When jazz greats such as Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker came to perform in Hollywood they were not invited to stay in the hotels located there. The musicians would have to come to the black community to find a decent hotel such as the Dunbar Hotel on Central Avenue and 42nd.
As the racial divide became more relaxed, African American families began moving to Inglewood, Baldwin Hills and Mid-City which was considered the Westside. Hotels and jazz clubs began to emerge, such as the Watkins Hotel located on Manhattan Pl and Adams Blvd and the Clark Hotel located on Washington Blvd and Central Ave, were considered top-notch. With the exception of the Dunbar Hotel, which has become an historical landmark and museum, the Clark and Watkins Hotel no longer exists.
Inside the Watkins Hotel was a well-known barbershop that Nat King Cole patronized. When Maxie would pick up his sister who worked as a secretary to theowner of the hotel he recalled seeing Nat in the barber shop several times. There was also a jazz lounge inside the hotel called the Rubiot Room that had a separate entrance on Manhattan Pl. Nate King Cole lived on W. 29th St, the exact same street as Maxie’s grandmother, until he moved to June St in Hancock Park, which created a huge controversy in that community.
Mid City soon became a hot bed for jazz. As we traveled in conversation down Washington Blvd through Maxie’s recollection, he talked about the famed Parisian Room at Washington Blvd and La Brea, which is now the Ray Charles Post Office. Jazz artists such as Nancy Wilson who lived on Cochran Pl, Joe Williams, Esther Phillips, Arthur Prysock and Art Blakey would appear at the Parisian Room on a regular basis. The musical director of the house band was Red Holloway who recently passed away.
Further down on Washington Blvd going east was another iconic jazz spot, Tommy Tucker’s Play Room located at 4907 W. Washington Blvd (no longer there) featuring jazz, blues and other performing artists. It was one of the first restaurants to popularize chicken and waffles. Tommy Tucker was a restaurant owner, bail bondsman and philanthropist who had connections and friendships with Hollywood stars and musicians like Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Sam Cook, O.C. Smith, Ernie Andrews, Carmen McRae and Abby Lincoln to name a few, all of whom use to hang out frequently at Tommy Tucker’s Play Room.
Across the street from what is now Nate Holden’s Performing Arts Center was a jazz club called the IT Club where people like Aretha Franklin performed. Continuing on Washington at West Blvd was a club owned by a former musical director and disc jockey for KJLH radio, Hank Stewart who also owned a record store on La Brea and Venice and sold records at a discount.
An ex-boxer by the name of Dynamite Jackson owned a jazz club on Adams Blvd featuring organist Groove Holmes. Groove Holmes established recognition within the community of jazz organists such as Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff.
Many jazz greats past and present began their careers and lived right here in our community. Maxie Floyd has said that he “captured the musical souls in photographs” of those jazz musicians who have contributed to the history of jazz-- not only in our community, but the world.