In the early 1950s, the Hi-Hat, on the corner of Columbus and Mass Ave in the South End, was the focal point of both name-band Black music and modern jazz in Boston. (There’s more here and here.) The club presented all kinds of music besides Diz and Bird, including mainstream swing, doo-wop, R&B, Latin, and pop. I devoted a chapter to the Hi-Hat in The Boston Jazz Chronicles and won’t repeat that history here. My purpose now is to present the schedule for its important years, from 1949 to 1955, when owner Julie Rhodes was booking the very best in modern jazz.

By way of example, the Hi-Hat was the first club in town to present Miles Davis, Erroll Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, and Sarah Vaughan. But it was more to Boston than a name-band room. Dozens of Boston musicians worked there, including Dean Earl, Rollins Griffith, Bernie Griggs, Clarence Jackson, Sabby Lewis, Charlie Mariano, Nat Pierce, Fat Man Robinson, Hillary Rose, Jimmy Tyler, Al Vega, and many more. Symphony Sid set up shop here and broadcast live nightly over WCOP from “the Jazz Corner of Boston.”

Photo of Tubman House mural

One of the Tubman House murals at the site of the Hi-Hat. Photo by author.

The Hi-Hat shed its past as a whites-only dine-and-dance place in the summer of 1948, when it opened its doors to all and booked its first jazz trio. That was pianist Nat Pierce’s trio—he lived two doors down from the club on Mass Ave—and it usually included drummer Joe MacDonald and a horn player. The Sabby Lewis Orchestra, Boston’s most popular band, opened in September and played through the fall and early winter. Then we start the schedule shown here.

Music rocked the Hi-Hat non-stop until a fire closed the club in December 1955. As best I can tell, it remained closed in 1956. In January 1957, the Hi-Hat resumed an on-again, off-again music policy using local musicians. That continued until early 1959, when new owners again began booking name bands. It all ended when the fire of March 10, 1959 closed the club for good.

The Fatal Four-Alarm Fire

Boston Herald readers awoke to see an EXTRA! at the top of page 1, and the news was bad. “A stubborn four-alarm fire swept the Hi-Hat Cafe at 576 Columbus Ave., South End, at 3:00. The four story brick structure was in flames from cellar to garret, although firefighters had been battling the smoky blaze for a half hour when the fourth alarm was sounded.”

The afternoon Traveler told the whole depressing story. A thousand residents fled nearby buildings in sub-freezing temperatures while the fire burned out of control for two hours. Ice, snow, and thick smoke combined to produce a dense smog, making firefighting all the more difficult. The building was a total loss, and the rooming house behind it rendered uninhabitable. Streets were blocked for hours. What remained standing was pulled down days later as a safety precaution. The Hi-Hat was history.

The Harriet Tubman House, a community center with a long history of service in the South End, was built on the Hi-Hat site. Some years after its construction, artists painted murals on the exterior walls picturing the corner’s history. Sadly, these were lost when developers demolished Tubman House in 2020 to make way for condos.

Notes on the Schedule

Ad for Illinois Jacquet at the Hi-Hat 1954

Daily Record ad for Illinois Jacquet at the Hi-Hat, Nov 1954

This listing is not quite complete. It was common during these years for clubs to cut back on their operations during July and August, or simply close for the season. The Hi-Hat was a popular restaurant as well as a nightclub, so it stayed open, but it used local bands, often without advertising. I have not yet compiled the schedules for the summer months.

I gathered information from multiple sources, but mainly from the club’s weekly advertisements in the Boston Daily Record, and the entertainment columnists writing in the same paper. The “On the Scene” column written by Vin Haynes (Roy’s brother) in the Boston Chronicle, and the writings of Down Beat’s Boston correspondents, were also helpful. Neither of those Boston papers are available online.

Finally, the disclaimer…I cannot guarantee that this information is 100 percent accurate, and all errors are mine. If you spot something you believe is wrong, let me know. I will update this post as necessary. I welcome comments and questions.

You can view these tables on a phone, but I recommend something with a bigger screen.

