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Sidney's Creole Cafe

"Leading Cafe of the West"
MS 179 Box 33 Folder 5 Cafe Creole Photo

Photo provided by Sean at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland Vertical File Collection, MS 179, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. 

The Cafe

The Cafe

The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, which ended in West Oakland, stimulated West Oakland’s economy and put the region on the national stage. An ethnically diverse work force was drawn to Oakland and the increasing employment opportunities provided by the railroad industry. Because West Oakland was already home to an established Black population, Black migrants from the South were naturally drawn here with ease of the transcontinental railroad.(1) In 1921, after the demise of the bohemian Barbary Coast jazz scene in San Francisco, a number of dancehalls, theaters, and cafes sprang up in West Oakland. The non-Black community in West Oakland in the *20s and ’30s—before the “White flight” of the ’40s—stayed to themselves and had little to do with African American social life. Some Whites patronized Black and Tan clubs (nightclubs that catered to a mixed race clientele) although many perceived themselves as “slumming.” Among West Oakland’s most popular Black and Tan clubs were Slim Jenkins’s club (1933-1962) and The Creole Cafe (ca. 1918-1921), both on Seventh Street, but even here the majority of the patrons were African Americans.(2) In 1918, Sidney Dearing launched the street’s first Black-owned music venue, the Creole Café at 1740 Seventh Street, which showcased New Orleans-style jazz and big-band music in West Oakland. In 2019 the Creole Cafe was added to The Music They Played on 7th Street Oakland Walk of Fame and has a plaque on 7th street near the West Oakland Bart Station. 

Credits:

(1) Crossroads : A story of West Oakland. (1996; Quest Productions, video).

(2) Ordinance Rezoning 1600-1642 7th Street - Report by the Community and Economic Development Agency - UC Berkeley

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MS 179 Box 33 Folder 2 Cafe Creole Adver

Scan provided by Sean at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland Vertical File Collection, MS 179, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. 

WEST OAKLAND VENUES

 

The smaller venues provided more intimacy and gave West Oakland its character. A number of cafes sprang up along Seventh Street but one of the most significant for New Orleans style jazz music was Sid Deering’s Creole Cafe, at 1740 Seventh Street. This Black and Tan club had a short existence from circa 1918 to 1921; there is no telephone or business listing for the Creole Cafe in 1922 or afterward. The club featured “jazz band, jazz orchestra and jazz entertainers as well as dancing from 3:00pm to 1:00am” (Ye Liberty Play House 1920). Musician Reb Spikes recalled that King Oliver “played for Lucius Lomax up there in Oakland at the Creole Cafe,” while Charlie “Duke” Turner remembered trombonist Kid Ory playing at the Creole Cafe (Stoddard 1982:78, 91). Wade Whaley, clarinetist from New Orleans, got his first job at the Creole Cafe. “Slummers” from both sides of the Bay frequented the Creole Cafe, which sold ginger ale for 40 cents a small glass and provided a place for White and Black patrons to dine and watch the entertainment (Oakland Tribune 5 October 1920). The club also sponsored dances at halls that could accommodate larger crowds than the cafe. While the band name is not given, the music for the Creole Cafe’s New Year’s Eve all-night ball at Foresters Hall was advertised as “Jazz! Jazz! Oh Boy!” (Oakland Sunshine 18 December 1920). Although it was advertised as “strictly high class,” the Creole Cafe was one of three cabarets in West Oakland said to be associated with prostitution (Oakland Enquirer 20 December 1920; Oakland Tribune 22 April 1920, 29 May 1920; see Solari, this volume). Whether the Creole Cafe closed because of alleged prostitution activities, the challenges of Prohibition, or other factors, was not learned. Hildebrand (1979) cites an article in the California Voice that blamed the demise of the Creole Cafe and other Black businesses on a lack of Black patronage.

Stewart, S., & Praetzellis, M. (Eds.). (1997). Sights and Sounds: Essays in Celebration of West Oakland (p. 317). The Results of a Focused Research Program to Augment Cultural Resources Investigations for the I-880 Cypress Replacement Project, Alameda County 

However, it wasn’t until 1918, with the opening of Sid Deering’s Creole Café – a famous venue of New Orleans-style jazz and big band dance – that 7th Street began to gain notoriety (in Oakland).
The Music They Played on 7th Street Oakland Walk of Fame By Ronnie K. Stewart, Executive Director, West Coast Blues Society - 2016
As the city flourished, Seventh Street became the main drag for West Oakland, with Latino- and black-owned businesses opening along the strip. In 1918, Sidney Dearing launched the street’s first black-owned music venue, the Creole Café, which showcased New Orleans-style jazz and big-band music. In 1921, the Lincoln Theatre debuted as both a cinema and stage, offering everything from film screenings to vaudeville shows.
 Lisa Hix, Localnewsmatters.org,  May 6, 2020

Mother Thompson fretted most about the temptations of West Oakland nightlife. Seventh Street had become a flourishing nexus of black cultural activity, particularly for jazz lovers; the widely traveled black railroad workers were cognizant of music innovations across the nation and eager to support visits by the likes of jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory, and King Oliver. But because it was a product of railroad culture, the neighborhood also featured gambling dens and houses of prostitution, especially after the shutdown in 1917 of San Francisco’s infamous red light district, the Barbary Coast. Louise, Wilbur Graves, and a few others went to Seventh Street to visit Sid Deering’s Creole Cafe, where the sounds of New Orleans jazz radiated.

