of the Fillmore - Scene
The club that came to be known as Bop City was at the center of
the Fillmore music scene after World War II. While there was a
wide variety of clubs that lined the Fillmore, in every interview
we conducted for the program, the musicians and former Fillmore
residents cite Bop City as the club to see and be seen at, for
both players and patrons alike. When people talk about Bop City,
their eyes gleam with nostalgia for a lost musical era. They summon
up a sense of what it must have been like to walk down those lively,
excerpt is from an article, "Swing the Fillmore", written
by The Fillmore's associate producer Elizabeth
Pepin. Pepin looks back at the people and clubs who contributed
to the rise of San Francisco's bebop era.
Click here for the entire "Swing the
As World War
II ended and the decade changed, so did the music. Bebop, which
had been introduced to San Francisco just after the war, was being
embraced by the city's musical community like a long-lost child.
Jazz clubs began opening up all over, especially in the Tenderloin
and in North Beach.
Western Addition music scene was also growing larger. You could hear
jazz, blues, and R&B at the dozens of clubs in the neighborhood. Vout
City (1690 Post) was a club run by the handsome and colorful musician
Slim Gaillard, who had a good ear for music but lousy business sense.
The club quickly folded and Gaillard took off for Los Angeles, leaving
Charles Sullivan, a prominent African American businessman and entrepreneur
who owned the building, to find a new tenant. Sullivan approached
Jimbo Edwards, one of San Francisco's first black automobile salesman,
to rent the space. Jimbo agreed to open up a cafe, which he called
Jimbo's Waffle Shop. However, local musicians had other ideas.
an interview with Carol Chamberland, Jimbo tells more: "Now I opened
up this little cafe thing with Jimbo's Waffle Shop. But there was
a big old room in there. So musicians didn't have no place to play
their work and whatnot. About eight, ten musicians come and say ÔLet's
take this back room and have us a hangout house.' So when I opened
it up, I said, yeah, OK. Now when we opened it up, we didn't even
have a bandstand... So I built me a bandstand... And so that's how
Bop City came. Now it didn't have no name, so we figured since Bop
City's closed in New York, we might as well name it Bop City. But
the bottom line, it was never Bop City, it was always Jimbo's Waffle
City quickly became the place to play. After all the other clubs in
the city shut down, everyone would head to 1690 Post for amazing after-hours
jam sessions and parties. Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Billy
Eckstine, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Count
Basie, Dinah Washington, and John Coltrane were but a few of the many
musicians who graced the club's stage.
Poindexter describes the scene: "One night, or should I say one morning,
Art Tatum was honored with a special party at Bop City. There was
lots of food... Up on the piano were cases of liquor. After everyone
had stuffed himself or herself, we all settled back to look and listen
to some real piano playing. Still, several hours went by and no one
moved. It was daybreak. No one moved. Finally it came to an end. When
I left there, I was spent -- both from playing and listening...The
very next weekend we had at Bop City the big three trumpet players
of the bop style: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Kenny Dorham.
Dexter (Gordon) was also there. The session went on til early noon
the next day. Jimbo honored them all with a special dinner. The next
week the Woody Herman band came to into town, and there was another
party for them. That night we heard Stan Getz and Zoot Sims stretch
John Handy, who later went on
to play with Charles Mingus, began sneaking into Fillmore clubs
at the age of 16 in 1949. For Handy, Bop City was like a second
home, and musically it was his first home, having been a member
of the house band at one time or another. He told me the club was
a place where young aspiring musicians could sit mesmerized for
hours, watching their heroes play on stage, and maybe even be given
a chance to join them on stage.
In bebop, if
you couldn't play, the musicians would tell you to get right off
the stage, even during your solo," Hester says. "They didn't care.
You had to be good, or forget it."
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