April 16, 1938: First Time! Ella Sings a Classic
On April 16, 1938, Ella Fitzgerald, with the Chick Webb band, introduced a new song, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” to the crowd at the Flamingo Room in Boston.
Boston, April 1938: in the ballrooms were Gene Krupa at the Cambridge Hotel Continental, Art Shaw with Billie Holiday at the Roseland-State, and Glenn Miller at the Raymor. In the clubs were Eddie Deas at the Club Congo, the Alabama Aces at Little Dixie, and Chick Webb with Ella Fitzgerald at Levaggi’s. This was a surprising amount of activity. Webb’s band had even been held over, a fact noted by Lillian Johnson in her column “Strictly Jive” in the Afro-American: “Chick and his band, and Ella, of course, will be held over four more weeks, and maybe longer, in Boston, where ordinarily, about the only thing that holds over is winter.”
Jack Levaggi’s Flamingo Room was in the Gardner Hotel, 199 Mass Ave at Norway Street, two blocks from Symphony Hall. Levaggi’s was a high-end nightclub, and whereas the Roseland-State or the Raymor charged 75 cents for admission on the weekends, the Flamingo Room charged $2 and up, sometimes all the way up to $5, which was a lot of money in 1938 (one 1938 dollar equals about $16.50 today). But the bands were good, including Casa Loma, Cab Calloway, Tommy Dorsey, and for a long stretch in 1938, Chick Webb.
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