Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom was located between 140th and 141st Streets and Lenox Avenue (Sixth Avenue), and was in operation from 1926-1958. The Savoy was known as a dancing venue, with the “Lindy Hop” and “Big Apple” dances being featured.
The Savoy Ballroom had the nicknames “The Home of (the) Happy Feet” since 1933 and “Track” (for its dance floor) since 1937.
Wikipedia: Savoy Ballroom
The Savoy Ballroom located in Harlem, New York City, was a medium sized ballroom for music and public dancing that was in operation from March 12, 1926 to 1958. It was located between 140th and 141st Streets on Lenox Avenue.
The Savoy was a popular dance venue from the late 1920s to the 1950s and many dances such as Lindy Hop became famous here. It was known downtown as the “Home of Happy Feet” but uptown, in Harlem, as “the Track”. Unlike the ‘whites only’ policy of the Cotton Club, the Savoy Ballroom was integrated where white and black Americans danced together. Virtuosic dancers, however, excluded others from the northeast corner of the dance floor, now referred to as the “Cat’s Corner,” a term not used at the time.
A “Battle of the Bands” happened when the Benny Goodman Orchestra challenged Chick Webb in 1937 and in 1938 when the Count Basie Band did the same evening it performed with Goodman at his famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert. The general assessment was that they both lost, to Chick Webb.
The ballroom was on the second floor and a block long. It had a double bandstand that held one large and one medium sized band running against its east wall. Music was continuous as the alternative band was always in position and ready to pick up the beat when the previous one had completed its set. The Savoy was unique in having the constant presence of a skilled elite of the best Lindy Hoppers. Usually known as “Savoy Lindy Hoppers” occasionally they turned professional, such as Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and performed in Broadway and Hollywood productions.
“Stompin’ at the Savoy”, a 1934 Big Band classic song and jazz standard, was named after the ballroom.
Chick Webb was the leader of the best known Savoy house band during the mid-1930s. A teenage Ella Fitzgerald, fresh from a talent show win at the Apollo Theater in 1934, became its vocalist.
The Savoy Ballroom closed its doors in 1958, and the building in which it was housed was demolished.
On 26 May 2002, a commemorative plaque for the Savoy Ballroom was revealed on Lenox Ave between 140th and 141st Streets. The plaque was unveiled by Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, surviving members of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.
21 June 1933, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “Are You Listenin’?” by Roi Ottley, pg. 16A:
“The Home of Happy Feet”
1 December 1934, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “This Hectic Harlem” by Roi Ottley, pg. 9:
Savoy Ballroom: “Home of Happy Feet”
13 February 1937, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “...He Taps and Croons, Too, Folks” (photo caption), pg. 6:
OLD BROTHER JESSE OWENS (maybe you’ve heard about his flash at running and jumping) has turned entertainer, and The Amsterdam News presents first and exclusive picture of the Olympic hero practicing up for his new work. He’ll tap, dance, sing and swing the baton and music as a $100,000-per-year man. Ownes will open February 19 at Harrisburg, Pa., come to Harlem for a turn at the Savoy February 21-29, and then hit the road—or maybe he calls it the track. Picture was taken Tuesday at Hoofers Club in Herlem.
20 February 1937, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “Owens’ Band in Savoy Premiere,” pg. 8:
The Savoy Ballroom, which has become known to its habitues as the “track,” should prove the ideal place for jesse Owens, world’s fastest human, to get off his mark with his newly organized band when he opens there Sunday, February 21, in his initial Harlem start.
22 January 1938, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “Backdoor Stuff” by Dan Burley, pg. 17:
UP AT THE “TRACK,” as the “hip” “cats” call the Savoy, ‘twas much surprising to find the Sunset Royal boys we saw out there beating the nails in the hardwood boards.
23 October 1943, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “Dan Burley’s Back Door Stuff,” pg. 21:
By the way, the cocktail parties at Smalls’ and Murrain’s are the only spots one can have continuous dancing in Harlem, save for the No. 1 spot, which re-opens this Friday, The SAVOY BALLROOM, Home of Happy Feet, and the People’s Playground! Yep, the “track” is back in action ole man and it’s gonna jump all the way.
17 May 1958, Chicago (IL) Defender, “Manhattan Memo” by Les Matthews, pg. 6:
Savoy ballroom, which is also known as “the home of happy feet” and “the track,” is celebrating its 32nd anniversary.
13 August 1983, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “Studio Museum in Harlem: ‘Home of Happy Feet’ on 125th St.” by Mel Tapley, pg. 19:
Richard Yarde wasn’t even born when the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors in 1926 and became the “Home of Happy Feet.”
But New England-born artist and teacher Richard Yarde in his heart still felt the tremors and vibrations of those carefree moments when the rhythms and music of some of the top bands had “the Track”—as the Savoy was affectionately dubbed—rocking and swinging. Certainly he envisioned the new tribal ritual dances like the Lindy Hop, Peckin’, Truckin’, the Big Apple, SHag and Black Bottom that were executed with incomparable grace and exuberance by the couples circling the block-long, rectangular dance floor of the Track.
New York City • Music/Dance/Theatre/Film/Circus • (0) Comments • Monday, April 12, 2010 • Permalink