Louise Thompson Patterson
by Gilyard, Keith, 1952

Cafe - white and black people together -

Sid Deering (Dearing) is proprietor of another entertainment cafe nearby and the "Creole Cafe," visited by "slummers" from both sides of the bay is not far off. This place sells ginger ale for 40 cents a small glass and here white and black patrons dine and watch the entertainment.

Oakland Tribune - Tues - October 5, 1920

The Western Outlook. (San Francisco, Oak
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San Francisco Examiner - Sat - May 21, 1921

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Oakland Tribune - Sat - May 21, 1921

Famous Musicians at the Cafe

Famous Musicians at the Cafe

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Photo: Kid Ory Original Jazz Band, Oakland 1921-22 with Baby Dodds, Kid Ory, Mutt Carey, Wade Waley and unknown clarinet player. (Photo by JP Jazz Archive/Getty Images)

Local cabaret-blues singers Ruth Lee and Roberta Dudley appeared on the first Sunshine releases, backed by members of Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band from the Creole Cafe in Oakland, California. The Chicago Defender for May 22, 1922, confirmed that Lee and Dudley had already recorded “Maybe Someday” and “Krooked Blues,” respectively, which the paper reported were expected to release on or about June 1.

Tucker, Ragtime Billy. “Coast Dope.” Chicago Defender - May 27, 1922, p. 8.

Kid Ory made his first appearance in the Bay Area at the Creole Café in Oakland. The band was as successful in Northern California as it had been in the southern part of the state, and the musicians were playing constantly. Ory was even able to secure an engagement for King Oliver at the Pergola Dance Hall in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Collection - 

The Charles N. Huggins Project

Kid Ory, By Hal Smith - Stanford Exhibit

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Creole Trombone, Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz – 

John McCusker, 2012. Pages 107 and 108

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Oakland Tribune - Tue - Aug. 30, 1949

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"Henry Starr and his new jazz orchestra"

Oakland Tribune - Sat - April 9, 1921

The first black entertainer to get on a radio show in San Francisco was Henry Starr, a fine Oakland-born musician. He had left Oakland in the 1920s to work in Los Angeles and on the East Coast as a piano player, with some of the very good black entertainers of that period. He was gone for a long time before he came back home. Then he was hired as a star of a variety show known as the Edna Fischer Show on KFRC in San Francisco. It became very popular. Thousands of listeners turned their radios on every morning, and the names of the stars were well-known locally.

The Museum of the City of San Francisco

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Letter to the Editor 2 -- No Title Billie Ross Creole Cafe The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967); Aug 13, 1921; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Defender pg. 6

 

 

Oakland, Calif.,

Aug. 3, 1921

 

Dear Friend Tony – Well, I have made another change. I left the Vendome(?) Café in Los Angeles for a better position. I am back with all my old friends at the Creole Café, Oakland. A sad accident a few days ago to some of the musicians and entertainers when a car containing a party of joyriders was overturned and Teddy Murray was killed, almost instantly, and the rest of the party were slightly injured. Miss Melba Clay, Mrs. Kincher, Mr Curtis Mosby, Ten Bravant, Mr. Landry, Henry Allen were those injured.

 

The Café is doing very good. The Creole Jazz Band is doing nicely. Here is the lineup: Early Whaley, Saxophone; Leon Hereford, violin and saxophone; James Porter, trumpet (?); Melba Clay, piano; Fess Fields, piano; Baron Willie (Will) Moorehead, trombone; Henry Allen, drums. Now we have the entertainers; Miss Lethia Hill, Miss Evelyn Goff, Mr. Clifford Ritchie, Martha (Bettie?) Ritchie. and Billie Boss. This lineup furnishes anything from light opera to comedy. We feature all of the latest _____ of the day. Mr. Sydney (Sidney) Derring (Dearing), the proprietor, is not sparing expense to please his patrons and they surely come in droves every night to his popular café.

 

Well, Tony, I will close until next time. Remember me to the bunch –

Billie Ross Creole Café 1749 7th St

Wade Whaley was born in 1895 in New Orleans. After playing with New Orleans bands and leading his own band for a brief period, he joined Jelly Roll Morton in Los Angeles around 1917. Whaley’s first job in West Oakland was at the Creole Cafe in 1920. His Black and Tan Jazz Hounds achieved much success in the late 1920s (Chilton 1978:349), playing regularly on Thursday nights at the Savoy Hall at Thirty-sixth and San Pablo (California Voice 18 April 1930:5) and at the Elk’s Lodge at 1219 Eighth Street (California Voice 4 July 1930:5).

