The Cotton Club, Harlem's most prominent nightclub during the Prohibiton era, delivered some of the greatest music legends of the Jazz Age -- Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Ethel Waters, the Nicolas Brothers. Some of the most iconic songs in the American songbook made their debut at the Cotton Club or were popularized in performances here.
But the story of gangster Owney Madden's notorious supper club is hardly one to be celebrated.
That the Cotton Club was owned by Prohibition's most ruthless mob boss was just the beginning. The club enshrined the segregationist policies of the day, placing black talent on the stage for the pleasure of white patrons alone. Even the club's flamboyant décor -- by Ziegfeld's scenic designer, no less -- made sure to remind people of these ugly admission practices.
This is the tale of Harlem late night -- of hot jazz and illegal booze, of great music and very bad mobsters. Featuring some of the greatest tunes of the day by Ellington, Calloway, Waters, King Oliver and more.
THIS PODCAST FEATURED MUSICAL SNIPPETS FROM THE FOLLOWING SONGS:
Black and Tan Fantasy - Duke Ellington
Drop Me Off In Harlem - Duke Ellington
Speak Easy Blues - King Oliver Jazz Band
Charleston - Paul Whiteman
Mood Indigo - Duke Ellington
Swing Session - Duke Ellington
If You Were In My Place - Duke Ellington
Minnie the Moocher - Cab Calloway
I've Got The World On A String - Duke Ellington
Stormy Weather - Ethel Waters
On The Sunny Side of the Street - Duke Ellington
NOTES ON THIS SHOW:
-- I made two amusing flubs in this show 1) Duke Ellington's nickname is probably inspired by the Duke of Wellington, not (obviously) the Duke of Ellington, 2) the name of the movie with Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers is obviously named Stormy Weather, not Stormy Weathers (which must be the name of a drag queen somewhere)
-- Jack Johnson's story is so much more complex and I wish I had more time to talk about him. For more information, check out the incredible documentary (and the book it's based on by Geoffrey C Ward) called Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.