The Hi-Hat Schedule, 1949

Date

Groups

Jan-mid Apr

Sabby Lewis Orchestra, also Clarence Jackson's Four Notes of Rhythm, also Johnny White intermission piano. Sunday jam sessions and a Tuesday "Boppers Night" session that featured such as Joe Gordon, Dick Nash, Charlie Mariano, Baggy Grant, Paul Vignoli, and Gait Preddy.

Apr 11-17

Last week! Sabby Lewis off to New York's Royal Roost. Also Herb Scott Quintet, Clarence Jackson.

Apr 18-May 1

Former Lionel Hampton vocalist Wini Brown singing with Clarence Jackson's house band; also Herb Scott.

May 2-6

Wini Brown and Clarence Jackson; also tenor saxophonist Art Foxall Quintet.

May 6-15

Rudy Williams, Wini Brown, Clarence Jackson

May 16-20

Sabby Lewis, returned to Boston when Royal Roost closed; also Clarence Jackson.

May 21-Jun 12

Sabby Lewis; also saxophonist Pete Brown with Charlie Cox Trio

Jun 13-26

Milt Buckner; also Pete Brown with Charlie Cox Trio

July-Aug

Art Foxall for the summer, guitarist Frankie Rue's Trio the relief band, Ray Grismer running the Sunday sessions.

Aug 30-Sep 18

Milt Buckner; Frankie Rue Trio. Sunday session Sep 11 featured trombonist Dick LeFave (ex Artie Shaw's Rangers, Benny Goodman).

Sep 19-27

Eddie Heywood; also Phil Edmunds Orch

Sep 28-Oct 23

Sabby Lewis Orchestra. Sunday session Oct 15 with trombonists Dick LeFave and Sonny Truitt (who might have played piano) and saxophonist George Perry.

Oct 24-Nov 6

Slam Stewart Trio; also Frankie Rue Trio

Nov 7-27

Sabby Lewis; also Frankie Rue Trio

Nov 28-Dec 1

Unknown

Dec 2-15

Earl Bostic

Dec 16-31

Buddy DeFranco; band as listed in DB 12/2/49 included Teddy Charles vibes, Harvey Leonard piano, Perry Lopez guitar, Teddy Kotick bass, and Frank DeVito drums. DeFranco, winner of the Down Beat readers poll as top clarinetist, presented his award at the Hi-Hat by Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler on Dec 29. For New Year's Eve, Jimmy Tyler's new band added to program.

The Hi-Hat Schedule, 1950

Date

Groups Working

Jan 2-Apr 9

Jimmy Tyler Orchestra. Personnel drawn mostly from the Sabby Lewis band after a contentious breakup. Along with Tyler on alto and tenor, included saxophonists Dan Turner (later on Basie band) and Bill Dorsey, trumpeters Gene Caines and Cat Anderson (not known how long he stayed), trombonist Maceo Bryant, pianists Jimmie Martin then Jaki Byard, bassist/vocalist Al Morgan, drummer Joe Booker. Photo of this band page 160 Boston Jazz Chronicles.

Feb 2-8

Eddie Heywood; also Jimmy Tyler

Feb 9-18

Jimmy Tyler; also Clarence Jackson's Notes of Rhythm

Feb 19-Mar 5

Jimmy Tyler; also Serge Chaloff's Woody Herman All-Stars

Mar 6-12

Jimmy Tyler; headliner unknown

Mar 13-19

Thelonious Monk with local group including trumpeter Joe Gordon; may have stayed an additional week. Possibly also Jimmy Tyler.

Mar 20-Apr 2

No adverts; Jimmy Tyler likely

Apr 3-9

Howard McGhee; also Jimmy Tyler

Apr 10-23

Count Basie Sextet (DeFranco, Thad Jones, Wardell Gray, Jimmy Lewis, Connie Kay), Serge Chaloff sitting in; also Serge Chaloff's group with Truitt and MacDonald.

Apr 24-May 7

Georgie Auld with Joe Gordon, intermission pianist Al Vega, bassist Sonny Dee, unknown drummer.

