Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 20 – Langston Hughes

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 20: Sixty years ago this month Langston Hughes came to town…

Still of Langston Hughes appearing on the CBUT programme The 7 O’Clock Show, 1958.

Poet, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was in Vancouver 60 years ago this month. He was a guest of lecturer Jacob Zilber of UBC’s English Department who invited Hughes to speak at the university. Later that same day Hughes appeared as a guest on the CBUT (CBC Vancouver) programme The 7 O’Clock Show where he recited his famous poem, The Weary Blues (1925), to a jazz accompaniment.

In a December 3, 1958, Vancouver Sun interview, held at Jacob Zilber’s kitchen table, Hughes explained to the local press that he was “a professional writer. I write for money, I don’t make a lot. I make less than a school teacher, less than a plumber. I have no house. No car, no dog. I have nothing but books.” In fact, Hughes was the first black writer in America to earn his living from writing. Talking about his writing, Hughes said “I write emotionally, from my feelings. I let my characters say something and then I go back and see what they’ve said.

This film clip shows African-American poet, Langston Hughes reciting his poem, “The Weary Blues” (1925) to jazz accompaniment by the Doug Parker Band (feat. Fraser MacPherson, Stan “Cuddles” Johnson) on the live CBUT (CBC Vancouver) program “The 7 O’Clock Show” in 1958. Host, Bob Quintrell introduces the performance.

Eleanor Collins: Vancouver’s First Lady of Jazz

Several years ago I worked in the CBC Vancouver Media Archives on a film preservation project. The content introduced me to much of Vancouver’s moving image history as well as the artists and technicians who created that legacy. One of the most fascinating artists to catch my eye and ear was Eleanor Collins.

Publicity portrait of Eleanor Collins. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Photo Collection
Publicity portrait of Eleanor Collins. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Photo Collection

My fascination with this amazing woman all started with a single photograph (see above) from the CBC Vancouver Still Photograph Collection. I was mesmerized by her radiance. As a jazz fan, I had to find out more about this performer. Viewing some of her television work from the 50’s & 60’s, I was enthralled by her luminous appearance, her sultry sound, and her magnetic screen presence. But, there is so much more to this fascinating woman… Continue reading “Eleanor Collins: Vancouver’s First Lady of Jazz”

60th Anniversary of CBUT – Part 2 – All That Jazz

Two images of the exterior of the former Cellar Jazz club. Left- January 2014 a couple of months before the building was torn down To make way for more condos! Photo: C. Hagemoen. Right- March 21, 1961, CBUT on location at the Cellar, Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.
Two images of the exterior of the former Cellar Jazz club. Left- January 2014 a couple of months before the building was torn down To make way for more condos! Photo: C. Hagemoen. Right- March 21, 1961, CBUT on location at the Cellar to record Jazz #3, Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

I knew its days were numbered when I saw the blue construction fencing being installed around its perimeter a few weeks ago. Sure enough, two days later a bulldozer was pulling down the final remains of a piece of Vancouver’s jazz history – The Cellar Jazz Club. Officially located at 222 East Broadway, the entrance to the basement club was in the rear along the “alley like” Watson Street. The Cellar, which opened in April 1956, was a “bottle club” – it had no liquor license. British Columbia historically has had very odd liquor laws (still does in many ways) and so most cabarets would sell ice and soft drinks while allowing patrons to bring in their own concealed containers of alcohol. The Cellar was founded and operated by members of the local jazz scene. Continue reading “60th Anniversary of CBUT – Part 2 – All That Jazz”