Slappy White, the comedian and sometime partner of Redd Foxx, was born in Baltimore and tap-danced in the streets as a kid. At the Royal Theatre, he opened for people like Dinah Washington, Willie Mae "the gal who gave you Hound Dog" Thornton and Johnny Ace, a doomed singer who may have cut the first rock 'n' roll record.
"Down the street, Division Street comes across," Glover says, "and there's a church, St. Katherine's, and that was the last place I went to a concert where Eillis played."
Ellis Larkin was an old friend and Glover's just come from his funeral the day before. A fine jazz pianist and accompanist for singers from Ella Fitzgerald to Chris Connor, he'd studied piano at the Peabody Conservatory when it was still segregated. He was a quiet, reserved man and he played that way.
"You almost didn't think his hands hit the keys. Easygoing, quiet, reserved. Even when he played Bach or Beethoven, you know how dramatic many of your players are. No. None of that. No exertion at all. Yet it could strike you!"
Around the Lafayette Market, she remembers many small shops owned by African-Americans.
"At 1834 was the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters," she says. "A. Philip Randolph organized them. They would meet there and go to the Sphinx Club for entertainment."
Northwestern Loan, a pawnshop, was a block away 50 years ago and it's still there today.
"The Charm Centre was over here," Glover says, at 1811 Pennsylvania Ave. "The Charm Centre was the first black-owned, female [clothing shop]. Mrs. Adams had everything from hats to gloves. You could have dresses made. She had hats [custom] made. She is Willie Adams' wife. She was a schoolteacher. Her daughter went to school with me. Her clientele was the upper echelon of people who purchased or would be able to purchase."
Her name is Victorine. Willie Adams was the debonair West Baltimore entrepreneur and sometime politician, a powerful figure then and powerful today in his 80s. He owned the Club Casino and a whole lot more.
In 1946, Victorine Adams helped form the Colored Women's Democratic Campaign Committee, which, in fact, helped elect Mayor Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin, a white Republican with a solid civil rights record. In 1967, she became the first woman elected to City Council and served 16 years. She created the City Fuel Fund, which helps poor people pay heating bills and which now bears her name.
The Avenue Bar was on the southwest corner with McMechen Street, across from the Regent Theatre, which is where the Shake 'n' Bake recreation center is now. The Avenue Bar was a Monday night hangout for musicians. On Mondays most places on The Avenue were closed.
"But the Avenue Bar would be swinging," Glover says. "They had a show that began about 7 in the evening. Visiting musicians would start up here and work their way down to Buck's, which is down at the bottom. Both of them were very popular. Mickey Fields and them would tear this place up."
These days a gray electrical box at the Woodland Street Apartments serves as the only memorial for the Avenue Bar. Pitcher Street begins at Pennsylvania and McMechen and the black musicians union was a block west at Fremont. The Alhambra Grill would have been in the middle of the apartment development. Willie Adams' Club Casino was just across the street and it survives as the Royal Casino, a liquor store on the east side in the 1500 block. Henry Baker's haberdashery was just down the street.
In the 1950s, the Casino booked hard-rocking bands like Chris Powell and his Blue Flames, which once had Clifford Brown playing trumpet as one of the Flames -- but probably not in Baltimore. Benny Green, a top bebop trombonist, played the Casino, not long after Powell and the Flames. And so did Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, a tough, driving tenor who often played with Count Basie.
"And Gamby's sat right across the street," Glover says. Gamby's was the first place on The Avenue at which she sang. She won an "open stage" competition and got a two-week engagement. Many years later, her daughter, Ira, won a similar contest and stayed for a long run.
"But I didn't like Gamby's," Ruby says. "Gamby's was close and full all the time. That's when fellows nicknamed me 'Snootie.' They said all of these clubs around here, they're not going to be ritzy and have a nice beautiful setting like Phil's does. 'Yeah,' I said, 'But it could be a little better.' "
But Stan Getz and even the young Dave Brubeck played Gamby's.
Baltimore was a strictly segregated city in the 1950s, but Pennsylvania Avenue clubs freely booked white performers like Getz and Brubeck, Chet Baker and Chris Connor. The Royal Theatre band hired white players after World War II. And white fans felt welcome even at funky jazz clubs.
After Gamby's, Glover went back to Phil's, at Mount and Mosher streets, the place where she started singing professionally. Phil's was owned by Joe Reuben and his brothers, who also owned the Lorman House and the Garrison Lounge.