NOTES ON EUBIE BLAKE AND MY GRANDFATHER’S SHADY SALOON

NOTES ON EUBIE BLAKE AND MY GRANDFATHER’S SHADY SALOON

NOTES ON EUBIE BLAKE AND MY GRANDFATHER’S SHADY SALOON

By allengreenfield

 

NOTES ON EUBIE BLAKE AND MY GRANDFATHER’S SHADY SALOON

My father and his brothers and sisters probably lived right upstairs, in the fashion of the times, from this wild and rollicking saloon, which my grandfather, Alfred Greenfeld, established in the 1890s. The saloon continued at the “Corner of Chestnut & Low” until the last years before Prohibition, when it (and the family) moved into the home of my Uncle’s William’s (Dr. William Greenfeld, M.D.) more uptown digs, until Prohibition had its way with the bar.  My father never spoke to me about any of this, except that his dad owned a bar in Baltimore.  I first heard that the famed Jazz Composer Eubie Blake had immortalized my grandfather’s saloon from my late cousin Alfred Greenfeld, himself a colorful character, retired Marine and CIA spook.  How *colorful* the Saloon was I only recently discovered, courtesy of “The Storm is Passing Over – From the Church to Baltimore’s Best Bordellos” https://jshare.johnshopkins.edu/pdennis5/public_html/storm/story/story3.htm.  ( Interestingly, my Dad, Albert Greenfield, who came South during the Great Depression, was a non-drinker and both my parents avoided bars like the plague.

The saloon continued at the “Corner of Chestnut & Low” until the last years before Prohibition, when it (and the family) moved into the home of my Uncle’s William’s (Dr. William Greenfeld, M.D.) more uptown digs, until Prohibition had its way with the bar.  My father never spoke to me about any of this, except that his dad owned a bar in Baltimore.  I first heard that the famed Jazz Composer Eubie Blake had immortalized my grandfather’s saloon from my late cousin Alfred Greenfeld, himself a colorful character, retired Marine and CIA spook.  How *colorful* the Saloon was I only recently discovered, courtesy of “The Storm is Passing Over – From the Church to Baltimore’s Best Bordellos”.  (https://jshare.johnshopkins.edu/pdennis5/public_html/storm/story/story3.html) Interestingly, my Dad, Albert Greenfield, who came South during the Great Depression, was a non-drinker and both my parents avoided bars like the plague.

“In 1902 Eubie Blake was with the traveling show “In Old Kentucky”. Later that same year, Blake made his return to nightclub playing in Alfred Greenfeld’s Saloon in Baltimore MD, where he composed his next rag, Corner of Chestnut and Low, the address of Greenfeld’s club.”

“Baltimore’s Eubie Blake was one of the most prominent ragtime musicians on the East Coast in the early 20th century, and was known for a unique style of piano-playing that eventually became the basis for stride, a style perfected during World War I in Harlem. Blake was the most well-known figure in the local scene, and helped make Baltimore one of the ragtime centers of the East Coast, along with Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.[27] He then joined a medicine show, performing throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania before moving to New York in 1902 to play at the Academy of Music there. Returning to Baltimore, Blake played at The Saloon, a venue owned by Alfred Greenfield patronized by “colorful characters and ‘working’ girls”; The Saloon was the basis for his well-known “Corner of Chestnut and Low”. He then played at Annie Gilly’s sporting house, another rough establishment, before becoming well-known enough to play throughout the city and win a number of national piano concerts.”

“After playing melodian and buck dancing in a medicine show through the Maryland and Pennsylvania countryside, Blake did a stint in a plantation-style review at New York’s Academy of Music in 1902. He returned to Baltimore to play piano at Alfred Greenfield’s Saloon, an establishment haunted by colorful characters and “working” girls. He immortalized the place in his “Corner of Chestnut and Low.”

“After Greenfields, he played for Annie Gilly’s sporting house at 317 East Street where the patrons carried knives and brass knuckles. Blake became a star attraction at cafes and clubs and a perennial winner in national piano playing contests. For a while he teamed up with Preston Jackson and his group. “

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The saloon continued at the “Corner of Chestnut & Low” until the last years before Prohibition, when it (and the family) moved into the home of my Uncle’s William’s (Dr. William Greenfeld, M.D.) more uptown digs, until Prohibition had its way with the bar.  My father never spoke to me about any of this, except that his dad owned a bar in Baltimore.  I first heard that the famed Jazz Composer Eubie Blake had immortalized my grandfather’s saloon from my late cousin Alfred Greenfeld, himself a colorful character, retired Marine and CIA spook.  How *colorful* the Saloon was I only recently discovered, courtesy of “The Storm is Passing Over – From the Church to Baltimore’s Best Bordellos”.  (https://jshare.johnshopkins.edu/pdennis5/public_html/storm/story/story3.html) Interestingly, my Dad, Albert Greenfield, who came South during the Great Depression, was a non-drinker and both my parents avoided bars like the plague.


