Tiffany Club (number 2 on the map with the red block) was located at 3260 West 8th Street between Normandie and Mariposa Avenues, west of downtown Los Angeles. The grounds of the Ambassador Hotel (3) were at the end of the block with the ritzy Cocoanut Grove (4) nightclub fronting Wilshire Boulevard. The Haig (1) was located across Wilshire Boulevard at 638 Kenmore Avenue. Chuck Landis obtained a revised maximum capacity rating in 1951 after having the space remodeled increasing the persons allowable from 110 persons to 140. The wall behind the bandstand featured a musical mural with piano keyboards, vinyl records, musical staff lines with notes and a large mirror set at an angle so that patrons had a view of the musicians at work who were set up below the mirror.
The first advertisements for Tiffany Club in Los Angeles newspapers appeared at the end of August 1950 when the booking of Julia Lee was announced as opening September 1, 1950. The space at 3260 West 8th Street occupied the first floor of a three-story building. Prior to its transformation as Tiffany Club it had been a bar and restaurant. If entertainment was offered it was low key and not promoted in newspapers. The first ad stressed that this was “The New Tiffany Club.”
Julia Lee was born in Boonville, Missouri, and raised in Kansas City. She began her musical career around 1920, singing and playing piano in her brother George Lee’s band, which for a time also included Charlie Parker. She first recorded on the Merritt record label in 1927 with Jesse Stone as pianist and arranger, and launched a solo career in 1935.
In 1944 she secured a recording contract with Capitol Records, and a string of R&B hits followed, including “Gotta Gimme Whatcha Got” (No. 3 R&B, 1946), “Snatch and Grab It” (No. 1 R&B for 12 weeks, 1947, selling over 500,000 copies), “King Size Papa” (No. 1 R&B for 9 weeks, 1948), “I Didn’t Like It The First Time (The Spinach Song)” (No. 4 R&B, 1949), and “My Man Stands Out”.
As these titles suggest, she became best known for her trademark double entendre songs, or, as she once said, “the songs my mother taught me not to sing”. The records were credited to “Julia Lee and Her Boy Friends,” her session musicians including Jay McShann, Vic Dickenson, Benny Carter, Red Norvo, Nappy Lamare, Dave Cavanaugh, Vic Dickenson, Red Callender, Sam “Baby” Lovett, Red Nichols and Jack Marshall.
Julia Lee’s contract with Capitol and her chart topping hits provided a buffer that provided protection from the morals squad who regularly patrolled nightclubs to monitor activity that was deemed salacious or otherwise inappropriate. Lee’s engagement ended September 28th. Art Tatum opened on the 29th for a two week stay at the club.
Tiffany’s owner, Chuck Landis, owned the Surf Club at 3981 West 6th Street between South Manhattan Place and Western Avenue. Landis frequently booked the same jazz artists at both clubs. Art Tatum appeared at the Surf Club earlier in 1950 spending February and part of March in residence before Martha Davis opened on March 10th. The Tiffany ads did not clarify if Tatum was working as a solo act or with a trio that frequently accompanied him in clubs. Howard Morehead was one of the photographers who worked jazz clubs regularly. His photo of Art Tatum at Tiffany Club catches Bill Douglass and Red Callender at work.
Helen Forrest opened at Tiffany on Friday, October 13, 1950. She was accompanied by the Vivien Garry Trio. Forrest’s early career was established as a vocalist with the bands of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Harry James. Forrest left Harry James in late 1943 in pursuit of a solo career, saying “three years with a band is enough.” She signed a recording contract with Decca and co-starred with Dick Haymes on The Dick Haymes Show on CBS radio from 1944 to 1947. Helen’s first Decca disc, “Time Waits For No One,” reached second place on the Hit Parade, and the radio show achieved top ratings. Haymes was also contracted to Decca, and from 1944 to 1946 the pair recorded 18 duets, 10 of them reaching the Top Ten. Particularly successful were their versions of “Long Ago and Far Away”, “It Had To Be You”, “Together”, “I’ll Buy That Dream”, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” and “Oh, What It Seemed To Be.”