May 8-17

Jimmie Lunceford All Stars under the direction of Joe Thomas.

May 18-25

Festival of American Jazz All-Stars with Rex Stewart, Joe Sullivan, Edmond Hall, Benny Morton, Big Sid Catlett.

May 26-Jun 8

Lester Young with Jesse Drake trumpet, Kenny Drew piano, Joe Shulman bass, Connie Kay drums.

Jun 9-16

Adrian Rollini Trio; also Johnny Chase trio

Jun 17-22

Eddie Heywood; also Adrian Rollini

Jun 23-29

Serge Chaloff All-Stars

July-August

Incomplete

Sep 1-7

Hi-Hat All Stars: Dick LeFave trombone, Ernie Perry saxophones, Trudy Jones piano, Joe Booker drums, Ray Scott bass.

Sep 8-Oct 10

Fat Man Robinson Quintet

Oct 12-18

First Boston appearance of Erroll Garner Trio

Oct 19-Nov 1

Count Basie with Wardell Gray and Buddy DeFranco

Nov 2-15

Benny Carter; also Al Vega's trio; ads called him "Boston's Mr. Piano."

Nov 16-29

Art Tatum; also Phil Edmunds Orch

Nov 30-Dec 10

Red Norvo probably with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus; also Vi Burnside and her Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Dec 11-24

Snub Mosley Orchestra; also Joe Sullivan

Dec 25-31

Sabby Lewis; probable lineup with Lewis on piano had Danny Potter, Elwyn Fraser and George Perry saxophones; Lennie Johnson and Hiawatha Lockhart trumpets; Champ Jones bass and Alan Dawson drums.

The Hi-Hat Schedule, 1951

Date

Groups Working

Jan 1-14

Cootie Williams Orchestra

Jan 15-21

Hal Singer; also Serge Chaloff with trumpeter Leon Merian and pianist Danny White

Jan 22-28

Buddy Rich featuring Zoot Sims and Harry Edison; also Serge Chaloff's group.

Jan 29-Feb 4

Oscar Peterson with Ray Brown; also Serge Chaloff

Feb 5-11

Dizzy Gillespie; also Serge Chaloff Trio with Nat Pierce and Leon Merian

Feb 12-18

Probably Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt; also Serge Chaloff

Feb 19-25

Probably Arnett Cobb; also Serge Chaloff

Feb 26-Mar 10

Bill Davis; also Fat Man Robinson and Serge Chaloff

Mar 11-17

Erroll Garner; also Fat Man Robinson

Mar 19-25

Sabby Lewis

Mar 26-Apr 1

Stan Getz; also Al Vega

Apr 2-8

Billie Holiday, backed by a local group that included Al Vega and tenor saxophonist Ted Goddard. Buddy Rich, originally scheduled, cancelled to tour with Josephine Baker.

Apr 9-14

Oscar Pettiford with Howard McGee and Joe Roland; also Al Vega Trio

Apr 15-22

Count Basie with Marshall Royal and Wardell Gray

Apr 23-May 20

Jimmy Tyler; also Al Vega Trio

May 21-27

Terry Gibbs Sextet with Brew Moore and Red Rodney

May 28-Jun 3

Charlie Parker with Kenny Dorham

Jun 4-17

Saxophonist Art Foxall

Jun 18-

Sabby Lewis with Joe Gordon

July

Incomplete

August

Dick LeFave's house band

Sep

Al Vega begins third year as intermission pianist and sometimes accompanist and leader of the house trio

Sep 1-6

Fat Man Robinson Quintet

Sep 7-28

Vocalist Pat Rainey; also Fat Man Robinson Quintet; also Al Vega. Vega's trio likely accompanied Ms Rainey.

