Butterball from WMBM Hosts Little Willie John and Dizzy Jones at The Birdland Fiesta

birdland fiesta

©Miami Times via Miami Dade Library Collection

The year was 1963. The location was Miami; Overtown to be specific, at the Birdland Fiesta, a club in the historic Mary Elizabeth Hotel. Little Willie John and Dizzy Jones were headlining another epic battle of hit songs in a three night act to start the year off right. There were two shows nightly, and a Sunday matinee for all ages. Three prizes were up for grabs, and admission was a whopping 75 cents. 75 cents!! And to top it off, all that entertainment and no table charge. Little Willie John was a vocal powerhouse out of the great city of Detroit, like Jackie Wilson. He was a certified hitmaker most famous for the first recording of the song “Fever,” also sung by Eartha Kitt, but covered by many other artists. As you can see from the above show posting in the Miami Times newspaper (one of the longest running continuously published African-American newspapers in the U.S.), Dizzy Jones was a saxophone player. The concert battles that Jones and Willie John performed were energetic back and forth medleys of the day’s most popular r&b hits. It was a mix of music, comedy, pop culture, and even some original compositions that made for an action packed presentation of entertainment. It was a show so legendary that we’re still here talking about it today. In the early 1960s, Henry Stone (with the help of cronies like Milt Oshins) were building Tone Distributors into one of the most powerful independent record distributorships in the country. Stone, John, and Jones were music industry contemporaries who ran in the same crowd of soul, funk, r&b, and dance music professionals.

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