The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


December 14, 2013

All that jazz

Musicians find niche at various county locations

During the 1920s fans of jazz and dance music could find their favorite bands playing at fairs, lodges, and dance pavilions throughout Madison County. Some musicians found steady work at lake resorts, but it was limited to the summer months. Others worked in pit bands at the Orpheum, Grand, and Crystal theatres, where they played for vaudeville acts or provided background music for silent motion pictures. Pay for musicians averaged $1 per hour, but they still relied on income from their day jobs to help put food on the table.

After prohibition was repealed in 1933 more taverns and nightclubs opened in the Anderson area. With the sale of alcohol once again legal, tavern owners looked for ways to draw customers in. Music turned out to be the key to success. Piano players accompanied by a drummer and two horn players were featured acts on weekends, where patrons danced the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. The Dells, the Avalon, the Polish Club, and the Savoy were clubs with enough capacity to seat nine-piece orchestras, as did the Elks, the Eagles, the Moose, and the Knights of Columbus lodges. In later days, the Avalon became the Carlton Club and the Savoy was renamed Johnnie's Cocktail Lounge.

From the late 1930s through the early 1940s, jazz bands played up to six nights at The Cafe Royale and the Stables in downtown Anderson. Other popular spots in the downtown area included the Derby, the Esquire Lodge, the Maritime Room, the Boat Club, the Nugget, the Spa, and the White Spot. Sullivan's Golden Gardens was a popular nightclub in Elwood, as were the Blue Lawn and the Log Cabin in Lapel. The town of Alexandria had the Elks and Eagles lodges and a place called 42nd Street. At the corner of Indiana 32 and Markleville Road was a road house known as the Green Hill. The Anderson Country Club and Grandview Golf Club hosted proms, dances, and social events where local musicians also played.

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