The timeline between the departure of Helen Forrest and the arrival of Muggsy Spanier and his Dixieland band is not revealed via the ads that Landis placed with the Los Angeles Times. Forrest is shown as still working the club on the 26th of October. The next Tiffany Club ad in the Los Angeles Times is dated November 22, 1950 – no opening next date – just Muggsy Spanier All-Star Dixieland band – with the same ad repeated on November 24th, December 1st, 8th, and 15th.
Spanier’s band’s theme tune was “Relaxin’ at the Touro,” named for Touro Infirmary, the New Orleans hospital where Spanier had been treated for a perforated ulcer early in 1938. At the point of death, he was saved by Dr. Alton Ochsner who drained the fluid and eased his weakened breathing. One of Spanier’s Dixieland numbers is entitled, “Oh Doctor Ochsner.”
‘Relaxin’ at the Touro’ is a fairly straightforward 12-bar blues with a piano introduction and coda by Joe Bushkin. The pianist recalled, many years later: “When I finally joined Muggsy in Chicago (having left Bunny Berigan’s failing big band) we met to talk it over at the Three Deuces, where Art Tatum was appearing. Muggsy was now playing opposite Fats Waller at the Sherman hotel and we worked out a kind of stage show for the two bands. Muggsy was a man of great integrity. We played a blues in C and I made up a little intro. After that I was listed as the co-composer of “Relaxin’ at the Touro.”
The Nat King Cole Trio opened at Tiffany Club the day after Christmas, 1950. The current Cole trio featured Irving Ashby on guitar and Joe Comfort on bass. Cole appeared in the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts in 1944. He was credited on Mercury as “Shorty Nadine”, a derivative of his wife’s name, because he had an exclusive contract with Capitol since signing with the label the year before.
In 1946 the trio broadcast King Cole Trio Time, a fifteen-minute radio program. This was the first radio program to be sponsored by a black musician. Between 1946 and 1948 the trio recorded radio transcriptions for Capitol Records Transcription Service. They also performed on the radio programs Swing Soiree, Old Gold, The Chesterfield Supper Club,Kraft Music Hall, and The Orson Welles Almanac. Nat King Cole continued to be booked by Landis for the club over the years. The Nat King Cole Trio ended their engagement on January 20th and Nellie Lutcher opening the following evening.
Lutcher was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the eldest daughter of the 15 children of Isaac and Suzie Lutcher. She was the sister of saxophonist Joe Lutcher. Her father was a bass player and her mother a church organist. She received piano lessons, and her father formed a family band with her playing piano. At age 12, she played with Ma Rainey, when Rainey’s regular pianist fell ill and had to be left behind in the previous town. Searching for a temporary replacement in Lake Charles, one of the neighbors told Rainey that there was a little girl who played in church who might be able to do it.
Aged 15, Lutcher joined her father in Clarence Hart’s Imperial Jazz Band, and in her mid-teens also briefly married the band’s trumpet player. In 1933, she joined the Southern Rhythm Boys, writing their arrangements and touring widely. In 1935, she moved to Los Angeles, where she married Leonel Lewis and had a son. She began to play swing piano, and also to sing, in small combos throughout the area, and began developing her own style, influenced by Earl Hines, Duke Ellington and her friend Nat King Cole.
She was not widely known until 1947 when she appeared on the March of Dimes talent show at Hollywood High School, and performed. The show was broadcast on the radio and her performance caught the ear of Dave Dexter, a scout for Capitol Records. She was signed by Capitol and made several records, including “The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)” and her first hit single, the risqué “Hurry On Down,” which went to # 2 on the rhythm and blues chart. This was followed by her equally successful composition “He’s A Real Gone Guy”, which also made # 2 on the R&B chart and crossed over to the pop charts where it reached # 15.
In 1948 she had a string of further R&B chart hits, the most successful being “Fine Brown Frame”, her third # 2 R&B hit. Her songs charted on the pop, jazz, and R&B charts, she toured widely and became widely known. She wrote many of her own songs and, unlike many other African-American artists of the period, retained the valuable publishing rights to them. In 1950, Lutcher duetted with Nat King Cole on “For You My Love” and “Can I Come in for a Second.” Lutcher’s engagement at Tiffany Club ended on the first of February. She opened in San Francisco at the New Orleans Club the next day.
