2. The Avenoo: Clubs and Ambience of Indiana Avenue

Elks Club Parade on Indiana Avenue

Indiana Avenue was the nucleus for jazz musicians.  Just about every musician going East, West, North or South could come to the Avenue to ‘jam’.  No other city, not Kansas City, Chicago or anywhere else, had the ambience and flavor of Indiana Avenue.  (Aletra Hampton, “musical entertainer”)

“It was the place to be, I mean The Place To Be”.  (Edythe Fitzhugh, jazz enthusiast and newsletter publisher)

In the 1930s, Indiana Avenue, just northwest of downtown to the White River was the central business and entertainment district for African Americans in Indianapolis. The map above highlights the most important jazz venues. Additional jazz venues included The Flame (242 Blake St.), The Galaxy Ballroom (427 Indiana Avenue), Scotty’s Cocktail Lounge (361 Indiana Avenue), Jeff’s Cocktail Lounge (364 Indiana Avenue), The Place to Play (530 Indiana Avenue), The Rainbow Tavern (451 Indiana Avenue).

The earliest African American presence on the Avenue was dominated by the Madame C.J. Walker Center and two brothers, Sea and Denver Ferguson.

The Walker Building

The Walker Building was named after hair care formula inventor and millionairess, Madame C.J. Walker.  The building was the center of business activity on the Avenue and housed a beauty parlor, an insurance office, a doctor’s office, a drugstore, and entertainment venues — a 1,500 seat theater with a $1,500 pipe organ and an afterhours club (The Missile Room).  Pianist, Erroll Grandy recalled that the building was one of the big jazz venues “where they gave all the dances” in the 1930s.  The theater presented local jazz groups led by Jimmy Coe, the Hampton Family, Pookie Johnson and others for events such as an annual Christmas benefit.  The Missile Room was where guitarist, Wes Montgomery was “discovered” with Melvin Rhyne on organ and Paul Parker on drums.

The Walker Theater opened on December 26, 1927.  Reginald DuValle, Sr. and The DuValle Blackbirds held the honor of opening Madame C.J. Walker’s Theatre to a packed audience.

Reginald DuValle, Sr and His Blackbirds

Brothers, Sea and Denver Ferguson were pioneering Black entrepreneurs in Indianapolis.  They ran a successful printing business around 1919 and later made a fortune through the properties they acquired.  They became interested in the local jazz community and began operating businesses that helped make Indianapolis a regional jazz center.  The Ferguson brothers opened four important entertainment venues on the Avenue  — The The Cotton Club  with the Trianon Ballroom at the top, the Sunset Terrace Ballroom, and Royal Palm Gardens.  They also ran a hotel and a booking agency for musicians (Williams 2007; Indiana Cultural District Report n.d).

The Sunset Terrace

The Sunset Terrace

The Sunset Terrace, located at 873-875 Indiana Avenue, was opened by Sea Ferguson in 1938.  Erroll Grandy recalled that The Sunset Terrace and The Walker Casino provided live music for dancing.  Grandy also remembered that the Sunset as a rough place.  “…every time I went there, I wished for a bullet-proof vest.  I didn’t have one, but I wished for one. … Duke Ellington came to the Sunset one Sunday night and… of course, he was on stage and… I heard fighting in the darkness and they threw whiskey bottles and beer bottles toward… the bandstand and messed up his suit.  And he said he’d never come back there, never.  And this was, oh, back… in the late ‘30s or early ‘40s” (Grandy 1985:16-17).

The Cotton Club, was another Ferguson brother’s venue.  It had three floors that provided different types of entertainment.  In a 2009 interview Mingo Jones recalled that the main floor featured bands, the third floor featured shows with dancing girls, comedians, tap dancers, singers and an entertainer named Iron Jaws who wore skates and could pick up a girl seated on top of a table with his bare jaws.  The middle floor had all night jam sessions (Jones 2009).

The Paradise

Erroll Grandy recalled that around 1936 Earl Fox Walker was a regular at The Paradise. “[Walker] was a drummer… a terrific drummer.  Well he started out on spoons and … he graduated from the spoons to the drums, ..they hired him for the drummer at the Paradise.  And they played records and, … Earl Fox Walker was the main drummer that people could see.  And he kept in beat with the record, you know ….  And I thought that was amazing.” “…he was the only live musician [there]”. (Grandy 1985:20).


Henri’s was a popular bar for jazz musicians.  Above the door there was a sign that said “Through these Portals Pass the World’s Best Musicians”.

