Tampa Bay's musical history thrived during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, especially in the Central Avenue district. During the 1920s and ‘30s, Tampa was a stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit. According to National Public Radio, The Chitlin' Circuit was a “group of performance venues located mostly in the South that were safe and acceptable places for African-American musicians and entertainers to perform during Jim Crow.” In addition to the Cotton Club owned by the Joyner family, there was Club Chiffon, Charlie Moon's Pool Hall, Johnny Gray's Bar, and the Blue Room owned by Watt Sanderson. The Pyramid Hotel, later named the Rogers Hotel, housed the Apollo Ballroom. All of these places featured local musicians and some national acts, including B.B. King, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, James Brown, Ruth Brown and Asa Harris. Another attraction of Central Avenue and the surrounding area was Saunders' Boarding House, later named the Jackson House. This boarding house served as a residence for many traveling black musicians. (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
(map courtesy Tampa Bay Times)
Some musicians featured along the Chitlin' Circuit included Tampa Red, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Mahalia Jackson, County Basie, Ray Charles, Etta James, James Brown and many more. Download "From The Scrub to the Twist" Newspaper In Education produced by the Tampa Bay Times for more information on the Chitlin' Circuit!