pre-war years for minorities, especially African Americans, we had
a lot of barriers that we were faced with. For one thing, you had
housing discrimination. There were many districts where landlords
wouldn't rent to you. There were certain bars and restaurants where
they wouldn't serve you. Downtown you were really faced with problems.
They would have signs up that said, "We have the right to refuse
service to anyone." And they wouldn't serve you. In Chinatown, if
you were an African American and you went there on a night when
the restaurants were busy, they would turn you away. The Japanese
restaurants would always serve you. There was a Jewish community
along McAllister and on Fillmore. The Jewish community always made
you welcome. In the Fillmore district, the races were very social.
On Bop City
We had a world
famous after-hours spot called Bop City. It was a place that ran
for fifteen years. Musicians, playing in the nightclubs, would start
to come down and play, and the next thing you know, the place suddenly
caught on. During that time anybody who was anybody would end up
at Bop City after they played their engagement. Gradually it shaped
up into an after-hours club with ambiance, the décor improved, and
there were murals on the wall. They had Coltrane and Miles Davis
and Dizzy and the Bird. After the musicians started coming in, they
set a policy: every Thursday night was celebrity night. You never
knew who you would see on the bandstand. I went in there on nights
when Oscar Peterson was playing. Earl Grinder. Dinah Washington
was singing. Ella Fitzgerald. Billie Holliday. Musicians from Duke
Ellington's and Count Basie's bands played. Every band had some
young hot shots who'd want to play because it gave them a chance
to stretch out their regular performance.
The local community
would support the clubs. They brought music into the Fillmore. It
did a lot to help integrate the races, to bring them together socially.
There was discrimination and separation of the races but with the
music, it's an international language. It had a way of bringing
the white, black, and Asian communities together. I made many friends
from all races while I was working in nightclubs. If our music hadn't
exploded the way it did, we probably wouldn't have had the mixing
of the races, or as much of the camaraderie as we did. The Fillmore
jazz had a wonderful social impact.