Reginald DuValle, Jr. with musicians at Henri's

“Pookie and I would go downtown and get a couple of the guys that played in the band and we’d have a jam session and what we’d try to do was blow em’ out. … We would tackle the players that came from out of town.  That was our thing.” (Reginald DuValle, Jr. 2009)

Georgia’s Bar

Georges Bar

Georgia’s Bar and Henri’s Bar sat at opposite corners from one another at Indiana Avenue, Vermont and Senate Streets. Above Georgia’s Bar sat the Sky Club.

Small clubs such as Henri’s, Geogia’s Bar and the Missile Room provided settings for cutting contests where local musicians competed against one another or with touring musicians when they finished their engagements at the larger venues. Reginald DuValle, jr.’s, father in law was Henry Vance, proprietor of Henri’s Bar.

David Baker (cellist, composer, arranger and educator) recalled that during the 1940s and 50s more than 20 jazz venues were operating in Indianapolis. In addition to those clubs operating on the Avenue were near Northside clubs – The Cactus Club, The Hub Bub, The 19th Hole, and The Topper, and Mr. B’s (Baker’s quartets played at the Topper and Mr. B’s) and on 16th street there was the 16th Street Tavern (where Wes Montgomery and Pookie Johnson played) and The Turf Bar (Indiana Cultural District Report n.d).


Al’s British Lounge (1969-1975)

Al's British Lounge

Albert Coleman took over The British Lounge and reopened it as Al’s British Lounge in 1969. The Lounge became a popular meeting place for jazz musicians from 1969 until its closing in 1975.

Christmas at Al's British Lounge

Operating at a time when Black businesses on the Avenue were in decline, Al ensured that the atmosphere at the Lounge was friendly and welcoming, not only to jazz musicians but to men and women in the community from various walks of life. Eydie Fitzhugh (jazz newsletter publisher) recalled the great atmosphere and music at the Lounge performed by Al’s Three Souls and Aretta La Marre Bush (singer). The one thing people always liked to order at the Lounge says Fitzhugh was polish sausage and dill pickles (Coleman 2009b; Fitzhugh 2009).

Three Women at British Lounge

The Hampton Sisters

“Music is a feel thing” … [Any kind of music can be jazz] “you simply put the jazz on it” (Aletra Hampton n.d.)

The Hampton Sisters’ Group played at Steins’ Restaurant for an extended engagement that outlasted five consecutive managers in the 1960s. Stein’s was formerly located at 1110 North Meridian Street. The Hampton Sisters’ Group consisted of four sisters from the Hampton family, one of Indianapolis’ most respected musical families that moved to the City in the 1930s. The group formed in the late 1960s with Virtue Hampton Whitted on bass; Aletra Hampton played piano and sang; Carmelita Hampton played saxophone and sang, and the sole surviving sister, Dawn Hampton also sang and continues to perform as a dancer in New York City today. In a 1992 interview Virtue and Aletra described the ensemble as “a rhythm and blues group who jazz it up” and the sisters referred to themselves as “musical entertainers” not “musicians”. Virtue and Aletra also noted the extraordinary difficulties and dangers that female performers faced during the first half of the 20th century. Black women entertainers were scorned by middleclass African Americans and they faced the threat of unwillingly being “kept” by wealthy White men. The complexities of performing especially without the male members of the Hampton family led the sisters to hire male side musicians for protection (Hampton n.d.).

Prior to their extended engagement at Steins the sisters formed a vocal harmony group called the “Hamptonians” in the 1940s that was modeled after The Andrew Sisters. Carmelita passed away in 1987 and Aletra and Virtue continued to perform into their 90s when they passed away in 2006 (Hampton n.d.; Kollath 2003).


75 Responses to “2. The Avenoo: Clubs and Ambience of Indiana Avenue”

  1. To whom it may concern;
    Durning the 1947 ‘s until the colsing down of the clubs on Indiana Ave. i worked most of the Jazz aaClubs on the street. Henri’s , Georges bar, the Ritz, Cotom Club, the sky club, the 440 club, The Anderson Hotel, Fuster Jones’s Club, The Indiana theatre, The Walker Theatre, the Sunset with charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington, Jimmie Coe, and many little clubs that i cant remember their names. Pookie , Russel , Duvalle, Joe Mitdhel, Phillip Stewart, and many of the yooung guys of the 40’ 50’s and 60’s worked the street and jammed with some of the best players to come to town with many of the best bands in the country. I was on the Ave. when many of the guys memtioned were two young to come into the clubs. The Montgomery’s the Hamptons, The Weedens, Grandy, Pernell Coleman , and many others really made their living on the street. Ask Albert Coleman if all of these things are not true. He and I are about the only onfes left who knew the whole story of the Street. Live,l Willis Kirk

    • Willis, I hear you. And you’ve gone on to noteworthy accomplishments of your own from what I hear. I’m wondering how the Avenoo and Crispus Attucks influenced your achievements thereafter that perhaps you could relay here. I met you at your Butler U. talk last year that was so enthusiastic (went on for 3 hours without stop!). I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to interview you then. Thank for your post and feel free to mention what else you’ve done in your career in this webpage. Karen Taborn

    • Dr. Willis Kirk
      Where was “The Missile Room”?
      Is it a basement of “The Walker Building”?

