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Swing Street: 1948

Swing Street: 1948

July 1948. 52nd Street in New York. "The Street is at its best at night, when the neons start to bloom. It loses some of its carnival atmosphere when daylight dims its gaudy luster." Kodachrome by William Gottlieb for Collier's magazine. If anyone needs us, we'll be digging Harry the Hipster at the Onyx. View full size.


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Two months earlier

And without neon. As the caption has it, “It loses some of its carnival atmosphere when daylight dims its gaudy luster.”

It has been said before,

and will be said again, but this photo has the best watermark yet.

Rockefeller Properties expansion

The removal of the jazz clubs was mostly the result of a hostile takeover by Rockefeller Properties, which wanted to get rid of any neighboring businesses that were not to their liking. The only structure that has remained on that block is the "21" Club.

Real cool world

This is going right on the front screen. Is that Art Tatum, playing down the street from Garner? Probably not, but I'm getting a little misty thinking about it. Don't you just hate Robert Moses?

Neon and Rain-Washed Street

I think this is my favorite modern-era Shorpy picture. Also best Shorpy placement ever! I love seeing Art Tatum, Oscar Pettiford, Erroll Garner et al on the marquees. Further proof I was born too late.

Art Tatum, Fats Waller and God

My favorite story about 52nd Street was told about Fats Waller from 1940 or 1941 - drummer Henry Adler (who Buddy Rich, among others, studied with) was in the audience:

"So I was at the 3 Deuces catching Fats Waller's outfit when Art Tatum walks in the door. A few moments later, Fats notices too and stops the band dead cold. Then he stands up and says 'Ladies and gentlemen, I'm just a piano player, but tonight, God is in the house.' and he motions towards Art Tatum amidst a swell of applause."

It's always been bit surprising seeing Harry "The Hipster" Gibson's name in this iconic photo as, the year before (1947) he was largely blacklisted after the record below was banned from radio play, never to be heard there again until Dr. Demento spun it in 1975.

From my own stash of 78's :

Harry was quite the hipster indeed

Intriqued by the Harry the Hipster sign I decided to check on him. He was apparently quite the entertainer and ahead of his time musically. I will include a clip from YouTube of him performing. Wikipedia has a nice article on him as well.

If you're hip and not a square

you'll avoid Harry the Hipster and be nursing a beer listening to Tatum, or Erroll Garner with J.C Heard and Oscar Pettiford. Just those four alone represent more musical talent than you'd find most anywhere today. And the clubs: Jimmy Ryan's and the Onyx for example were places of musical worship. Where's that time machine got to?

The day the Grind died

July 4, 1960. Seven clubs had their liquor licenses pulled on the same day. "They're slapping us to death with suspensions," complained stripper Winnie Garrett. "It's such a lousy little street. Why can't they leave us alone?" The clubs closed, the strippers exited with the jazz musicians. Skyscrapers and offices took over and now it's like the neon landscape of The Street never existed.

Proud Fink

That is the first time I have ever seen anybody proclaim being a Fink in bright lights for all the world to see. Neat addition of the Shorpy mark. It fits right in this photo, and even helps create a sense of balance to the composition- Kudos.

Miss D and Bebop

Back in 1955 I was blessed to have had a very pretty and hip eighth grade English teacher. On occasion she would bring her 10 inch LP jazz recordings for us to listen to. More than once she reminded us that before taking the job she had she had lived in New York and had the opportunity to see the great musicians we listened to. That would for certain have included 52nd Street. Wish I could have been there.


I'll be checking out Erroll Garner in his prime at the 3 Deuces. And later, I might check out that new club, Shorpy.

Only missing Nick's Place

Reminds me of Pottersville from "It's a Wonderful Life."

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