Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Chitlin Circuit

"The "Chitlin' Circuit," like "Tin Pan Alley" and "Motown" and other legendary music locations, is both a real and symbolic term for the on-and-off-again venues--shoebox-sized bars, clubs, cafes and increasingly in the 21st century, casinos-- that support traditional rhythm and blues in a tenuous but tenacious thread through America's mostly rural (or low-profile urban) Bible Belt." Daddy B. Nice

" A circuit of nightclubs and theaters that feature African-American performers and cater especially to African-American audiences.

When Jim Crow and segregation were even more prominent in the United States, the Negro race, freed through emancipation, did not have equal access to public “White Only” places. The Chitlin’ Circuit - a connected string of music venues, diners, juke joints, and theaters throughout the eastern and southern United States that catered primarily to African American audiences was created.

The Chitlin’ Circit was the only option for touring Black entertainers such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Ike and Tina Turner, B. B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, T.D. Bell and the Blues Specialists, Roosevelt "Gray Ghost" Williams, Eubie Blake, Robert Shaw, Big Joe Williams and many others begin touring in an effort to “eek” out a living when Jim Crow and segregation was even more prominent in the United States.

Historically, Baltimore was the first city on the Chitlin' Circuit. The Chitlin’ Circuit stretched through the South, bending Westward throughout Texas, extending Eastward on through Chicago, offering continuous opportunities for black entertainers." Urban Dictionary

"The "Chitlin' Circuit" is the collective name given to the string of performance venues throughout the eastern and southern United States that were safe and acceptable for African-American musicians, comedians, and other entertainers to perform in during the age of racial segregation in the United States (from at least the early 19th century through the 1960s) as well as the venues that contemporary African American soul and blues performers, especially in the South, continue to appear at regularly. The name derives from the soul food item chitterlings (stewed pig intestines) and is also a play on the term "Borscht belt" which referred to a group of venues (primarily in New York's Catskill Mountains) popular with Jewish performers during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Noted theaters on the Chitlin' Circuit included the Royal Peacock in Atlanta; the Carver Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama; the Cotton Club, Small's Paradise and the Apollo Theater in New York City; Robert's Show Lounge, Club DeLisa and the Regal Theatre in Chicago; the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.; the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia; the Royal Theatre in Baltimore; the Fox Theatre in Detroit; the Victory Grill in Austin, Texas; the Hippodrome Theatre in Richmond, Virginia; the Ritz Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida; and The Madame C. J. Walker Theatre on Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis.

The second historic marker designated by the Mississippi Blues Commission on the Mississippi Blues Trail was placed in front of the Southern Whispers Restaurant on Nelson Street in Greenville, Mississippi, a stop on the Chitlin' Circuit in the early days of the blues. The marker commemorates the importance of this site in the history of the development of the blues in Mississippi. In the 1940s and 1950s, this historic strip drew crowds to the flourishing club scene to hear Delta blues, big band jump blues and jazz." wikipedia

Much love to Wikipedia on this project, they have saved enormous amounts of time for me and most of what I've found so far is pretty informative and reasonably accurate. Believe me, I'll cheerfully point out where they got it wrong and do my own writing where necessary but the point of an encyclopedia is a place to cite information from and in this function they have been invaluable. On the music side I am deeply indebted to "Unky Cliff" for a huge portion of what appears here and for the books I am educating myself with as well. My morning discussions with him will often filter into the blog. The files here that do not come from actual rips or itunes, likely originated on other blogs through the years, thanks to all of them as well, your generosity to me is being passed on.  kc 


LAZZ said...

Far canal.
Another treasure trove of historical delights.
Just found the place.
Just took a look around.
Just fell over in delerium.
I shall be back - please don't go away.
Big appreciation.

BlueNote97 said...

Much, much appeciated, KC

LAZZ said...

Just felt an overwhelming need to re-iterate my everlasting appreciation for the content and continued survival of the entire little inter-connected empire.
King Cake and the Courtiers.
All hail.

pmac said...

Just listened to a few of the songs - holy crap! It encapsulates the genius and lunacy in one session. Curiously, I believe that was the station that went to an all country format in '78. That live session may have been the thing that pushed ownership over the edge.

davidwolfsonnc said...

just want to say that even the pictures you put on here would be worth downloading (for me, i make covers for the physical artifacts of cds).

Steve626 said...

Very nice picture of B.B. King you've got there!

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog, Brilliant. Thanks so much for the various pdf's, especially the Paramount booklet.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog you got , i'm happy to discover it !
So much great music here !
Thanks for having my blog in your bloglist !
i will visit you often .

tom said...

nice said...

Circuit is lavish in terms of entertainment places that it may be regarded as the best one in a field! Thanks for ancient photos, I'll drop by very soon!

GuitarGus said...

This has been and still is my musical Little Village...Thanks to KC and a few underlings like me ...Times are tough so we need blogs like this to expose positive vibes and soulful talent...And KC has given us some great music...Cheers Bro you are a diamond...among the shite

Eric said...

Please allow me to expand on your article as to some possibly interesting, and pertinent, facts about the Borscht Belt, a phrase never heard among those who worked the "Catskills" or "mountains'. The last gasp of the hotels was around 2007. Prior to that I had worked as a bass player in many of the hotels which often featured black acts, although probably not the same ones who might play the Chitlin Circuit. I played for, among others, Cab Calloway, Billy Daniels, George Kirby, Jimmy Randolph, and the great tap dancer Bunny Briggs, all of whom by the 70s were familiar faces in the Catskills. There were also a number of great black musicians who worked at the hotels including Erskine Hawkins, Bobby Johnson Jr., Claude Hopkins, Billy Alfred,Gene Randolph and Ambrose Jackson.

Eric said...

I forgot to mention that Peg Leg Bates, the one legged tap dancer, had a resort in Kerhonkson in the Catskill area. When I worked at it, towards the end of its existence, it catered to day trips of church groups, but in its prime it was one of the most successful resorts catering to a black clientele.

vaiybora said...

I really appreciate your professional approach.These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.


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