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[graphic] Entertainment and Commerce
[photo]
Karnofsky Tailor Shop and House, Eagle Saloon, and Iroquois Theater
Courtesy of State of Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism Office of Cultural Development, Historic Preservation

Eagle Saloon, Karnofsky Tailor Shop and House, and Iroquois Theater:
New Orleans, Louisiana

South Rampart Street, home to the Eagle Saloon, the Iroquois Theater and the Karnofsky Tailor Shop and House, was once a flourishing entertainment and commercial district for African Americans containing drugstores, barber shops, theaters, live music venues, combination grocery stores/saloons, second-hand stores, saloons and pawn shops. Those who knew South Rampart in its heyday remember it as the "hub of black life." South Rampart was part of "back of town," one of New Orleans' most important neighborhoods in the early development of Jazz. The Eagle Saloon was a favorite haunt of early Jazz musicians, possibly giving its name to the Eagle Band, the successor to Buddy Bolden's band. Although it has not been documented with absolute certainty, the third floor of this building is widely believed by locals to be the location of the famed Odd Fellows ballroom, an early Jazz venue where musicians such as Buddy Bolden and the Robichaux Orchestra played. The Iroquois Theater, a vaudeville and silent movie theater, was a creative center of entertainment where musicians played Jazz and Blues to accompany stage acts and films. Theaters such as the Iroquois served as training grounds for young musicians and gave local players exposure to national touring acts. Louis Armstrong recalled watching movies for ten cents and winning an amateur contest at the Iroquois Theater. The Karnofsky Tailor Shop and House was owned and operated by the Karnofsky family--a Jewish family remembered for befriending a young Louis Armstrong, who worked for their junk business. Although records cannot tie Louis Armstrong to the tailor shop, it is undeniable that he remained a friend of the family throughout his career. The Eagle Saloon, the Iroquois Theater and the Karnofsky Tailor Shop and House are a few examples of the many once thriving businesses that drew African Americans to South Rampart Street in the first half of the twentieth century.

WROX Building:
Clarksdale, Mississippi

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The WROX Building
Courtesy of Mr. Kinchen H. O'Keefe, Jr.

In 1946, two years after its first broadcast, WROX AM moved to 257 Delta Avenue where the station remained until 1954. During the 1940s 66,530 families who owned radios were within WROX's coverage area and were able to listen to "Sonny Boy's Corn Meal and King Biscuit's show," an influential Blues show out of Helena, Arkansas that featured Sonny Boy Williamson. Early Wright, "The Soul Man," is believed to have become the first black deejay in Mississippi when he joined WROX in 1947. For 52 years Wright hosted a weekly R&B show from the WROX building, interviewing musical personalities such as B. B. King, Charlie Pride, Muddy Waters, Tina Turner, Bobby Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, Rufus Thomas, Elvis Presley, Little Milton and Pinetop Perkins. He is also credited with fostering the career of Ike Turner. Today, the WROX Building houses two retail establishments on the first floor and a dance studio on the third floor. The second floor, home to WROX, remains unaltered from the time of the radio station's occupancy. Plans are underway for a restoration of the building.

 

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