It has recently come to our attention that Dave Meyers, the owner of Meyers Ace Hardware in Chicago’s Bronzeville district – once the Sunset Café and later the Grand Terrace – has finally been forced to sell this historic building, which was such a legendary venue for many of the greatest jazz musicians of the 1920s and 30s, and which today inspires the very name and music of our band. Trade has apparently been very poor for the past several years, and closure sadly became inevitable, despite the owner’s greatest reluctance to take this drastic step, as the business had been run by three generations of his family for almost a century. Indeed, his father finally bought the building outright from Joe Glaser, Louis Armstrong’s manager, in 1962.
Local residents were devastated at the news, as, in addition to their justifiable pride in their city’s jazz heritage, they greatly appreciated the excellent service provided by Dave Meyers over many years, and found it hard to believe that it was closing down. A sad end indeed for an historic landmark which once hosted, among others, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Johnny Dodds, Bix Beiderbecke, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, and the Carroll Dickerson Orchestra. Later, when the Sunset Café became the Grand Terrace, Earl "Fatha" Hines and his orchestra (including Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Sarah Vaughan) regularly broadcast live from the club, and was at that time the most broadcast band in America. Furthermore, Al Capone (a great jazz fan) had his own lounge suite on an upper floor, complete with a stage where his favourite jazz musicians were 'invited' to entertain him. It is generally believed that gigs 'upstairs' were rarely turned down!
It seems that the famous jazz-themed murals in Dave’s office – once the back wall of the Sunset Café stage – cannot be rescued and taken with him, as they form part of the structure of the building. One can only hope that they will be carefully preserved, as they form such an integral part of the jazz club’s history. Hopefully, the new owner will want to safeguard this unique example of jazz-related art, as well as maintaining the building itself. The building was ‘landmarked’ (similar to being ‘listed’ in the UK) by the City of Chicago in 1998, but unfortunately this listing does not protect its interior. No doubt the building will remain firmly on the itinerary of the Windy City’s jazz & blues tours (which is how this blogger discovered it!) along with locations like the Apex Club, the Vendome, the Aragon Ballroom, Chess Records, Buddy Guy’s, and The Pilgrim Baptist Church, but right now its future is shrouded in mystery, as the new buyer remains unknown.