BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Colored Musicians Club and Jazz Museum is a historic hub for jazz music in Buffalo and across the nation.
“It’s about the music. It’s not about the food, it’s not about the drink. It’s not about the conversation. It’s about what’s going on, on that stage,” said Danny Williams President and board of directors of the Colored Musicians Club.
The club’s beginnings started with a union.
George Scott, is a board member for the club, he said years ago, musicians couldn’t just show up at a nightclub and sign a list to perform. They had to first be accepted into a union, there was one for whites and one for blacks.
The club also served as a place where Black musicians could eat and interact with the community after performances. During Jim Crow, well-known black performers would perform at other local venues in Buffalo.
After their performances, they were not allowed to stay and mingle with the audience.
“So, when they got done they had to leave. They wanted to make sure there was a special place for these people to come to after their show,” said Scott. “That’s why upstairs was such a big deal.”
The club is located on the second floor of the building, which is located on 145 Broadway Street, the jazz museum is located on the lower level. It features a large collection of video documentaries, audio clips and artifacts.
The club is also planning a reconstruction of the upstairs club area they hope to start renovations this spring.
“We’re ripping out the entire surface, the entire floor, the entire ceiling. We’re going to return it to the way it looked back in 1927,” said Williams.
While the physical appearance of the landmark is going to be updated, will the name be updated as well? Especially since the word “colored” is dated and can be considered offensive.
“There was no such thing as a colored union in 1917 when we got our designation,” said Williams. “They said, ‘you are a colored union.’” So, that was the first time we were told ‘Hey you’re colored.’ So, after they realized that, we embraced it.”
The word also has shock value and brings attention to the club’s story.
“I want you to be shocked. I want you to be shocked, from that point it helps tell the story of why the union was so important and why this place is so important,” said Scott. “We keep it to show what it took for us to become stronger Americans, recognized Americans and that’s why we keep it.”
Angelica Morrison is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.