with the bold text in the example below: The Skychi Travel Guide : Gangster Al Capone Owned Chicagos Jazz Business

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gangster Al Capone Owned Chicagos Jazz Business

Urther Temple played in Al Capone's Jazz Orchestra at the Chicago Metropole Hotel in the 1920's
Urther Temple (my great-uncle)  played in Al Capone's Jazz Orchestra at the Chicago Metropole Hotel in the 1920's

'Hey, boy come here!" Ralph Capone called as beckoned toward Lucius "Lucky" Millinder, the bandleader in the syndicate-controlled Cotton Club (12th Street and Blue Island) in Cicero,  Illinois. Millinder,  who was dressed formally in white tie and tails with a winged-tip shirt, hastily moved his snow-white slippers from the bandstand to the bosses' front row table.

"Boy, I like the way you colored people play music and I get a big kick watching your jazzy steps and pearly smile as you direct that band," said Capone. "My brother Al and I decided we're going to keep you boys working regularly, but you can't work for nobody but us."

To which Millinder responded, "Boss, I am your man with the band." Capone said, "Lucky, don't  forget. Take this hundred dollar tip and go play my favorite song."

Millinder replied, "Thank you, Mr. Capone!" then returned to the bandstand and began leading the orchestra in a gusty rendition of W.C. Handy's classic "St. Louis Blues."

My old friend, the late Lucky Millinder,  a Chicago South Sider and Wendell Phillips High School alumnus,  once told me that he did not realize the full implications of Ralph Capone's conversation at that time. Capone's statement became crystal clear during Lucky's first trip to New York in the late 1920s. There he saw the syndicate network unfold through Owney Madden, one of the most notorious of the pre-prohibition bootleggers and a principal owner of Harlem's famous Cotton Club. The mob network was tied together like a musical triad: Madden controlled the East Coast booze and beer distribution; Al Capone reigned over Chicago and its environs; Johnny Lazia controlled the police, liquor wnd gambling in Kansas City,  Missouri; and the Purple Gang dominated Detroit. Chicago, New York and Kansas City housed a disproportionate percentage of  great jazz talent in America during the 1920s and 30s. These cities were controlled by the Jazz Slave Masters and some of the very best black musicians were their serfs. Talented jazz musicians were chained to bands and specific night clubs and saloons in the same manner as the ante-bellum Negroes were shackled to plantations. Louis Armstrong,  Duke Ellington,  Jimmie Lunceford, Cab Calloway,  Lena Horne and Earl Hines are a few of the many top artists who were inmates behind the "Cotton Curtain" at various points in their careers. All of the aforementioned stars except Earl Hines had worked at the Cotton Club in New  York City, which was the best known entertainment plantation in the country between 1924 And 1936.  All blacks other than entertainers,  waiters, cooks and the cleaning crew were excluded from the interior of the Jazz Slave Master's New York mansion.

The bandstand at the Harlem Cotton Club was a replica of a Southern mansion, with large white columns and a backdrop painted with weeping willows and slave quarters.  The orchestra performed in front lf the large double doors to the mansion. Down four steps was the dance floor, which was also used for floor shows. The waiters were dressed in red tuxedos, like butlers in a Southern mansion, and the tables were covered with red and white checked gingham tablecloths. The entire scene created a Gone with the Wind   atmosphere that made every white male feel like Rhett Bulter and every white woman like Scarlet O'Hara. Since the waiters were paid only one dollar a night, they had to hustle like Rochester and hope that Rhett Bulter would leave a big tip.

Even the great composer W.C. Handy was barred from the Cotton Club when he went there one night with Gene Buck, the president of ASCAP (American Society of Composers,  Authors, and Publishers) to hear his own song "St. Louis Blues" that was being featured in the floor show. The Cotton Club was not the only club smack dab in the middle of Black Harlem that had a Jim Crow policy were on the outside looking in. Connie ' s Inn, the Harlem Uproar House and the Ubangi Club also banned blacks."

Excerpt "Jazz Slave Masters" from An Autobiography of Black Jazz by Dempsey J. Travis

Do you know of anyone who played or performed jazz for the gangsters?

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