    • Curry Campbell Says:

      Did you know of a man named Jeff Gambles…. That’s my grandfather and I would like to find out more about him.

  2. LaTrece Coleman-Stone Says:

    Thanks for sharing these old pictures and stories, especially those with family members in them. You site is great!

  3. Teri Klassen Says:

    It’s wonderful that these reminiscences and photos are captured and made publicly accessible here. ..Duke Ellington’s suit being splattered, the man on the crutches in the photo, perhaps a WWII veteran?, the favorite dish of polish sausage and dill pickle. who knew? And Aletra Hampton’s intriguing observation that any kind of music can be jazz.

  4. Teri Klassen Says:

    And thanks especially to Mr. Kirk for contributing.

  5. David Leander Williams Says:

    Hello Karen: Thank you ever so much for chronicling the rich entertainment history of Indiana Avenue! You painted a fantastically beautiful portrait of the Avenue during it heyday and from your pictures and commentary, I could actually see these great musicians jamming up and down the Avenue. No, I’m not clairvoyant or a prophet. LOL!! Anyway, I am now completing the last few pages of my book “A History of Indiana Avenue and Its Entertainment Empire” which will chronicle the general history of the Avenue 1821-1900 then I take a decade by decade peep into the entertainment scene 1910-1970. I have more than 100 biographical sketches of entertainers of various genres during this time period. I also have pictures of EVERY individual that I feature. I hope to join you in celebrating the rich history of Indiana Avenue!!! It’s sooooo long overdue!!!! Continue in your journey to tell the TRUE story of Indiana Avenue untouched by any revisionist historian from IUPUI. LOL!!!

    • Dear David, thanks for your comment. I’m looking forward to your much anticipated work and hope to create a link between this website and your’s once the book is out to facilitate communication between our readers/vistors. Best wishes

  6. Karen: During the many years I was on the Street (the Ave) Emmett Brown from the east Side was the Photographer who was on the Ave . taking pictures of most ot the musicians who came through from the 40’s and 50’s. His wife Jean Brown Ballinger should have many of the photos that Emmitt took during those years. She and Emmitt and I were very good friends ove the years. I believe she still has many of the photos that were left from Emmitt’s career. i saw many of the pictures he took because I lived just a few books from he and his family on the east side of Indianapolis. Jim Cummins may also have some of those pictores. You might get in touch with both os them to research these photos. Good lluck.

  7. Denise Y. Ferguson Says:

    I am Denise Yvonne Ferguson and the Granddaughter to Denver D Ferguson Sr. and daughter of Denver Jr. I am very proud of my heritage.

    • David Williams Says:

      Hello Denise: I am David Williams and independent Indiana Avenue history researcher who wrote an article on your Father and Uncle in the summer 2007 edition of Traces Magazine (Indiana Historical Society.) I enjoyed interviewing your cousins Mrs. Mattie Louise Ferguson-Ballow and Mrs. Carole Ferguson-Finnell. They are both such wonderful individuals. Sadly, I attended Mrs. Ballow’s wake last week and am very saddened by her departure. Her interviews were enjoyable and VERY comical. We had great fun laughing together as we traced the history and events that occurred on Indiana Avenue. I miss her smile and laughter!!!

  8. David Williams Says:

    Hello Denise: My email address is fanteeking@msn.com

  9. […] The busiest day of the year was April 21st with 181 views. The most popular post that day was 2. The Avenoo: Clubs and Ambience of Indiana Avenue. […]


    It is amazing the amount of history that is not known by the people. This site is just unbelievable.

  11. Carole Ferguson Finnell Says:

    Hello. My dad was Denver D. Ferguson, Sr. and my uncle was Sea H. Ferguson. Although my father made his living on the Avenue he did not allow me there. My brothers, Denver and Ronald Ferguson spent some short stints there helping out at the Sunset, which our father owned. Our paths and vocations were quite different from our father and uncle. Denver was great at woodworking and enjoyed making things with his hands, Ronald was an ordained priest of the Jesuit Order and I am a retired social worker. I am proud of what my dad and uncle accomplished in the hard days of racial segregation. Carole Ferguson Finnell

  12. So much fun reading all of this and remembering. Carole and I are contemporaries and my dad, Smith Cheatham, knew the Ferguson brothers and admired them. I, too, was warned away from the Avenue, but in my teens in the Fifties, I spent a lot of time in George’s Bar listening to the Jazz Contemporaries–Larry Ridley, Freddie Hubbard, James Spaulding etc. In that triangle next to George’s Bar was Doyle’s Restaurant where my dad often took my mother out to dinner.