Bulee “Slim” Gaillard, also known as McVouty, was noted for his comedic vocalese singing and word play in his own constructed language called “Vout-o-Reenee”, for which he wrote a dictionary. In addition to English, he spoke five languages (Spanish, German, Greek, Arabic, and Armenian) with varying degrees of fluency.
He rose to prominence in the late 1930s with hits such as “Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)” and “Cement Mixer (Put-Ti-Put-Ti)” after forming Slim and Slam with Leroy Eliot “Slam” Stewart. During World War II, Gaillard served as a bomber pilot in the Pacific. In 1944, he resumed his music career and performed with notable jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Dodo Marmarosa. Gaillard’s engagement was brief as he was replaced on February 9th by Virginia Maison, a piano/vocalist in the same tradition as Julia Lee.
Virginia Maison was performing at Larry Potter’s Supper Club in 1949 when she was arrested by plain clothes officers of the Studio City Police Department. She was charged with singing lewd and obscene songs and pleaded guilty. Potter was on the verge of losing his “show permit” that would prevent him from presenting live entertainment in the club. He declared that he was unaware of the nature of Miss Maison’s act and was able to retain his license. Maison paid a $250 fine and continued to perform at other clubs in the early 1950s.
Miss Maison did not encounter any plain clothes officers during her month long engagement at Tiffany Club. The only known photo of the exterior of the club is from the Joyce Tucker Collection. Her father, Jack Tucker, was the host at the club for many years. The area to the left of the building was the parking lot for the club, offered as free parking in ads for the club.
Shirley Luster was born in Springfield, Illinois, United States. She moved with her parents Steve and Marie Luster to Decatur, Illinois, when she was three years old. She began to sing with the Decatur-based Bill Oetzel Orchestra at thirteen. While attending Decatur High School she appeared with Oetzel and his society band, the Ben Bradley Band, and Bill Madden’s Band. After high school she moved to Chicago, changed her name to Sharon Leslie, and sang with a group led by Boyd Raeburn. Later she joined Benny Strong’s band. In 1944, Strong’s band moved to New York City at the same time Christy was quarantined in Chicago with scarlet fever.
In 1945, after hearing that Anita O’Day had left Stan Kenton’s Orchestra, she auditioned and was chosen for the role as a vocalist. During this time, she changed her name once again, becoming June Christy.
Her voice produced hits such as “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy”, the million-selling “Tampico” in 1945, and “How High the Moon.” “Tampico” was Kenton’s biggest-selling record. When the Kenton Band temporarily disbanded in 1948, she sang in nightclubs for a short time, and reunited with the band two years later.
The Dave Brubeck Trio with Ron Crotty and Cal Tjader first appeared in Los Angeles at The Haig in October and November of 1950. Brubeck told Down Beat that the audience at The Haig just looked at the trio curiously now and then and didn’t stop talking while they played. Brubeck’s trio opened at the Blackhawk in San Francisco on January 16, 1951. The trio continued playing at the club with the Eastman Trio and Mary Ann McCall sharing the billing through March 11th when the trio’s engagement ended. Brubeck received an offer to bring the trio to Los Angeles to appear at Tiffany Club. The trio with Crotty and Tjader opened on March 16th and continued on a double bill with June Christy through April 5th. The Tiffany Club appearance was the last public performance of the original Dave Brubeck Trio with Ron Crotty and Cal Tjader. After returning to the Bay area Brubeck received an offer to perform with the trio in Hawaii at the Zebra Room in Honolulu. Crotty was drafted and could not accompany Brubeck and Tjader. Jack Weeks was hired to replace Crotty and the trio opened on April 16, 1951.
