African American Studies
Nat White and Bernard Drayton were the men responsible for producing a series of jazz concerts at the Blue Morocco in the 1960’s. The Blue Morocco was located on Boston Road and 167th, but today no longer exists. The two men worked for Del Shields who was a DJ for WLIB FM, playing all jazz for 12 hours after midnight. Del knew Sylvia and Joe Robinson who owned the Blue Morocco. They began recording these jazz concerts on Monday nights for WLIB FM radio around 1964 and continued until 1967. While these jazz concerts were successful, it was a difficult task getting people to come to the Bronx because the club was not conveniently located. Nat White explains that they even tried to set up a way to bus people from the different boroughs, but ultimately that did not work out. This was not due to lack of interest in jazz, but there were jazz clubs all over, especially in Brooklyn. There were also other popular jazz clubs in the Bronx at the time, such as 845, McKinley Ballroom, and Hunts Point Palace, among others.
White and Drayton also discuss how people generally do not perceive the Bronx as being a place where jazz was very popular during the 60’s, when in fact it was. Although the building no longer exists, Drayton describes the Blue Morocco’s bar area with a larger room with nice tables and a stage and piano for performances. The recordings of these concerts would be done from upstairs in the office area. The crowd that was generally attracted to these types of clubs were a well dressed crowd, generally better than your average according to Drayton. White says that the Blue Morocco was more than a jazz club, it was like a part of the chitlin circuit where you could see jazz, R&B, etc. They both talk about how musicians such as Jimmy Castor, Arthur Jenkins, and Nancy Wilson among many others. When they first began these sessions they were not as popular as they eventually became. Drayton tells the story of when John Coltrane contacted him to do a recording at the Blue Morocco, which turned out to be his last live recording.
The two men discuss how they believe integration in the 60’s killed entertainment centers that had existed uptown and on the outlying communities because people began to go to places downtown. The audiences at the jazz clubs including the Blue Morocco in the Bronx were generally black, and integration allowed them to attend the clubs downtown. They also talk about how Motown breaking out into the mainstream had an impact on jazz clubs dying out. In 1967 when Nat White left the Blue Morocco to go to La Boheme downtown, jazz eventually began to fade out of the Blue Morocco shortly after. He says that none of the clubs closed down but the popularity of jazz and the clubs simply began to fade. There was a large soul movement in the 70’s and emergence of more social clubs that took over. Throughout the interview, both Nat White and Bernard Drayton mention many important musicians that were a part of the jazz scene in the Bronx in the 60’s, proving jazz did exist in the Bronx.
White, Nat and Bernard Drayton. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.White, Nat and Bernard Drayton.mp3 (119284 kB)