Out and About NYC Magazine is proud to present three dance and music clips from the legendary Cotton Club. Opened in 1923, the Cotton Club on 142nd St & Lenox Ave in the heart of Harlem, New York. The Cotton Club was operated by white New York gangster Owney Madden who used the club as an outlet to sell his alcohol to the prohibition crowd.
The Cotton Club at first excluded all but white patrons although the entertainers and most of staff were African-American. Dancers at the Cotton Club were held to strict standards; they had to be at least 5’6” tall, light-skinned with only a slight tan, and under twenty-one years of age.
Shows at the Cotton Club were musical reviews that featured dancers, singers, comedians, and variety acts, as well as a house band. Duke Ellington led that band from 1927 to 1930, and sporadically throughout the next eight years. The Cotton Club and Ellington’s Orchestra gained national notoriety through weekly broadcasts on radio station WHN some of which were recorded and released on albums. In this clip Duke Ellington and his orchestra perform Rockin in Rhythm & Bugle Call Rag with dancers Bessie Dudley and Florence Hill from 1933.
Cotton Club Dancers Bessie Dudley and Florence Hill
The entertainers who played at the Cotton Club were some of the most widely known blues and jazz performers of their time including Cab Calloway. This is one of Cab’s broadcasts from The Cotton Club in the 30’s after Duke Ellington took to touring on the road. They later became co- house bands at the club.
Cab ( Cotton Club) Calloway 1934 Zaz Zuh Zaz
Elegant black show girls ditch Opera for Jazz as they get seduced by a hot jazz tune in Red Hot. You’ve never seen this kind of action from the 1930s main stream Hollywood before, it was cut by the Hays Code. Red Hot stars Dorothy Salter and Maurice Rocco.
Red Hot 1930s Cotton Club Show
The Silver Belles of Harlem are dancers who performed at the Cotton Club during its heyday era. Group members include Marion Coles, Elaine Ellis, Cleo Ellis, Fay Ray, and Bertye Lou Wood were featured in the 2006 documentary directed by Heather Lyn MacDonald, entitled Been Rich All My Life.
Been Rich All My Life