Sep 29-Oct 5

Al Hibbler with Fat Man Robinson Quintet

Oct 9-15

Tommy Edwards singing "It's All in the Game"

Oct 16-22

Slim Gaillard

Oct 23-Nov 5

Herbie Fields; also Hillary Rose Trio

Nov 19-27

Stuff Smith

Nov 28-Dec 4

Roy Eldridge

Dec 5-Jan 5 1952

Slim Gaillard all month; also Fat Man Robinson featuring J.C. Higginbotham; also Trudy Jones Trio

The Hi-Hat Schedule, 1952

Date

Groups Working

Jan 6-15

Standup pianist Eugene Smith; also Fat Man Robinson with J.C. Higginbotham

Jan 16-22

Maxine Sullivan

Jan 23-27

Illinois Jacquet

Jan 28-Feb 3

Dizzy Gillespie

Feb 4-20

Slim Gaillard; also Skippy Williams

Feb 21-Mar 2

Illinois Jacquet

Mar 3-9

Charlie Parker with Kenny Dorham, Walter Bishop, Franklin Skeete, Roy Haynes

Mar 10-16

Coleman Hawkins; also Eddie Heywood Trio

Mar 17-23

Ruth Brown

Mar 24-30

Ray McKinley All Stars featuring Lee Castle

Mar 31-Apr 6

Arnett Cobb; also Al Vega Trio

Apr 7-20

Earl Bostic

Apr 21-27

Oscar Peterson with Ray Brown and Irving Ashby

Apr 28-May 4

Stan Getz with Al Haig, Tiny Kahn, Jimmy Raney, Charles Mingus; also Al Vega Trio

May 5-11

Dizzy Gillespie with Joe Carroll, Wynton Kelly, Bill Graham, Al Jones, Bernie Griggs

May 12-18

Jazz Unlimited show with Symphony Sid as emcee, band was Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Phil Urso, Percy Heath, Kenny Clarke.

May 19-25

Arnett Cobb; also Al Vega Trio with Frank Gallagher and Jimmy Zitano

May 26-Jun 1

Teddy Wilson

Jun 2-7

Red Allen with Sonny Greer, Kenny Kersey, Lloyd Trotman, Irving Skinny Brown

Jun 8-14

Ivory Joe Hunter

Jun 15-21

Al Vega Trio; headliner unknown

Jun 22-

Trumpeter Phil Edmunds

July-August

Juan Gonzalez Afro-Mambo Band, Chico and His Rhumba Band, no idea who these Bostonians were. Al Vega, Frank Gallagher, Jimmy Zitano the house trio

Sep 1-17

Creole Stardusters; trumpeter Hiawatha Lockhart leads house band with pianist Rollins Griffith, bassist Bernie Griggs, drummer Al Johnson

Sep 18-28

Slim Gaillard

Sep 29-Oct 5

Cecil Young

Oct 6-12

Ruth Brown and Milt Buckner

Oct 13-19

The Orioles

Oct 20-26

Stan Getz with Jim Raney, Roy Haynes, Bill Crow, Jerry Kaminsky

Oct 27-Nov 9

Dizzy Gillespie with Joe Carroll. Gillespie originally scheduled for one week but came a week early when the Bill Harris-Chubby Jackson group cancelled.

Nov 10-16

The Ravens

Nov 17-27

Tiny Bradshaw; also trumpeter Herbie Lee

Nov 28-Dec 7

Illinois Jacquet

Dec 8-14

Charlie Parker with Joe Gordon, Dick Twardzik, Bill Wellington, Charles Mingus, Roy Haynes. Set on the 14th on Uptown UPCD 27.42.

Dec 15-21

Cecil Young

Dec 22-Jan 4 1953

Slim Gaillard and Milt Buckner Trio with Bernie Mackie, Sticks Evans; also Herbie Lee

The Hi-Hat Schedule, 1953

Date

Groups Working

Jan 5-11

Stan Getz

Jan 12-18

Arnett Cobb

Jan 19-25

Coleman Hawkins with Roy Eldridge

Jan 26-Feb 1

Alan Eager with Dick Twardzik, Bernie Griggs, Gene Glennon; the Feb 1 broadcast eventually released on Uptown 27.49. Lester Young was scheduled but cancelled.

