S.F. Jazz

Arguably, the greatest and most lasting impact African Americans have had on San Francisco is Flamingocultural; they brought “Black Jazz” to the city. Prior to 1940 jazz in San Francisco was exclusively Dixieland. Blacks introduced “Be Bop”. In the 1940’s Black entrepreneurs began opening a number of soon-to-be legendary venues. Jimbo’s Bop City, The Flamingo, The Long Bar, Elsie’s Breakfast Club, New Orleans Swing Club, The Booker T. Washington Hotel Lounge and Club Alabam sprang up around the Fillmore.

They hosted a who’s-who of Black jazz artists: Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, acts that had never played San Francisco before became regulars. San Francisco was never the same.

White San Franciscans, such as Herb Caen, would later write about the profound effect discovering Black jazz had on them, how they would sneak into the Black clubs at every opportunity to listen. White clubs opened in the North Beach section of town and a seminal moment in both jazz and San Francisco history occurred when Miles Davis played The Blackhawk. African Americans were the catalyst for San Francisco “Cool.” It's difficult to imagine the Beats reciting their cerebral poetry to the sound of Dixieland