Mar 31, 1954: Dean Earl Back at Eddie Levine’s
Pianist Dean Earl, back leading the house trio after working some gigs across Columbus Ave at the Hi-Hat, closed out the month at Eddie Levine’s, and Eddie would bring him back in April, too.
Dean Earl and nightclub owner Eddie Levine went way back together, all the way back to 1935 when Levine opened his first Mass Ave nightspot. That was Little Harlem, where Earl led the band. The city revoked Levine’s license that time, but by 1946, the Licensing Board apparently thought that Levine had learned his lesson and would be more law-abiding. Levine opened Eddie’s Musical Cocktail Lounge that year at 425 Mass Ave, right across the street from the site of Little Harlem, where Wally’s Paradise was about to open.
Eddie’s was a small place, on the second floor, and it might have held 100 people if there were no tables and everyone stood shoulder to shoulder. There was a bandstand on one side, at the top of the stairs, and a bar on the other. From the earliest days, in late 1946, Dean Earl was leading the band, either a trio or a quartet. His most constant companion was Walter Sisco, who played clarinet and alto and was a fine singer besides. Given the club’s small size, Earl generally filled his quartet with bassists and guitarists. Earl didn’t work at Eddie’s exclusively, but he worked at least one long residency there every year.
The small size also limited the amount of money that could be made, and Eddie’s mostly hired local musicians (Ben Webster in 1952 was a notable exception.) And the club hired singers from across the jazz/pop realm, including Mae Arnette, Pat Rainey, Jan Strickland, Novella Taylor, and calypso singer Gene Walcott, “The Charmer.” (Eddie’s enthusiastically jumped into the mid-fifties calypso craze.) In March 1954, Earl’s group was backing a singing duo called the Twin-Tones, who crooned what they called “swingstrumentals.” With Earl then were Sisco and bassist Jimmy Woode.
Earl turned the piano chair over to Crystal Joy in early 1956, and she to Walter Childs in April 1957, and by the end of the year there were no more ads, and no more mentions in Vin Haynes’s column in the Chronicle. If Eddie’s had a music policy, they were quiet about it. In 1959, Eddie’s became the Wigwam, which lasted about three years. A corporate entity, and not Levine, was listed as its owner. That’s a story for another day.
Here’s The Charmer, singing a bit of calypso.