Music Clubs & Night Clubs

Quincy Social Club

If you had walked the streets of Quincy Avenue in the 1940s, you would have encountered many options for dining and entertainment. Quincy Social Club was one source of nightlife entertainment for Cleveland’s black community. Located at 5804 Quincy Avenue, the Quincy Club was a music and nightclub that hosted musical acts and offered libations to its patrons. Quincy Social Club opened for business in 1942. However, prior to this the another club called the “New Heat Wave” was located in the same space between 1938 and 1942. It is uncertain whether the New Heat Wave Club had any relation to the Heat Wave Club located inside Majestic Hotel prior to 1938 because at the time businesses were not trademarking their names. For instance, the 1946 edition of the Negro Motorists’ Green-book listed seven different businesses across the United States using the name “Cotton Club” with no relation to one another. 

When Quincy Social Club opened its doors for business in 1942 one needed an annual membership in order to enjoy the long list of entertainment and refreshments. In 1944 the Quincy Club hosted a wide variety of local entertainers on Friday and Saturday nights and even offered a Sunday matinee on top of an evening show. From blues and jazz bands, to dance acts, the Quincy Club was a hot spot for its members to relax after a long work week. One popular act was Henry Thompson and his 14-Piece Orchestra, along with floor entertainers like Stella Young who was known for her acrobatic dancing and smooth vocal renditions of Bing Lindsey, who Cleveland Call & Post called the “Sepia Bing Crosby.”

In December of 1944, Quincy Social Club offered holiday performances, one which featured Cleveland’s own Gay Crosse and his orchestra. Gay Crosse was a popular figure in the night life scene and played in many music clubs throughout the 1940s and ’50s. Ten years after his performance at the Quincy Club, Crosse would open his own business known as Gay Crosse’s Musicians and Entertainers Club.

After the sudden death of the Quincy Club’s president Oscar Williams in 1944, his wife Vivian Williams (later Vivian Williams Bachelor after her remarriage to Sherman Bachelor) took over as the club’s president. The worked together to offer entertainment to the clubs various members while continuously being targeted by the State Liquor Board and the Cleveland Police Department. Much of the criticism the Quincy Club faced was due to Williams’ late husband’s alleged involvement with Willie Hoge and Arthur “Little Brother” Drake. Hoge and Drake were accused of being involved in one of Cleveland’s biggest illicit gambling dens throughout the ’40s. Hoge, Drake, and the late Williams would all be accused of being policy kingpins. Policy gambling was similar in its operation to the Ohio State lottery, which was established in 1974. Assistant Safety Director, Alvin J. Sutton ordered a raid on Hoge and Drake’s policy headquarters in November of 1948 inside Majestic Hotel. In the summer of 1949, Vivian Bachelor Williams testified in court that Drake bought out her late husband’s share in the notorious Goldfield Policy House as well as The Workingmen’s Social and Literacy Club for $4,000 after his death in 1944. Both Hoge and Drake would be involved in a series of trials to pin them with extortion in 1949. Willie Hoge and Arthur “Little Brother” Drake would be found guilty on charges of extortion and sentenced to “one to five years at the Ohio State Penitentiary for muscling-in as third interest partners in the Goldfield House.”

Throughout Quincy Social Club’s operation, it was cited numerous times by the State Liquor Board for selling liquor after 1am. A liquor agent in 1950 referred to Quincy Club as a “Legal A-Bomb.” The Club’s patrons and employees were also targeted by the Cleveland Police Department on numerous occasions. The CPD referred to the Quincy Club as “a hangout for undesirables,” a phrase commonly used by the police when referencing the patrons of black-owned businesses. The same phrase would be used to describe the patrons of Cafe Tia Juana seven years later after an incident involving the police. Many of the individuals against the Quincy Club would also criticize its membership requirements, claiming that if they did exist—then they were applied loosely and were not applied to anyone wanting to stop in for a drink. Along with liquor citations, many of the Quincy Club’s employees were placed under the strict watch of Cleveland’s Narcotic Agents after the fall of 1949 when a few employees were in company of Charles Gilmore, who was charged with trafficking large portions of marijuana from El Paso, Texas, to Cleveland. Many other individuals who were arrested on narcotics charges claimed to have received these substances from Quincy Club bartenders or its patrons. In attempt to clear the Quincy Club’s name, Sherman Bachelor emphasized that the club only offered the best of entertainment and refreshment and welcomed the better class of nightclub trade, stating that, “several membership applications have been revoked because the applicants were suspicious.” Bachelor also called for close and frequent inspection. He claimed that he was “fully confident that no one can find anything that is not strictly in the best and highest tradition of providing entertainment and refreshment to a particular and discriminated clientele.”

Despite Bachelor’s attempts to clear the Quincy Club’s name, the club would operate for another year and a half while its appeal to a closure case was pending. Unfortunately, the club’s appeal was denied and Quincy Social Club closed in October of 1951, leaving behind fond memories of the music and libations offered to a clientele who were discriminated against in white-owned and operated businesses in the music and night scene of the ’40s and ’50s.

By 1955 the 17th Ward Democratic Council moved its headquarters to the former location of Quincy Social Club. The council may have changed its address from 5804 to 5806 Quincy Avenue in order to remove themselves from the former nightlife scene that once surrounded this location.


Resources:

  • “Article 1 — no Title.” Call & Post. January 29, 1949.
  • “Article 1 — no Title.” Call & Post. July 30, 1949
  • Brilliant Lawyers Clash in Drake-Hoge Extortion Case.” Call & Post. June 25, 1949.
  • “Buster’s Son Not Worried about Rival Policy House.” Call & Post. August 6, 1949.
  • Cleveland City Directory. Cleveland: Cleveland Directory Co., 1942.
  • “Club Says Liquor Charges all Wet.” Call & Post. February 18, 1950.
  • “Display Ad 4 — no Title.” Call & Post. September 22, 1938.
  • “Display Ad 10 — no Title.” Call & Post. May 27, 1944.
  • Green, Victor H. The Negro Motorist Green-book. New York, 1946
  • “Notorious Club Closed At Last” Call & Post. October 20, 1951.
  • “Photo Standalone 17 — no Title.” Call & Post. March 2, 1957. 
  • “Quincy Club Featuring Gay Show with Henry Thompson’s Orchestra.” Call & Post. February 26, 1944.
  • “State Seeks to Smash Biggest ‘Reefer’ Ring.” Call & Post. October 29, 1949
  • “Two Clubs Cited on Liquor Laws.” Call & Post. February 11, 1950.
  • Vaz, Matthew. Running the Numbers: Race, Police, and the History of Urban Gambling. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020.
  • White, Sarah. “Gay Crosse’s Musicians and Entertainers Club.Green Book Cleveland.
5804 Quincy Ave, Cleveland, OH 44104