“In 1902 Eubie Blake was with the traveling show “In Old Kentucky”. Later that same year, Blake made his return to nightclub playing in Alfred Greenfeld’s Saloon in Baltimore MD, where he composed his next rag, Corner of Chestnut and Low, the address of Greenfeld’s club.”

“Baltimore’s Eubie Blake was one of the most prominent ragtime musicians on the East Coast in the early 20th century, and was known for a unique style of piano-playing that eventually became the basis for stride, a style perfected during World War I in Harlem. Blake was the most well-known figure in the local scene, and helped make Baltimore one of the ragtime centers of the East Coast, along with Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.[27] He then joined a medicine show, performing throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania before moving to New York in 1902 to play at the Academy of Music there. Returning to Baltimore, Blake played at The Saloon, a venue owned by Alfred Greenfield patronized by “colorful characters and ‘working’ girls”; The Saloon was the basis for his well-known “Corner of Chestnut and Low”. He then played at Annie Gilly’s sporting house, another rough establishment, before becoming well-known enough to play throughout the city and win a number of national piano concerts.”

“After playing melodian and buck dancing in a medicine show through the Maryland and Pennsylvania countryside, Blake did a stint in a plantation-style review at New York’s Academy of Music in 1902. He returned to Baltimore to play piano at Alfred Greenfield’s Saloon, an establishment haunted by colorful characters and “working” girls. He immortalized the place in his “Corner of Chestnut and Low.”

“After Greenfields, he played for Annie Gilly’s sporting house at 317 East Street where the patrons carried knives and brass knuckles. Blake became a star attraction at cafes and clubs and a perennial winner in national piano playing contests. For a while he teamed up with Preston Jackson and his group. ”

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4 Responses to “NOTES ON EUBIE BLAKE AND MY GRANDFATHER’S SHADY SALOON”

  1. Sandra Selesky Appel Says:

    I have been doing research on my family genealogy and I found something interesting on the census results of 1900 located on Ancestry.com. At that time my grandfather, Philip Kermisch, and his brother, Benjamin, were listed as cousins living with your family. At that time Grunfeld was listed as the last name of the family but further research indicated that the name was Greenfeld in 1910. I am including the summary of the census results. The original document is available for viewing on Ancestry.com. I am wondering if you have any further information about the Kermisch family or know details of their family relation.
    1900 United States Federal Census about Philip Kermisch
    Name: Philip Kermisch
    Home in 1900: Baltimore Ward 1, Baltimore City (Independent City), Maryland
    [Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland]
    Age: 21
    Birth Date: May 1879
    Birthplace: Austria
    Race: White
    Gender: Male
    Relationship to head-of-house: Cousin
    Father’s Birthplace: Austria
    Mother’s Birthplace: Austria
    Marital Status: Single
    Occupation: View on Image
    Neighbors: View others on page
    Household Members:
    Name Age
    Alferd Grunfeld 39
    Matilda Grunfeld 36
    William Grunfeld 12
    Fanny Grunfeld 10
    Rose Grunfeld 6
    Ida Grunfeld 3
    David Grunfeld 2
    Benj Kermisch 23
    Philip Kermisch 21
    View
    Original
    Record

    View original image
    View blank form

    • allengreenfield Says:

      Fascinating! Write at bishop171@gmail.com

    • allengreenfield Says:

      Hi Sandra,

      Y’know, this is truly amazing. For one, the name “Grunfeld” though logical, adds another element to my backsearch. The 1900 census was before both my father and his younger brother Eugene were born (my father was born in Baltimore in 1904) and they both took the name another notch to “Greenfield” from “Greenfeld”. Secondly, the “Kermisch” connection is totally new to me. If your grandfather was a cousin (of Matilda nee Sommers or Alfred?} we would be – umm – 3rd cousins? As I look for “extended family” any info on the Kermisch family would be appreciated.

      My only recent discovery of any note is that my father and his friends (all Jewish) playing pro-basketball in the 1920swas not all that unusual. Apparently, the YMHA’s around the NE were major centers of the basketball of that period.

      Anyway, do stat in touch.

      Your Cousin

      Allen G

    • allengreenfield Says:

      These are definitely my grandfather, grandmother, uncles and aunts. My father wasn’t born until 1904, and his youngest brother Eugene even later. Probably my Aunt Dorothy after 1900 as well.

      Alferd Grunfeld 39
      Matilda Grunfeld 36
      William Grunfeld 12
      Fanny Grunfeld 10
      Rose Grunfeld 6
      Ida Grunfeld 3
      David Grunfeld 2

      This is a new name to me – but certainly of the same origin in Europe. Whether they were boarding with my grandparents or were relatives needs further investigation.

      Benj Kermisch 23
      Philip Kermisch 21

      Cordially

      Allen Greenfield

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