  13. Richard Crenshaw Says:

    I’m always happy to view photos and info about the “good ol days”.
    I grew up i Lockefield Gardes in the same buildig (724 Blake St.) as Cy Graham. I always thought Cy built and owned the Sunset Cafe and Terrace. I know he ran the business in the 50’s on untill his death. At approx. 6’9″ tall, Cy stood out in any crowd. His photo (back to the camera) is included in this site but there’s no mention of him. Does anyone know his actual status at the Sunset ?

  14. Geraldetta Tate Thomas Lovelace Says:

    Hi Carole, this is Geraldetta. I am looking for information or photos from the British Lounge when it was owned by Townsend Greene? He was my great-uncle and I have been trying to put together information on all branches of my family. It seems like some of the people who have commented here know a lot about The Avenue.

    • David Leander Williams Says:

      Hi Geraldetta. I just completed my book on the entertainment history of Indiana Avenue 1821-1970 and have interviewed Mr. Al Coleman, the last owner of the British Lounge before Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis gobbled up the west side of town. Perhaps, Mr. Coleman knew your relative. David Williams. fanteeking@msn.com

  15. Ann Hummons Powell Says:

    This is a wonderful website!
    My mother, Mary Singleton (who married Henry Hummons, Jr.), was the organist who moved to Indianapolis in 1927 to play for the silent movies at the Walker Theatre.
    Thank you to David Leander Williams, with whom I went to Attucks in the early ’60’s, for keeping me posted on events in Indianapolis. I look forward to reading his new book, Naptown Blues, about the Indiana Avenue musicians.

  16. john gipson Says:

    awesome depiction of history of indiana ave.I could sit and read this kind of story all day.Dont forget the yearly Walker benefit show that was held on Christmas eve.I use to attend those because i lived on the west side.I am a former basketball player at Crispus Attucks from the 1955 and 1956 championship teams.They use to let me and four of my teammates in the cotten club to see guys we went to school with but we had to stay in the back and they would serve us cokes.Keep up the good work. john gipson

    • Dear Mr. Gipson, Thank you for you enthusiastic and informative post! It sounds like you have quite a bit of rich Indiana cultural history to convey yourself. Perhaps you should be in touch with David Williams (who speaks very highly of you, by the way). David has chronicled the musical history of Indiana and has a deep interest in Indiana cultural education in general. Be well and thanks for your contribution here. Karen Taborn (website creator).

  17. Wow! I am so fascinated with our heritage. My grandfather Pat Riley owned a club on the avenue called A Place To Play. He also had a lot of the greats play there as well. Unfortunately I don’t have any photographs of him in his place of business. I do have photo’s of my aunt and uncles grocery store and they had a resturant called Perkins grill and the grocery store was called Perkins Grocery. I hope to hear back from someone who may have known either my Grandfather Norman Pat Riley who owned A Place To Play or maybe to share some great memory of being in the club. My Aunt And Uncle’s names are Andrew Perkins and Emma Perkins Mann.

    • David Leander Williams Says:

      Hellen: WOW!! I’ve jus completed my book on Indiana Avenue and was just discussing Andrew “Big Perk” Perkins. His sister Florence Perkins Willett was my 4th grade teacher at William D. McCoy school #24. I did a TV documentary on “Jimi Hendrix in the Place to Play” several years ago that was produced by WFYI Channel 20. It was quite informative. Give me a hit at fanteeking@msn.com and we’ll discuss more. PS, Mrs. Perkins-Willett used to love to tell us children about her trips to Mexico and her dining on “cactus and eggs” there. UUGGHHH!! I’ve NEVER forgotten that! LOL!!!

  18. bergertone Says:

    I got some old posters from the Sunset Terrace from around 1948, if you are interested in posting photos of them I can photograph them? I have a Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, James Moody and Illinois Jacquet. Cab is the one who dated them to 1948, he signed the poster when I performed with his band back in the 80’s.

  19. Joshua H. Gordis Says:

    I am starting to learn about Indiana Ave (as a huge fan of Wes Montgomery). If I were to visit Indianapolis, are any of the original clubs and music spots still there? Is it possible to get a sense of what is was like back then, or has the University taken over the whole place?

