Historic Black And Tan Nightclub Monumental In Opening Doors For African-American Musicians | KNKX

Historic Black And Tan Nightclub Monumental In Opening Doors For African-American Musicians

Aug 13, 2016

In the early 1900s, Seattle was a major stop for the vaudeville circuit, with the performances held in the city's finest downtown theaters. If you were an African-American during that time, your best chance of seeing one of these shows was from up in the balcony (an area then often referred to as the peanut gallery), if you were allowed to buy a ticket at all. And if you were a black musician who wanted to perform at a club in Seattle, you were entirely out of luck. The local music union at the time only allowed white performers to take the stage. 

In 1913, members of the local African-American music community created their own union, the Local 493, and were unofficially given the strip of Jackson Street in Seattle between 5th Avenue and 12th Avenue as their neighborhood to perform in. 

One of the venues on that strip was the Black and Tan. In addition to being a performance space where young black musicians like Ray Charles and Quincy Jones could perform and flourish, it became one of the few places that all races were welcome to sit in the same room together and appreciate the African-American art form of jazz. 

Paul DeBarros, who covers music for the Seattle Times and is the author of the book "Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle," shared the story with us.