Among the earliest well-known musicians to play West Oakland was New Orleans-born Jelly Roll Morton—composer, pianist, and self-proclaimed inventor of jazz—who came to Los Angeles in 1917 and stayed five years. During this time he traveled to the Bay Area, playing at a club on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco and at the Creole Cafe at 1740 Seventh Street in West Oakland. Kid Ory, trombonist and multi-instrumentalist, formed a band on the West Coast in November 1919 and played residences in Oakland.

 

Stewart, S., & Praetzellis, M. (Eds.). (1997). Sights and Sounds: Essays in Celebration of West Oakland (p. 310, 312). The Results of a Focused Research Program to Augment Cultural Resources Investigations for the I-880 Cypress Replacement Project, Alameda County 

The End of the Cafe

End of the Cafe

The first-known venue to feature African-American music on Seventh Street was the Creole Café, where pioneering New Orleans “tailgate” trombonist Kid Ory (then an Oakland resident) appeared regularly in 1921 with his Original Creole Jazz Band. A year later, the group traveled to Los Angeles and became the first black jazz band ever to make a recording.

The Jan. 7, 1922, issue of the California Voice, the oldest black newspaper on the West Coast, contained an editorial titled “Oakland’s Shame.” Bemoaning the recent decline of a number of black-owned businesses in West Oakland, it read in part: “The Creole Café, the finest of its kind west of Chicago, can attribute its failure to lack of patronage by the Race, hence they were forced to ply for patronage to the whites and slowly but surely race prejudice crept in; this was the beginning of the end.”

If racial tension doomed the Creole Café, it apparently had subsided by the time Harold “Slim” Jenkins opened a nightclub and restaurant next door to the cafe’s former site on April 7, 1933—the day that Prohibition ended. Born in Monroe, La., Jenkins came to California right after World War I, worked as a waiter, and saved his money. Slim Jenkins’ Supper Club became one of the most celebrated black nightclubs in the state. It attracted a racially mixed clientele, including several mayors of Oakland and other of Jenkins’s white friends in the city’s Republican establishment. Unlike the Creole Café, it managed to stay in business for 39 years.

Blues on Seventh Street | Recollections of the West Oakland scene in its heyday. By Lee Hildebrand

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Oakland Tribune - Wed - Nov. 16, 1921

Oakland Tribune - Sat - Nov. 19, 1921

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Oakland Tribune - Wed - May 7, 1924

Before the Creole Cafe was at 1740 Seventh Street, it was a “Chinese Lottery House” conducted by Lim Ben (Oakland Tribune July 22, 1914), sometime after Sidney closed in 1935 Slim Jenkins occupied the building, and before its demolition according to the San Antonio Register on Friday, June 19, 1959 it was the Seventh Avenue Baptist Church.

Jazz on 7th Street in West Oakland

Jazz on 7th

JAZZING UP SEVENTH STREET:

MUSICIANS, VENUES, AND THEIR SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS

 

Willie R. Collins

INTRODUCTION

 

The ‘20s roared on West Oakland’s Seventh Street. King Oliver’s cornet wailed; Kid Ory’s trombone slid; and Wade Whaley, a young New Orleans’ disciple, followed with his clarinet, playing sinewy counter strains around tunes like “Tiger Rag.” Crescent City jazz flowed from the Creole Cafe onto Seventh Street. At night, Seventh Street came alive with many sights and many sounds. A night out on the town might begin with attending a social club’s annual dance, with Tin Can Henry Alley and His Snappy Cotton Club Band furnishing the music at Magnolia Hall; or a few blocks down to Peralta, listening to Professor Elmer Keeton, organist and musical director at the Lincoln Theater, with the Keeton’s Brown Favorites entertaining before seeing the Negro screen drama, “The Sport of the Gods”; or dining at the Overland Cafe on mustard greens and chicken dumplings with cornbread, just like mother used to fix it; or right off Seventh on Pine, listening to Ivy Anderson scat on a jazz chorus at the Bluebird Cabaret’s grand opening. Such was the setting of what some called “Hell’s Half Acre” but others called heaven...

Stewart, S., & Praetzellis, M. (Eds.). (1997). Sights and Sounds: Essays in Celebration of West Oakland (p. 295). The Results of a Focused Research Program to Augment Cultural Resources Investigations for the I-880 Cypress Replacement Project, Alameda County 

The West Coast Blues Hall of Fame will honor its 2012 inductees during its annual award show March 25 (2012) at the Hilton Oakland Airport. Jazz giant Herbie Hancock, Don Cornelius, the late “Soul Train” host, Chicago’s legendary Paul Butterfield Blues Band and BAM magazine founder Dennis Erokan lead an impressive list of new Hall of Fame members.

In all, 15 individuals and institutions (such as Sid Deering’s Creole Cafe, one of the first jazz clubs in Oakland) will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s a very diverse group, but all of the inductees share one thing in common: They helped keep the blues alive.

Harrington: Meet the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame’s new inductees.  
By JIM HARRINGTON | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: March 12, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. | UPDATED: August 13, 2016 at 7:54 a.m.
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