    • Hi Joshua,

      Much has changed but I suggest you get in touch with David Williams at fanteeking@msn.com. David has a grasp on current jazz activities in Naptown … especially those reflecting the community of musicians and their musical descendants discussed here in this website. Best, Karen Taborn

  20. Joshua H. Gordis Says:

    Thanks, Karen. Will do. Best wishes, Josh

  21. I came across this site looking for information about my great-grandfather. He owned a pool hall on Indiana Avenue. His name was James “Bubba” Mitchell and it was called “Bubba’s Pool Room.” If anyone has any pictures or stories please email me. chrisney.scsc@gmail.com

  22. Tamyra Williams Says:

    I actually grew up on the Avenue, 761 Indiana Avenue, big orange brick house. My dad was Art “Big Boy” Williams, my uncles were Eugene “Big Red” Williams and Ollie G “Straight Arrow” Williams. My neighbor on our left was Mrs. Rosalee Payne and on the right was Miss Minnie. I had a 2 minute walk to Mary E. Cable School # 4, Mrs. Young and Mrs. Swanson were two of my teachers there before they bussed us to Daniel Webster School #46.

  23. Andrew Waters Says:

    Tamyra Williams, what years are you referencing? I had a 10 minute walk from 523 W.Vermont St. (near West St.) to school number #4 , then the new Mary Cable school later built on the site. I believe this will be about 1950 or 1951. Mrs. Pope, art teacher, Mrs Schneider, and Mrs Dixon were teachers I recall at the old and new building.

    I also lived two houses from the Hampton musical family and interacted with them on a routine basis during the same period, I’m sure I was in the way a lot. 🙂

  24. Andrew Waters Says:

    So fanteeking can’t be reached; at least not with my skill set. I want to buy David’s book now that it’s finished. Lay some help on me please.

  25. Elvia Smith Says:

    As a youngster, I and my friends enjoyed going to the Walker Theatre and the Lido Theare on Thur and Friday which were 9 cents days at those theatres. That was my only time on the Avenue except when I had a weekend job for two weeks during the Christmas Holiday, while a sophomore at Crispus Attucks working at Arnold’s Hardware Store which was a few doors east of the Sunset. I only could peep thru the the windows of the Sunset while passing to go home. I was never allowed to go there. The smell of Fish, Chilli and Coney’s permeated the air while walking thru the Avenue. What good memories. Elvia Smith CAHS Class of 1955.

    • Andrew Waters Says:

      I went to the Lido once with an uncle. I’m guessing I was around seven or eight years old (70 now). And yes I too remember going to the ”9 cents movie” at the Walker Theatre but only on Saturday morning up until 1 p.m. I don’t recall the price after that hour but it seems to me to have been significant; maybe a nickle or more. lol

      Interestingly enough when I did get of age to hit the ”Noo” it was on the other end, that is, The Place To Play and another one near Vermont St and Senate. By then I was 22. I do recall however a reason for not going in the direction of Sunset Terrace, and another club that was at the end of the Walker Building by a block or two I think. Rumor had the area a bit too rough.

  26. was wondering if a jazz artist by the name BIG MACEO ever performed there in the 1930 era. Have a poster I would like to sell.

  27. Richard Hickman Says:

    Interesting site, I’m on a reminiscing adventure today, practically my whole family(Hickman’s, Allender’s,Bailey’s, and Garnett’s grew up in Lockefield, my Grandpa (Nathaniel Hickman)owned the Keyless after Mozel sanders sold it, my pop (Dickie Hickman) kept score at the Dust Bowl sometime for Buddy Q, my Uncle (Junior Bailey) or “Syrp” as everyone on the Ave called him hung out 24/7 at the Sunset, I remember Our Market and most restaurants from ’69-’78, my mom use to send me to Pope’s or Polk’s on the opposite side of the Sunset at the end of Lockefield for a cheesburger and pepsi faithfully, I went to the little pre-school a few doors down, I attended Mary E. Cable School #4, we lived at 868 West North Street (The first set of row houses after the liquor store on the corner (Blake). We had a ton of pictures that burned up in a house fire years ago but the memories from those times are still fresh in my mind like I still live there. Thank you for putting your efforts into this site!

    • Leo Montgomery Says:

      I knew you dad from Eli Lilly’s. He coached when I played basketball at the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge (previous the colored girl’s YMCA) on West street (now MLK). I grew up going to school with “Junior”. When I was going to Attucks, I worked after school at A&P. Your grandfather use to shop there. Your aunt use to work at the grill in Hook’s drugstore next to A&P.

  28. Andrew Waters Says:

    Richard I attended Mary E. Cable school when it was first built. Before summer vacation started we were told to come to the new building in September, 1949? 1950? as the old school number 4 was no longer available. I remember having my picture taken after a program at the school sitting on the steps on Blackford St. I believe I was about nine or ten. I did a quick google to see about construction dates on that particular school but no results. Are you aware of the opening date and the demolishing?

