The Places

Club Reno on 12th Street

Club Reno was located Downtown at 602 E. 12th St., between Cherry and Locust. Said to be the “queen” of all Kansas City jazz clubs and jazz “king” Charlie “Yardbird” Parker’s favorite club, it first opened in the early 1930s. It didn’t start out as a popular place. It took the Count Basie band becoming the house jazz band to bring people in. Back in the 1930s, 12th Street was the jazz hub There were 50 clubs featuring live music in a six-block area, as Mary Lou Williams recalled.

Club Reno1

The Spinning Wheel at 1208 12th Street (12th and Troost) was owned by a gentleman known as Moon Eye.


Hey Hay Club at 4th  Cherry

HeyHayA scene in Robert altmans 1996 movie “Kansas City” depicts a black band entertaining an almost exclusively black audience at a fictional Hey Hey club in the 1930’s.

The actual Hey Hay Club was owned by Milton Morris, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.  The Hey Hay Club was a popular destination  for both locals and tourist looking for a taste of the Kansas City nightlife.  Patrons sat on bales of hay in a room decorated with corn shucks, and ordered whisky shots and marijuana sticks for twenty-five cents each.


The State Line Tavern

statelinetavernThis club sat astride the state border, and a
thick white line divided the bar to help distinguish the two sides. During the Prohibition era, drinkers, gamblers and musicians would flee to the Missouri side if the Kansas police raided the club. And if the Missouri police decided to show up, they would step on over to the Kansas side.


The Chesterfield Club

Located at 320 E. 9th Street, the Chesterfield Club featured a businessman’s lunch served by waitresses who wore nothing but shoes and see-through cellophane aprons and red stilettos.  This club was so raunchy, that after it  lost protection from Tom Pendergast, the city actually shut it down as a public nuisance.

Chesterfield Club

Play-Mor Ballroom

Plamor ballroomThe Pla-Mor Ballroom was located at Linwood and Main, near the present-day Home Depot. It was part of an entertainment complex which included a hockey arena, swimming pool, bowling alleys, a roller skating rink and a baseball diamond.

Known as the “million dollar ballroom,” the Pla-Mor opened Thanksgiving, November 23, 1927, to the music of the 16-piece Jean Goldkette Orchestra. The Pla-Mor was lushly decorated  with carpets and velour drapes. It had a 14,000-square-foot, spring-loaded dance floor that could accommodate 3,000 dancers.

Plamor Ballroom1The Pla-Mor featured legendary artists such as Django Rhinehardt and the best known radio and recording bands including Glen Gray, Jan Garber, Jimmie Lunceford, George E. Lee, Count Basie and Andy Kirk.The Pla-Mor closed on June 14, 1957.



El Torreon Ballroom

Located on Gillham Plaza at 31st, opened December 15, 1927. The Coon-Sanders Night Hawks returned to Kansas City from Chicago to headline the opening event. The El Torreon sported a Spanish Mission motif with floating clouds and glittering stars on the ceiling accentuating the exotic atmosphere of a Spanish courtyard. A “crystal ball” with 100,000 mirrors illuminated a dance floor that could accommodate 2,000 dancers.

By the mid-20th century the El Torreon was know as the Cowtown Ballroom and continued to host live music into the 1970s and 1980s.ElTorrion


Lincoln High School 2111 Woodland Ave

Old Quindero Ruins

Sewell Avenue & 27th Street  Kansas City, Kansas 66104 – Old Quindero Ruins was the site of  the Western University (Kansas) (1865–1943) a historically black college (HBCU) established in 1865 as the Quindaro Freedman’s School at Quindaro, Kansas after the Civil War. The earliest school for African Americans west of the Mississippi River, it was the only one to operate in the state of Kansas. Many of the prominent musical educators attended Western University, it has been said Western University was “probably the earliest black school west of the Mississippi and the best black musical training center in the Midwest for almost thirty years during the 1900s through the 1920s”

Fairyland Park

7501 Prospect Avenue. During the summer, crowds of dancers flocked to the outdoor pavilions at Fairyland Park, Winwood Beach and Wildwood Lakes to dance to the music of Harlan Leonard and the Kansas City Rockets, Andy Kirk and Jay McShann’s big band!

Fairyland Discrimination   Fairyland park

Mutual Musicians Foundation

The Musicians’ Protective Union, Local 627 sponsored an annual battle of the bands that often included as many as six groups. Founded in 1917, Local 627 had 300 members by 1928. Now known as the Mutual Musicians Foundation, the Union has occupied the same building since 1930. The Foundation still stands as the unbroken link to the musical tradition. A Federal Historic Landmark, musicians still gather at the Foundation on Saturday nights to socialize and jam.