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The Savoy Ballroom

The Savoy Ballroom opened on March 12th, 1926. It was a project of interracial cooperation between the jewish owner, Moe Gale, and the black manager Charles Buchanan, and attracted a large, racially mixed audience at a time when most public venues were still segregated. The Ballroom was famous for its luxurious elegance and the infamous fad of the Lindy Hop, which was first danced here and then danced everywhere. About 700 000 patrons visited the club every year, showing their appreciation for the two bandstands that allowed non-stop music throughout the night, and the spring-loaded dance floor which was scrubbed and polished nightly.

Fess Williams, Chick Webb, Erskin Hawkins and Al Cooper's Savoy Sultans played as house bands in the Savoy. Other performers included the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk. But the most legendary events at the Savoy were the two battles of the bands that Chick Webb orchestrated with Ella Fitzgerald. They played the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1937 and the Count Basie Band in 1938, winning against both of them.

Although it had survived prohibition, during the rising drug criminality in the 1950s the Savoy could no longer attract the audience to fill it’s great dance hall. Finally, in 1958, the building was sold to make room for a housing project, which in turn was torn down to build a medical facility. Today, only a plaque, installed in 2002, commemorates the location of the legendary nightclub.

Resources:

Stompin’ at the Savoy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgX5_waK--w

Plaque commemorating Savoy Ballroom
http://www.savoyplaque.org/

Unofficial Savoy Ballroom Archive
http://www.savoyballroom.com/index.htm