PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston December 2023

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popular song "C.C. Rider" and felt the floor of the ballroom swaying from all the dancers. Not long after that, she caught the attention of Louis Armstrong and joined his All Stars, traveling around the world multiple times. Jewel Brown just turned 86 and is still recording and performing. Brown has witnessed first-hand many of the great musicians from Houston who trod the Eldorado stage ā€” folks who left the city to make names for themselves, and those performers who made it happen here. In 1966, Black entertainment journalist Robert Sye wrote in his "A Sye In The Night" column in Houston's Forward Times, "Magnifique! is the only possible adjective to attribute to the very talented Shirley Williams." Williams chose to stay close to Houston and not live a life on the road. Like Brown, Williams' singing was a way to help make a living for her family. Williams was in demand, recording and performing at venues around the city six nights a week with both Black and white musicians ā€” at the Paladium Club, the Cinder Club, the Villa Club, and Upstairs on the Square ā€” which was not common on the Houston scene. Shirley Williams was also the official house singer for the Eldorado Ballroom. She sang to a jam-packed house at the Rado on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. As a teen, crooner Horace Grigsby got his start at the Eldorado Ballroom by participating in the weekly talent shows held on Saturdays. Grigsby recalls winning the $10 first-place prize in 1945, while being backed by the house big band. He teamed up with a group of younger performers who would sing as a group hoping to win the cash prize. On the occasions when they won, the money was used for gas to spend the day in Galveston. Some of the cats in that group would go on and make names for themselves, including then pianist, soon turned guitarist Johnny "Guitar" Watson and trumpeter Calvin Owens, who would become the music director for B.B. King. Flash forward: Horace Grigsby has been singing on the Houston scene for more than 60 years and is still making beautiful music at 88. He recently gave a tour de force performance with the legendary Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Houston Jazz Festival. The roster of artists who got their early start at the Eldorado B a l l r o o m i s an impressive list of legends whose music is celebrated a r o u n d t h e world: Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Russell Jacquet, Tom Archia, Pluma Davis, Cedric Heywood, Conrad Johnson, and Milton Larkin, to list a few. The stories of these remarkable artists highlight the importance of the Eldorado Ballroom's renovation and continued efforts to preserve this iconic African-American dance hall that provided a good time and memorable evenings to many. They serve to shed light on the Eldorado's continued relevance within the notable music history of Houston, the state of Texas, the nation, and beyond. I.H. Smalley and orchestra, late 1940s Benny Joseph Teen Hop at the Eldorado, 1964 Eldorado Ballroom, opened 1939, restored 2023 Eldorado Ballroom is back. The stairs to the stars Robert Hodge, Hogan Brown Gallery, at the reborn Eldorado CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY PƄR BENGTSSON HISTORICAL IMAGES COURTESY PROJECT ROW HOUSES 62

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