The Troy Street Observer

May 19, 1985: Tribute to John McIlvaine

Photo of Mae Arnette
Mae Arnette, late 1950s: she organized the benefit for her uncle

The life of concert promoter and nightclub operator John McIlvaine was celebrated by an overflow crowd at the Taurus Club.

John McIlvaine had been on the Boston scene for a long time, from at least 1943, when as president of the Younger Citizens’ Co-ordinating Committee, he staged concerts by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton to raise money for war relief. After the war, he continued promoting concerts, but also started managing musicians and entertainers. Then in the fifties he started managing nightclubs, including Sugar Hill, in Bay Village. It was there that he introduced Boston to his niece, Mae Arnette, in 1952.

The headliner in the Sugar Hill show became ill and McIlvaine needed a replacement in a hurry. He called Arnette, who had recently won an Amateur Hour contest at the Apollo Theatre and was singing at Murrain’s nightclub in Harlem. She took the Sugar Hill job, fell in love with Boston, and moved here.

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