, creative female dancers willing to commit to four to six short performances a week (2-3 nights) to participate in our open call process.
Location and Time:
Visceral Dance Studio
2820 N. Elston Ave
12pm, April 11th, 2009
– Female Dancers who are 21 years of age or older by May 15th, 2009
-Must provide one non-returnable headshot and one non-returnable full-body shot including height and weight (5″x7″ or larger preferred). Photos are used for identification purposes.
-Professional photo is not mandatory. Photos should be a current representation of what you look like or will look like at the audition.
-No street shoes.
What we’re looking for:
– Athletic build, personality, energy, enthusiasm!
-Professionalism and maturity
-Background in african, modern, or jazz a plus
-Ability to improvise with confidence
-Ability to pick up dance choreography quickly
-Consistent positive attitude
-Strong teamwork skills
Dance Chicago Dance.
Back in 1980, Chicago was still a national hub for music (like LA, Nashville, and New York are today). During that time, Producer/Promoter/Entrepreneur Eddie Thomas ran the influential Dogs of War DJ record association. Based out of Chicago, they were a record pool famous for breaking a number of seminal disco recordings.
Essentially, a record pool is a service that DJs either subscribe to or otherwise sign up for. New records from participating labels are distributed to the DJs as promotional copies. Dogs of War primarily worked with DJs that worked at black clubs on the South Side of Chicago. In the day, they were frequently mentioned in disco write ups in industry papers such as Billboard.
picture courtesy / Bernie Howard’s Facebook Page
Together, Eddie & the Dogs of War Association produced a TV program pilot called “Dance Chicago Dance”. According to Director Bernie Howard Fryman:
Featuring a theme song by Al Hudson and One Way, and hosted by radio personality LaDonna Tittle (then at WJPC) and Lisa Hunter (a member of the Dogs of War), the program was an all-star affair. This pilot also features two performances featuring Chicago’s own silver lame-clad disco artist Captain Sky. His extravagant costumes are worth the price of admission. The pilot was shot in suburban Naperville (!) at Valentino’s Disco. It features, notably, a racially mixed crew of dancers.
picture courtesy / Bernie Howard’s Facebook page
The “Dance Chicago Dance” pilot was shot in 1980, well after Steve Dahl’s infamous “Disco Demolition Night” that occurred on July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park. The disco scene in Chicago was a well oiled machine in many ways because Chicago’s Black music scene had dwarfed the rock and pop scenes for much of the mid-20th Century in terms of record sales, record label prominence, and distribution. It was easy to get the music out there.
From the Electrified Delta Blues of Chess Records to the sweet soul of Brunswick Records and Curtom Records (and many labels in between), the baton was passed to disco, and eventually to house. It’s arguable that the prominence of disco music over rock music (often considered to be “white music”) in Chicago (mixed with some good old fashioned racism & homophobia) churned up the Disco Demolition. By 1979, disco had become a universal juggernaut; but its roots were in black and brown communities, as well as in the gay community (a fact that disco shares with house music).
About 50,000 people showed up to the event, during which radio shock jock Steve Dahl was to destroy audience supplied disco records in a massive explosion on the baseball field. But to illustrate the inherent racism, Vince Lawrence, who at the time worked at Comiskey Park as an usher, noted that many of the records were not disco at all. According to an NPR piece, there were:
Regardless, this video documents clearly that Disco Demolition Night did not, in fact, demolish disco in Chicago. In many ways, disco was just about to get started as something new: House. And that usher at Comiskey Park during the Disco Demolition Night wound up co-writing what is credited as the first truly House record (as opposed to a disco record played in house music clubs), 1984’s “On and On”.
He picked up a lot of good records that night, too. So Dance, Chicago, Dance. Jive on!
Leave a comment | tags: 1980, Chicago Disco, Chicago Music History, dance, Disco Demolition Night, Dogs of War, Eddie Thomas, Music | posted in Arts & Culture, Chicago Cultural History, Commentary, Dance, Film and Television, Local Chicago Music, Music, the Freshness