Feb 2-8

Johnny Hodges; also Sonny Stitt possibly with Horace Silver

Feb 9-15

Ink Spots; also Al Vega Trio

Feb 16-22

James Moody

Feb 23-Mar 1

Bill Harris-Chubby Jackson

Mar 2-8

Buddy DeFranco

Mar 9-15

Stan Getz

Mar 16-22

Earl Hines with Jonah Jones and Benny Green

Mar 23-29

Joe Loco and His Afro-Cubops

Mar 30-Apr 5

Babs Gonzalez

Apr 6-12

Slim Gaillard

Apr 13-19

Oscar Peterson with Ray Brown and Barney Kessel

Apr 24-May 3

Illinois Jacquet

May 4-17

Erroll Garner. Saxophonist Jay Tolbert leads house band with Trudy Jones piano, Herbie Williams trumpet, Milt Jones bass, Joe Riddick drums. Only Williams would be back in the fall.

May 18-24

Billie Holiday

May 25-31

Flip Phillips Trio with Horace Silver and J.C. Heard

Jun 1-7

Sarah Vaughan; also Lawrence Hinkson Trio

June 8-14

Charlie Parker with Herb Pomeroy trumpet, Dean Earl piano, Bernie Griggs bass, Bill Grant drums

June 15-21

Ruth Brown

July-August

Incomplete

Sep 11-20

Illinois Jacquet

Sep 21-27

Johnny Hodges; also Al Hibbler

Sep 28-Oct 4

Artie Shaw Gramercy Five with Tal Farlow, Hank Jones, Joe Roland, Tommy Potter, Denzil Best

Oct 5-11

Slim Gaillard; also Dean Earl Trio with Bernie Griggs, Marquis Foster

Oct 12-18

Earl Bostic

Oct 19-25

Nellie Lutcher; also Charlie Mariano Quartet with Herb Pomeroy, Bernie Griggs, Peter Littman

Oct 26-Nov 1

Charlie Barnet

Nov 2-8

James Moody

Nov 9-15

Charlie Ventura with Jackie and Roy

Nov 16-22

Dinah Washington with Herbie Williams band

Nov 25-Dec 6

Sarah Vaughan with Herbie Williams band

Nov 29

Symphony Sid celebrates one year of broadcasting from the club.

Dec 7-13

Wynonie Harris and Varetta Dillard

Dec 14-20

Arnett Cobb and Little Esther

Dec 21-Jan 3 1954

Slim Gaillard and Milt Buckner Trio

The Hi-Hat Schedule, 1954

Date

Groups Working

Jan 4-10

Louie Bellson; also Don Elliott

Jan 11-17

Ruth Brown

Jan 18-24

Charlie Parker with Herbie Williams, Jay Migliori, Rollins Griffith, Jimmy Woode, Marquis Foster. Set on Jan 18 included on Uptown UPCD 27.42.

Jan 25-31

Tiny Bradshaw; also Boston doo-woppers the Love Notes

Feb 1-11

Big Jay McNeely; also Sonny Stitt with Dean Earl's Trio. Stitt's Feb 11 set first released on Roost LP 418 and subsequently on CD. Photo of group on page 183 of The Boston Jazz Chronicles.

Feb 12-21

Illinois Jacquet

Feb 22-28

Gene Krupa Trio with Eddie Shu and Marty Napoleon

Mar 1-7

Billie Holiday

Mar 8-14

Dizzy Gillespie

Mar 15-21

Billy Ward and the Dominos featuring Jackie Wilson

Mar 22-28

Woody Herman Orchestra

Mar 29-Apr 4

Louis Jordan

Apr 5-11

Oscar Peterson with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown; also Flip Phillips with Jo Jones.

Apr 12-18

King Pleasure with Herbie Williams band; also Carmen McRae. Intermission pianist Mabel Simms may have accompanied McRae.

Apr 19-25

King Pleasure held over; also Art Blakey possibly with Joe Gordon

Apr 26-May 2

Oscar Peterson Trio

May 7-16

Erroll Garner

May 17-23

Ella Fitzgerald, trio is John Lewis, Jimmy Woode, Shadow Wilson

May 24-30

Slim Gaillard

May 31-Jun 6

Comedian and singer Timmie Rogers..."Oh yeah!"

