Jack's Basket Room

3219 S. Central Ave.  

 Los Angeles, California    

Green Book Editions: 1947-1955

Built 1923

Status: Still Standing

Owner: Jack Johnson

Manager: Bill Hefflin

Status: Still standing

 

 

JACK'S BASKET ROOM

Jack’s Basket Room, also called Jack’s Chicken Basket and Bird in the Basket was an after hours jazz club and restaurant in the heart of South Central Los Angeles. Jack's, open from 1939 to 1951 was known as “the place where everyone comes to play.” Cab Calloway’s lyrics, “A chicken ain’t nothin’ but a bird” was painted outside while inside, chicken, steaks, ham, bacon and Bar-B-Q was dished out until 2am and the music went on until dawn.

Photo Courtesy of Charles Williams Collection, Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, CSUN

Photo Courtesy of Charles Williams Collection, Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, CSUN

Jack's Basket Room was owned by Jack Johnson, the first black heavy weight boxing champion. The legendary night club hosted the nation’s top entertainers and served the black bourgeoisie. Being at Jack’s was an all night affair. A typical Friday night in 1947 was “Sportsman’s Night” featuring the L.A. Sportsman Scholarship Benefit Club to honor UCLA’s basketball and football stars. There were also late Monday night jam sessions with musicians Howard McGhee, Dick Sanford, Sammy Franklin and his Atomics. Joe Lutcher’s band and female impersonators entertained crowds with two floor shows between 12:30am and 3:15am. People even stayed for the breakfast dance at 6am. 

Bill Sampson in the radio booth -  Photo Courtesy of Charles Williams Collection, Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, CSUN

Bill Sampson in the radio booth - 

Photo Courtesy of Charles Williams Collection, Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, CSUN

 King Perry, the “Pied Piper of Swingdom” and his versatile sextet played on Saturdays. Perry’s sets were broadcast over KXLA radio 3 nights a week starting at 11:45pm. This was the first radio broadcasting station on LA’s eastside. Disc jockeys Bill Sampson and Nick Thomas hosted the radio program until 3am 

King Perry and His Band

King Perry and His Band

Jack’s Basket Room also hosted Sunday afternoon matinees and had an annual Christmas dinner for underprivileged children of all races. The dinner was started by owner Jack Johnson and manager Bill Hefflin. They served up to 1,000 turkey dinners with all the trimmings and ice cream for desert.

Behind the Bar at Jack's Basket Room -  Photo Courtesy Charles Williams Collection, Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, CSUN

Behind the Bar at Jack's Basket Room - 

Photo Courtesy Charles Williams Collection, Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, CSUN