The Miami Music Scene in 1948: R&B, Jazz, Blues, Caribbean, Comedy, and More
Henry Stone was the greatest record distributor ever to touch down in Florida, but when he first arrived in Miami the live music scene already offered world class entertainment.
When Stone moved to Miami in 1948 the city’s extensive nightlife had already been written about in the NAACP’s historic internationally distributed magazine The Crisis. This special feature appeared in 1942.
And with the Miami Times newspaper being one of the longest running African-American newspapers in America, there is a treasure of historical data showing just how action packed the concert scene of Miami was even way back in 1948 and 1949, the years Henry Stone set up his Seminole Distribution company in a little warehouse on Flagler street.
Here are some of the concerts, shows, and clubs from Miami in 1948 and 1949:
Billie Holiday was known around the world, but in the deep south she had yet to tour. This tour announcement from Joe Glaser’s Associated Booking aimed to change that.
At the Harlem Square Club, where Sam Cooke would later record his Live At The Harlem Square album, patrons enjoyed the sounds of Buddy Johnson and Ella Johnson for $1.50 admission. At the nearby Rockland Palace a week included a Midnight Ramble and Dance, a Blue Hour Floor Show and Dance, and an Amateur Show and Dance, as well as the announcement for Lionel Hampton booking. Jac Delancy took table reservations at 3-9134.
At the Cafe Society you could celebrate Xmas In Nassau in true calypso style with dancers, Rhumba Maniacs,masters of the bongo and conga drums, dancers, hosts and MC’s like Vicki Copez, James “The Voice” Wiley, and “Tops” Kimball.
Way down on the south side of Miami-Dade County in the historic Goulds community an old fashioned Georgia Bar B Que was expected to draw 5,000 people. Musical entertainment was provided by The Master Singers, live in person, in addition to speeches by the likes of Downtown Miami’s famous attorney G.E. Graves
The Silas Green from New Orleans show was known all over the country and was a traveling circus complete with its own big tent where dancers, comedians, and musical acts would entertain in such a manner that even 65 years later people still carry fond memories of the experience of seeing the Silas Green Show.
Jimmie Reeves may not have achieved national fame, you may not find his name in a simple Google search, and we may never get to hear his music, but back in the day, he had it poppin’ for the Elks Club. The Greater Miami Elks Lodge, a very active civic and community organization thought highly enough of Reeves to book his All Star Floor Show for their party in Overtown.
Meanwhile at the Rockland Palace, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ray Brown were featured entertainers backed by the club’s own floor show.
Wynonie Harris was a national hitmaking artist whose records were on every turntable in every jukebox in every juke joint, shine house, bar, grill, and restaurant in African America.
Jimmie Liggins and His Sensational Drops Of Joy were well known on the nationally touring rhythm and blues circuit.
And Lionel Hampton is one of the world’s greatest vibraphonists ever to grace the stage of American music.
Local MC’s like Phil Harris and His Upsetters had plenty of work hosting and promoting club nights and backing acts lke Snooks And Allen with the “Mad Reefer Dance.” You could also enjoy the Afro-Cuban Witchcraft Dance of Babalu.
Dances aplenty at the Savoy, like the 16th annual Orange Blossom Classic party with music, food, drinks, and entertainment. There was a party before the big football game, a party after the big football game, a parade on the street outside all through Overtown, and a statewide celebration.
Local establishments like The Mary Elizabeth Hotel even sold tickets to the game, which took place at Orange Bowl Stadium.
At O’Dell’s Bar and Grill Baby Henderson brought her great organ music stylings to the fore playing your favorite melodies of yesterday and today.
And just to show that there were in fact records bolstering all of this musical interest, above is an ad for the Record Box, a shop that carried R&B and gospel hits by the likes of Rosetta Tharpe, The Trumpeteers, Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington (The Queen of The Blues), and Ivory Joe Hunter, just to name a few.
The Red Miller Trio who had a 1948 hit on Bullet Records with “Bewildered” came to town.
Roy Lang was a sax player who led a traditional jazz band that could Midnight Ramble and dance with the best of em’ for the infamous Blue Hour
Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson was a nationally renowned sax artist born and raised in Miami, Florida. He played in bands with Duke Ellington and Cootie Williams and also married the singer Ruth Brown. And as you can see, the Harlem In Havana Revue evidences the already strong ties between Miami and Latin America because of it’s Caribbean proximity.
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were a famous all girl dance band that toured nationally.
Dance and comedy in the form of The Hot Shots would be billed prominently along with musical acts like Sammy Williams Famous Dance Orchestra.
And even Stepin Fetchit, who was born and raised in Key West, were known to party in Miami.