    At any rate you say you were reminiscing about your area as a kid. Well I did the same thing about two years ago and I located two maps of Indianapolis from 1941 from Indiana University: Sanborn/Baist Atlas. Obviously the maps aren’t as ”aware” as the newer type but it does show any and everything you may be interested in, i.e., quite possibly your old house, the liquor store you mentioned. It shows Lockefield Gardens with (”colored” as a descriptor); you may be able to identify the jazz ”joints” on that particular end of the ”Noo.” Keep in mind this is map technology from 1941 so you definitely won’t be looking at google earth. And I’m not sure what the definition is called about this kind of mapmaking but it’s well worth a look as it’s accurate. I’m guessing nothing will have changed from ’41 to later on in the 50s, maybe early 60s.

    Concerning the above named maps Baist seems to be more user friendly than Sanborn although they both have the same characteristics. Sanborn is the 1956 version of Naptown. Both maps have an idex much like the booklet types of today but I had no success nor did I have the patience with Sanborn as I did with Baist. Again, you won’t find any place names of the Jazz clubs. You’ll just have to do your own recall. However that isn’t difficult if you remember what buildings you saw as a kid.


    Click ”Browse This Collection” and Baist maps will show. Your particular number (area), as mine, is #17. Attucks is #7. I used to live under the ”t” in St on Vermont St., according to the display on this website; between California St and West St. The Hampton musical family was two houses west of me .

    Good luck with your nostalgia trip.

    • Hi Andrew, This is Karen Taborn (the creator and the person who updates this website). I looked at those maps as well when I was creating this website. As you say, they provide the street layouts but the actual addresses of clubs, etc. I received from the people I interviewed for this project. Thanks for your input.

      • Curry Campbell Says:

        Did you know of a man named Jeff Gambles…. That’s my grandfather and I would like to find out more about him.

    • Richard Hickman Says:

      @ Andrew Waters…Thank you for the tip I’ll definitely have a long look at those maps. I’m only 47 and have nothing but happy memories of Lockefield. Thank you again!

  29. Andrew Waters Says:

    Hi Karen

    I probably passed Sunset Terrace area many times in my youth while traveling to some place else with adults in the car; maybe Haughville(sp?) . I’m guessing I was about 7, 8, or 9 years of age. The only name I can remember with certainty was Sea Ferguson–memory jogged by a poster above. I heard a couple of family members talk about him on one occasion. Without appearing to add an ”I know who he was” it seems to me I also heard a ”That’s Sea Ferguson” from someone. This may well have meant he was in the California St/Vermont St neighborhood as the Hampton family musicians lived just two houses west of us on Vermont St. (noted much earlier) If Ferguson had anything to do with the particular stretch of the Avenue from the Walker building heading west to Sunset Terrace then it may be possible the band my family and I heard practicing one evening on the second floor of the Walker building may well have been the Hampton family.

    Even though everyone was ”dressed up” and there were a few streamers strung about, I can’t recall anything from that event except to say myself and a few other kids were chastized for sliding across the hardwood floor. The material on the floor reminded me of sawdust. In retrospect this would give any ”show out” dancers an advantage if their moves were slick enough to use the dust. Since my memory is blank on the rest of the evening I’m thinking the people with me decided to leave earlier.

    Just thought of Something. Mom is nearly 89 years of age and really alert. I think I’ll call her and ask if she has some recall of that event and who the band was or if I was with someone else that evening.

    In closing is there any word on David Williams’ book concerning The Avenue?


  30. Andrew Waters Says:

    Hi Karen,
    I talked to mom about the ballroom in the Walker building and she had a memory of going there ”back in the day”; my expression, but she told me she couldn’t pinpoint why she was there nor at what time in the past. She did say she was there a couple of years ago because of some (unrecalled) function with family members. However she did note the ballroom on the second floor as I stated. However I couldn’t tell from her comments whether she was saying yes to the ballroom on the second floor was a recall from the late 40s or from her recent trip there a couple of years ago. Anyone know for sure?

  31. Andrew Waters Says:

    Richard says:
    ”…from ’69-’78”…”

    From that I kind of suspected you were/are a youngster. 🙂

    So I’m thinking Mary E. Cable #4 probably carried on well into the 70s (maybe early 80s?). The 70s seems to be somewhere around the time they started demolishing everything in that area, maybe a bit earlier. I can kick myself in the butt for not using my amateur photography attitude for not taking pictures of the entire area whenever I would return to Indianapolis to visit my parents and family (got married and moved to Ohio in March, 1968). Then I had my own family to see to and it seems it was always ”Can’t we take pictures on another trip?” Well of course we can I would say. But it never happened. So now here I am reminiscing on memory alone. But I kept those memories fresh.