June

Jay Migliori leading the house band

July-August

Incomplete

Sep 10-19

Earl Bostic

Sep 20-26

Billy Ward and the Dominos

Sep 27-Oct 3

Slim Gaillard

Oct 4-10

Tito Puente

Oct 11-17

Roy Hamilton

Oct 18-24

Erroll Garner; also Teddy Charles Trio

Oct 25-Nov 1

Anita O'Day; also Teddy Charles Trio

Nov 2-7

JATP All Stars: Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Bill Harris; also Carmen McRae

Nov 8-14

Illinois Jacquet

Nov 15-21

Gene Krupa Trio with Eddie Shu and Teddy Napoleon

Nov 22-28

Billy Williams Quartet

Nov 29-Dec 5

Wild Bill Davis; also J.C. Higginbotham; also vocalist Margie Anderson with Jimmy Woode Trio

Dec 6-12

The Clovers; also Jay Migliori

Dec 13-19

Rhythm Festival of 1954 with Margie Anderson, the Quinns, the 3 Sharps

Dec 20-Jan 2 1955

Slim Gaillard; also J.C. Higginbotham; also Margie Anderson

The Hi-Hat Schedule, 1955

Date

Groups Working

Jan

Hal Singer, dates unconfirmed; also J.C. Higginbotham

Jan 17-23

Fats Domino

Jan 24-30

Dizzy Gillespie

Jan 31-Feb 6

Johnny Smith; also Deek Watson of original Ink Spots

Feb 7-13

Miles Davis with Jay Migliori tenor, Al Walcott piano, Jimmy Woode bass, Jimmy Zitano drums; also Chico O'Farrill. Recordings of the Davis group during the engagement released by Fresh Sounds Records on FSR-CD 13.

Feb 14-20

Miles Davis with Migliori's group; also the Chords

Feb 21-27

LaVern Baker; also Sil Austin

Feb 28-Mar 6

Johnny Hodges; also Carmen McRae

Mar 7-13

Lynn Hope

Mar 14-20

Oscar Peterson

Mar 21-27

Sarah Vaughn

Mar 28-Apr 3

The Penguins; also Big Jay McNeely

Apr 4-10

Al Hibbler

Apr 11-17

Vic Dickenson All Stars; also Jay Tolbert

Apr 18-24

Illinois Jacquet

Apr 25-May 1

No band advertised

May 2-8

Roy Hamilton

May 9-15

Perez Prado

May 16-22

Buddy Rich

May 23-29

Max Roach with Clifford Brown

May 30-Jun 5

Serge Chaloff Sextet, the Boston Blow-Up group with Boots Mussulli alto, Herb Pomeroy trumpet, Ray Santisi piano, Everett Evans bass, Jimmy Zitano drums.

Jun 6-12

Billie Holiday

Jun 13-19

Ella Fitzgerald

July-August

Incomplete

Sep 12-25

Earl Bostic; also Clarence Jackson

Sep 26-Oct 2

Terry Gibbs; also vocalist Jan Strickland; also vocalist Clarence Jackson

Oct 3-9

Mel Torme; also Clarence Jackson

Oct 10-16

The Stylers; also Herbie Lee

Oct 17-23

Sunny Gayle with the Manuel Denize (Manny Wise) Septet

Oct 24-30

Tiny Grimes and His Rocking Highlanders

Oct 27-Nov 6

Jeri Southern; also Tiny Grimes and His Rocking Highlanders

Nov 7-13

Steve Gibson and Red Caps featuring Damita Jo

Nov 14-20

Roy Hamilton with the Manuel Denize Septet

Nov 21-Dec 1

Al Belletto Sextet; also Jack Mahoney organ duo

Dec 2-11

Machito's Mambo Cavalcade (Perez Prado cancelled)

Dec 12-18

The Five Keys

Dec 19

Fire closes the club. Woody Herman Orchestra was scheduled to open that night.