The Brubeck family accompanied Dave to Hawaii and Dave took his sons to Waikiki Beach to enjoy the sun and surf on May 1st. Dave injured himself when he dived into a wave and hit a sandbar. The accident ended their engagement at the Zebra Room. Weeks and Tjader returned to the mainland where they joined Nick Esposito’s band at Fack’s. Brubeck spent several weeks at Tripler army hospital recuperating from the accident. The Brubecks returned to the states in June and Dave was booked to open at the Blackhawk with his new trio on July 2, 1951. The new trio included Paul Desmond who had been contacted by Dave’s wife while he was in the hospital. Desmond had been sitting in with the trio and had worked at devising how his alto would function within the trio’s current repertoire. Fred Dutton became the first permanent bassist with the new trio that included Herb Barman on drums and bongos. Dutton would also leave the group when he was drafted later in the year. Dave Brubeck and His Trio opened at the Surf Club in Hollywood on August 31, 1951 for a ten week stay. The Bob Willoughby photograph of Dave Brubeck and Herb Barman was taken at Tiffany Club in 1951. Most likely the occasion was an informal drop in by Dave’s group while they were performing at Surf Club, Landis’ other club where he had booked Dave. Dave’s informal dress, a Hawaiian shirt, and Paul’s alto saxophone on the piano date the photo as being during the engagement at Surf Club.
Louis Armstrong formed an all-star group that played clubs and concerts in 1951. The group included Cozy Cole, Jack Teagarden, Arvell Shaw, Barney Bigard, Velma Middleton and Earl “Fatha” Hines. The group had appeared at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium January 30th along with Ward Kimball’s Firehouse Five Plus Two in a concert presentation organized by Gene Norman. Armstrong’s group had appeared earlier in January at Dave Rafael’s 150 Club in San Francisco. Rafael brought them back in April and Gene Norman booked the All-Stars again in December for another double bill at the Pasadena Civic with the Les Brown Band.
The Louis Armstrong All-Stars opened at Tiffany Club on April 6th for a two week stay. The George Shearing Quintet had been playing Rafael’s 150 Club in San Francisco until they switched places with the Louis Armstrong All-Stars who opened at Rafael’s 150 Club on April 24th, and the George Shearing Quintet took their place at Tiffany Club on the same day.
Hollywood, April 16.—(UP)— Some fans of George Shearing, the famed blind pianist, have offered him their eyes, but he turns them down.
Shearing said today he’d rather stay sightless.
The London-born musician and his famed quintet currently are beating it out at the Tiffany Club where jazz fans in large numbers crowd in to hear him.
Between numbers, Shearing took off his dark glasses, sipped a glass of milk and said he refuses all offers of help for is disability.
“I don’t want to regain my sight, really,” he said in his calm, matter-of-fact English accent.
I’d be afraid of losing my musical aptitude. Right now, you see, I have remarkable hearing.
“Can you imagine the terrific adjustment if you were to lose your sight? It would he just such an adjustment if I gained mine.
I’m happy this way. I’m successful. I have a wife and child, I want nothing else.”
One offer of eyes came from a man in prison, another from a teen-age girl who insisted her parents approved the idea.
“I don’t think anything could be done, anyway.” said Shearing. “I haven’t been to doctors for years, but years ago they told me my case was hopeless.
“I suppose they’ve found out more things by now and something could be done, but I don’t want to go back to them to even find out.
“It isn’t so bad. I can tell light from dark.” he smiled. “I hate it so in hotels when they give me an inside room. Then I can’t even tell when the daylight comes.
“There are other advantages. I’ve never seen color, so I have I no prejudice. I judgc a man for himself, not the color of his skin.”
Shearing lost his sight two works after he was born in the Battersea Slums of London in 1920. At five he began studying music. Ho graduated from a school for the blind and then won recognition at a London jam session. For seven years he was a top jazz artist in England before trekking to the United States. He now lives on a farm in New Jersey.
“I want to be liked for my ability, not my disability.” he said.
Interview by Aline Mosby – United Press Hollywood
Originally George had planned to be a concert pianist and was working toward that goal, despite the handicap that blindness had given him since birth. But the jazz played by American pianists intrigued him and it wasn’t long before all his efforts were bent in their direction. Since coming to America, George has been extremely successful in clubs and on MGM records. Though very happy with his current quintet (Al McKibbon on bass, Marquis Foster temporarily replacing ailing Denzil Best, guitarist Dick Garcia and vibist Joe Roland), George’s big ambition is to front a large orchestra for which he is currently writing several ambitious pieces of music.
The George Shearing Quintet ended their engagement on May 21st, a Monday evening. Sarah Vaughan opened the next evening, May 22nd. Vaughan made several appearances during her stay in Los Angeles. Prior to her opening at Tiffany she performed with the Ike Carpenter orchestra at the Rainbow Gardens ballroom in Pomona.
