The Blue Grass Club opened in 1944 on the second floor of a building at 2173 East 55th Street just south of Cedar Avenue. Owned by high roller Benny Mason (also the proprietor of Mason’s Farm in Solon) and Rodger Price (who also owned the Log Cabin and later opened United Recreation, the city’s first Black-owned bowling alley), the Blue Grass Club was billed as an “exclusive membership club” that catered to affluent professionals.
The club’s red and black interior featured knotted-pine walls, a fifty-foot-long bar with an equally long mirror behind it, beige leatherette booth seating, and mirrored columns. Upon opening, the club entertained guests nightly with bands, and chef Carl Jenkins, formerly a cook at Dearing’s, served up frog legs, gumbo, lobster a la Newburg, steaks, and chicken a la king.
In 1945, U. S. Dearing himself, also a former Mason’s Farm manager, took over management of Mason and Price’s club following a falling out with the previous manager Jimmy Smith, who was later implicated in two shootings at Cassie’s, another nearby establishment he managed after leaving the Blue Grass Club. Dearing relaunched the Blue Grass as a “black-and-tan” cabaret-style nightclub with the promise of making the Blue Grass a nationally known attraction. Indeed, the club caught the attention of the Green Book, which featured it in its 1946 edition, albeit at an erroneous address.
The following year, despite being dropped by the Green Book for unknown reasons, the Blue Grass Club continued under its new owner “Lucky” Anthus Tucker. Tenor saxophonist Gay Crosse and his band, known for their twice-weekly shows on radio station WHK, kept the crowds coming to the club. However, Tucker brought a volatile style of ownership, for within months he had parted ways with Gay Crosse and U. S. Dearing. After being shut down for 90 days in a winter 1949 liquor sting, Tucker reopened the Blue Grass Club, but continued run-ins with law enforcement and perhaps other issues ultimately left a decidedly unlucky Tucker desperate to liquidate his once-thriving business. A sheriff’s sale in the winter of 1950 fetched a “mere trifle” for the famed Blue Grass Club, which shut down permanently.
Green Book Details
Blue Grass Club appears in the 1946 Green Book at the erroneous address of 8219 Cedar Ave. under the category Taverns.
- “Beauty, Spaciousness Distinguish Blue Grass Club, Cleveland’s Newest Night Spot; Open Kitchen Featured.” Call & Post. August 12, 1944.
- “Blue Grass Club Eliminates Show.” Call & Post. January 10, 1948.
- “Bobbing Along with Bob Williams.” Call & Post. January 20, 1945.
- “Bobbing Along with Bob Williams.” Call & Post. December 3, 1949.
- “Bobbing Along with Bob Williams.” Call & Post. February 11, 1950.
- “Dearing Announces Black-Tan Policy At Blue Grass; Books Marva Louis As Attraction.” Call & Post. May 26, 1945.
- Fuster, John E. “About the Stars.” Call & Post. May 29, 1948.
- Fuster, John E. “Outstanding Businessman.” Call & Post. January 31, 1948.
- “Gay Crosse Chases The “Blues” Away From The Blue Grass Club.” Call & Post. May 24, 1947.
- “Golden celebrations: Rodger Price Turns 90 Years Young.” Call & Post. January 26, 1984.”
- “Green Book, National Tourist’s Guide Lists Principal Hotels, Including Dead Ones, Also Shifts Few Cleveland Businesses Off Center.” Call & Post. November 30, 1946.
- “Janet Nevilles, Alice Dickson, and Sherrai Landrum Interview, 2010,” Cleveland Voices, accessed December 6, 2021, clevelandvoices.org/items/show/1853.
- “Tucker Adds Art, Music, Atmosphere To Transform ‘Off Limits’ Tavern.” Call & Post. March 19, 1949.