    Speaking of memory the only time I believe I heard about Lockefield I must have been really young. It seems my neighborhood was all I was allowed to know. And my very first trip to Lockefield (didn’t even know ‘Gardens’ was attached to it until years later) came in 1964 at a ‘Dust Bowl’ basketball tournament. I was all of 21 years of age. I think a year or so after that I made a return trip there for dating purposes.

    My ‘hood encompassed Military Park on West St. then north past Vermont St. (my residence) to the Walker Theatre on the Avenue, once in a while a block or two in the direction of Lockefield and Sunset Terrace area while on the Avenue then back down ’round your area on Blake and North St. Then we would wind up on Michigan street to Blackford/California/Vermont St. Interestingly enough my uncle’s house on California St. was the last house in my area to fall victim to the demolition team (noticed in my yearly return to Naptown; year not recalled).
    Blake St.: I remember my mom took me to this ”big store with everything in it.” I don’t recall the other street the store was near but I did notice several cars going to and fro so it must have been a fairly busy area. And I do know I was wide-eyed at all the goodies to be seen. Wall-to-wall clothes piled up on big tables; toys all over the place. Pretty impressive store just a few blocks from 523 W. Vermont St. considering all I had ever seen were the two very local food stores all within one block from us. This adventure to Blake St. was straight out of a fantasy fulfilled picture. Obviously I didn’t have a fantasy to be fullfilled but I sure knew about it once we were in that store. 🙂 (I may be dragging this picture all the way back to 1948-49.)

    Richard one final comment on the maps. When you have a recall from your youth and no one seems to know it but you then this is where those old maps really shine. I had to prove to my mom as recent as a year ago that her memory on Wabash St. wasn’t accurate in the details she gave me. I gently reminded her a photograph of me wasn’t taken on Vermont St. which she insisted it was. I said no as gently as I could that it was Wabash St. This conversation was well before I had perused the Baist Atlas maps so all I had were memory files. She immediately proceeded to tell me I couldn’t possibly know the area in question as I was much, much too young to have recall (3-4 years of age; ).

    Baist Atlas came to the rescue but not because of my disagreement with mom. It was some of that reminiscing you were talking about. Well sure enough the Atlas told me everything I needed and wanted to know about my very first street of residence in Indianapolis, IN. including the details I couldn’t make mom see. She eventually accepted my details about Wabash St.

    Peace out

  32. Leo Montgomery Says:

    “The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Preston Lauterbach This is a great book with much info about Indiana Ave. Goes into detail concerning the history of Denver and Sea Ferguson. The book is sold on amazon.com

  33. Leo Montgomery Says:

    Another wonderful source for photos and articles is the online copies of the Indianapolis Recorder

  34. Andrew Waters Says:

    Leo thanks for noting the ”Chitlin’ ” book. It’s been in my library for nearly a year unread and got shoved futher back when other books moved in to replace the space it had at the front. Honestly speaking I did forget I had it.

    Are you related to Wes Montgomery? I don’t know him but I served in the military with Charles Croomes who claimed he knew Wes well.


  35. Andrew Waters Says:

    Thank you Karen your concern is duly noted.

    Send me an e-mail whenever David Williams’ book concerning the Avenue is available.

    Peace in your understanding of the psychology of the atom.


  36. janet cheatam,iknew your father from the old senate ave Y M C A.he had a lot to do with the the structering of the youth during those times.your brother and sister were also friends of mine.i was fortunate to know him. john gipson

  37. You must have known Rosie and Reggie, both of whom are now deceased. Yes, my dad was very active at the Y, both Senate Ave. and Fall Creek. Did you by chance read the book I wrote about our growing up in Indianapolis? The title is The Time and Place That Gave Me Life.

    • Andrew Waters Says:

      Hello Janet Cheatam. If I can intefere a bit I read your book about a month ago. Very interesting. Particularly about Richardson near 42nd and Illinois You really know how to plant the reader in a story. Good stuff.

      John Gibson, Attucks Tiger?

      Anyone, any news about David Williams’ book about the avenue?

      • David Williams Says:

        Yes, the first book which deals specifically with the entertainment scene will be released in February during Black History Month. I’m now working on the second one that deals more with the history of the Avenue. Stay Tuned! David Williams

  38. In the 20s/30s, my grandfather played jazz with a Harold Blue around Washington Blvd. & 30th Street (where they worked/lived) – does anyone recall a Mr. Blue? They weren’t “professional” jazz musicians but loved to get together and jam . . .

  39. Thanks, John for reading my book. I remember you well because I was a big time fan of the Attucks basketball team as you could see.

    David, glad to see your book is coming out. Be sure to let me know where I can get it.