The Pomona Progress Bulletin published a column noting her upcoming appearance in their May 16th edition. Sarah Vaughan, who has won every major popularity poll of the past year as the nation’s No. 1 woman vocalist, will perform in Rainbow Gardens ballroom on May 19th when Ike Carpenter and his orchestra will occupy the bandstand, the management announced today.
The 23-year-old singer got her start by winning an amateur contest in Harlem’s Apollo theater and a job as vocalist with Earl Hines’ band. She also sang with Billy Eckstine’s band, and set out on her own two-and-a-half years ago. Sarah is now one of the highest paid singers in the country, commanding upwards of $2000 per concert and upwards of $5000 a week for theater engagements.
Sarah was recently dubbed “The New Sound” by the nation’s disk jockeys. The platter-spinners all agree that she is the first new singer to have come along with a completely new style since Ella Fitzgerald.
Some of her favorite songs demanded by her public are “September Song,” “Don’t Worry ’bout Me,” “As You Desire Me,” “Summertime,” “Fool’s Paradise,” and “I Cried For You.”
Sarah Vaughan performed at the third Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles which was produced by Leon Hefflin, Sr. on September 7, 1947. The Valdez Orchestra, The Blenders, T-Bone Walker, Slim Gaillard, The Honeydrippers, Johnny Otis and his Orchestra, Woody Herman, and the Three Blazers also performed that same day.
She won Esquire magazine’s New Star Award for 1947, awards from Down Beat magazine from 1947 to 1952, and from Metronome magazine from 1948 to 1953. Recording and critical success led to performing opportunities, with Vaughan singing to large crowds in clubs around the country during the late 1940s and early 1950s. In the summer of 1949, she made her first appearance with a symphony orchestra in a benefit for the Philadelphia Orchestra entitled “100 Men and a Girl.” Around this time, Chicago disk jockey Dave Garroway coined a second nickname for her, “The Divine One”, that would follow her throughout her career.
In 1949, Vaughan had a radio program, Songs by Sarah Vaughan, on WMGM in New York City. The 15-minute shows were broadcast in the evenings on Wednesday through Sunday from The Clique Club, described as “rendezvous of the bebop crowd.” She was accompanied by George Shearing on piano, Oscar Pettiford on double bass, and Kenny Clarke on drums.
Sarah Vaughan’s Tiffany engagement ended the first of June. Chuck Landis brought Muggsy Spanier and His Dixieland Band back to Tiffany Club for two weeks beginning June 6th, the opening night. George Hoefer wrote an extended article tracing Muggsy Spanier’s career in the May 4, 1951 edition of Down Beat.Spanier was the 15th musician to be profiled in Down Beat’s “Bouquets to the Living” series. Spanier was featured on the cover.
From 1944 to 1947 Muggsy Spanier became one of the leaders at Nick’s in New York, alternating with Miff Mole and others. He became a fixture there and at times the music got very tired. When the Blue Note opened in Chicago he brought a band made up of Mole, Tony Parenti, the late Dave Tough, and Charlie Queener out to play the opening engagement. This led to his desire to again lead a Dixieland combo, and with the revival he has gotten together the most sought-after Dixie band in the country.
Muggsy says all his boys can play and he is happier with this band than any other in his career. It was organized in Chicago after Muggsy spent a year as the featured attraction at Jazz Ltd. During that engagement in 1949 he was considerably irritated when one of the Chicago gossip columnists mentioned, “Muggsy Spanier is currently be-bopping at Jazz Ltd.”
Last summer the Spanier group received national attention while playing the Dixieland Village of the Chicago Fair of 1950. They were the outstanding feature of the fair, and received personal plaudits from the manager Crosby Kelly in the form of a letter that Muggsy is very proud to have received.
Spanier’s current personnel includes Darnell Howard on clarinet; Floyd Bean, piano; Ralph Hutchinson, trombone, Truck Parham, bass, and Red Cooper, drums.
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Thanks so much for your help in getting the word out about Tuesday’s presentation with Nate Chinen and Steve Smith. We had 115 attendees, which is the most ever! We ended up moving the event to the sanctuary. They did a great job.