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date: 21 November 2019

Savoy Ballroomlocked

  • Claude Conyers

Extract

A venue for music and public dancing in Harlem, on Lenox Avenue between 140th and 141st Streets in New York City. Owned by impresario Moe Gale and managed by Charles Buchanan, the Savoy Ballroom flourished from 1926 to 1958 as a center of African American entertainment and a stage for music derived from the African American tradition. It consisted of three levels: a basement cloakroom capable of accommodating five thousand patrons, an elegant lobby at street level, and the ballroom itself, on the level above, with two bandstands, groups of tables, a long bar, and a highly polished dance floor measuring fifty by two hundred feet. Unlike the “whites only” policy of other dance halls and clubs of the time, the Savoy was fully integrated, welcoming patrons both black and white.

Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra played at the Savoy’s grand opening on 26 March 1926, followed in due course by the bands of Count Basie, Chick Webb, Benny Goodman, and many others. A young Ella Fitzgerald was the vocalist with Webb’s band, and Edgar Sampson was principally responsible for the ...

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