  40. Sorry, Andrew. I misread your post and thought it was from Gibson. Thank you, Andrew for reading my book.

  41. Andrew Waters Says:

    Thanks for the information David. Now where’s the fast forward button. Well maybe not that fast, I’m already 70.

  42. Karen–THANK YOU for this site…… Feel so strongly about preserving this history.
    Tonight am trying to locate David… David, heard you yesterday at the JK moderating the Attucks discussion. THANK YOU for all you’re doing for the Ave. Never had the chance to ask: When is your book coming out and what will the title be? Is that the first or has the first already been released & the second & third are what you refer to above? Thanks for clarification!

  43. […] Indiana’s musical history is routinely told with reference to Indiana Avenue, where African-American musicians began to congregate in significant numbers around the turn of the […]

    • Readers of this website might be interested in reading historical archaeologist, Paul Mullin’s web page on The Ruins of Music (link above). Thanks for the input Professor Mullins.

  44. I did get to read your boook.Very good job.I wrote the book Winners,chronicling the glory years of Crispus Attucks championship years.It did well. john gip[son

  45. […] Indiana’s musical history is routinely told with reference to Indiana Avenue, where African-American musicians began to congregate in significant numbers around the turn of the […]

  46. Steve Miller Says:

    The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock and Roll
    Preston Lauterbach

    Why were the six or seven blocks of Indianapolis’ Indiana Avenue so central to the development of black music in America? The answer may boil down to two colorful men — brothers Denver and Sea Ferguson, who turned their business connections throughout the south and the midwest into a circuit for touring jazz and blues musicians. In turn, growing options for segregated entertainment strengthened local musical development in the circuit, though recorded music — combined with the damage of urban renewal — eventually overwhelmed live acts.

    Must read for music fans and social historians, though the author has selected evidence to support his thesis while ignoring whole segments of black music and only very lightly touch on rock ‘n’ roll.

  47. Just wish some of the people that owned places on the Avenue,were still around so I could thank them for their support and un-conditional love when we were trying to Win it all.

    • Hi John, Albert Coleman’s still around and you can certainly thank him here!

      • John Gipson Says:

        Just getting back on line.Had a couple of surgeries. Al.on behalf of my teammates and myself,thanks for all of your support back when we were trying to win it all. You are a credit to the legacy of Indiana Avenue.

  48. John Gipson Says:

    Karen,I am just getting back on line after a couple of surgeries.If Al can see this,Thanks-Thanks-Thanks for your support back then.

  49. Corlene Ray Says:

    Im trying to find information on a Grocery Store at 808 Indiana Ave. that was owned by my great grandfather called Shanks Grocery. James W Shank was his name. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  50. Brad Bolton Says:

    I was a guitarist stationed at Ft. Harrison 1971-74, and sat in at Al’s British Lounge in 1973-74. I was brought to Al’s by a trumpet player at Ft. Harrison, and I was a little worried my first time there. I’m a white kid from a rich suburb of Cleveland, and had never been to an all African American club! By the end of the night I felt accepted and came back most Monday nights. Still to this day it was the most significant jazz club I’ve ever been in. It was also the deepest cultural experience I’ve ever had. The spirit there on a good Monday night jam has never been equalled, and it wasn’t just the music. There was a sense of community there; people really bared their souls, weren’t afraid to laugh heartily. If the band really took off, the crowd knew it immediately, and yelled out for them to keep on. It was more like a gospel church at those times. It certainly was my church, I felt at home there. The people were very friendly, and Al always asked me to sit in. Can’t recall the rhythm section’s names, but I remember Aretta Lamar’s high, clear voice. And the pianist had a Wurlitzer electric piano sitting on top of his piano.

    When I returned to Cleveland, I thought I could just find a place like Al’s to hang out at, but there were none. And I haven’t seen one since. I dearly miss that old sense of community that I saw on the Avenue in Naptown. I’ve seen hints of it now and then, but it’s always been African Americans I’ve come across that had it. There was a place in Akron that had the same dixie band from about 1950 to 2003 that had a similar vibe – Benito’s. But neither the music nor the spirit of the place was as deep as Al’s. Maybe because we were all white ;o)

    I would love to talk with Al if he is still available.

    Brad Bolton, guitar, 74th Army Band 1971-74.

  51. This excellent weЬsite truly has all of the information and facts I
    needed concerning tһis subjеct and didn’t know wһo to ask.

    • I’m so happy to see the continued appreciation for my research 7 years after the sites completion. Karen

      • John Gipson Says:

        Keep up the good work.A few of the entertainers still around can be found at The Jazz Kitchen up on College Ave. Or people who have some knowledge about The Avenue.

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