The first major building to occupy the 3300 block of Wilshire Boulevard was the Gaylord Apartments, designed by the Walker & Eisen architectural firm in 1924. The apartments were named for Gaylord Wilshire who named the boulevard that bears his name. The vintage photograph below shows the surrounding area shortly after the building was completed.
The Evanston Apartments at 630 South Kenmore were built a few years later on three lots that commenced where the house outlined in red is shown at far right in the photo. The Brown Derby Restaurant was originally built at 3427 Wilshire Boulevard. It was moved in 1937 to 3377 Wilshire Boulevard, adjacent to the Gaylord Apartments, the red square in the above photo.
The vintage photo below from the 1940s shows the relocated Brown Derby next to the Gaylord Apartment building.
The photos of the Brown Derby, above, from the 1960s show the west facade of the Gaylord Apartments. Another vintage photo of the Gaylord Apartments from the late 1930s, below, was taken from the lawn of the Ambassador Hotel. The Evanston Apartments can be seen at the far right, and the neon sign of The Haig is visible just south of the Evanston Apartments.
The entry in The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz cites some of the history of The Haig.
The Haig. Wilshire Boulevard, across the street from the Ambassador Hotel. In the 1930s this club was called the Haig Cocktail Lounge. Erroll Garner and other unaccompanied solo pianists played there in the 1940s, and during the 1950s it became a leading venue for West Coast jazz. Its publicity officer was Richard Bock, of the record company Pacific Jazz. It was small – a converted bungalow – and suited only to performances by small groups; many important jazz musicians active in Los Angeles at that time appeared, including Red Norvo’s trio, Wardell Gray, Gerry Mulligan’s pianoless quartet, and Curtis Counce’s quintet (making its debut). Hampton Hawes, Warne Marsh, Mulligan and Lee Konitz, Bud Shank, and others recorded there. Jam sessions were held on Monday nights. The club closed on 4 April 1956.
Locations of the the Evanston Apartments and The Haig , the Gaylord Apartments and the Brown Derby , and the Ambassador Hotel and the Cocoanut Grove  shown above on this vintage city map from 1954.
Ray Cohen purchased a four room bungalow that was scheduled for demolition in the early months of 1932. He had it moved to lot 3, block 1, of Chapman Park Terrace in May of 1932. A building permit was issued on June 1, 1932, to build an addition to be used as a kitchen. The structure, now five rooms, was located at 638 South Kenmore Avenue, between Sixth and Wilshire.
The new owner, Mrs. Hazel James, employed the architectural firm of Plummer, Wurdeman, and Becket in February of 1935 to renovate the structure, patching the roof, new interior painting, and adding new door steps. Plummer, Wurdeman, and Becket specialized in designing restaurants and shops with their most notable projects including Clifton’s Cafeteria and the Pan Pacific Auditorium. After the passing of his partners, Welton Becket continued the firm as Welton Becket and Associates. One of Becket’s most notable projects was the Capitol Records tower on Vine Street in Hollywood.
Mrs. James employed the Yutz Sign Company in May of 1936 to erect a neon roof sign advertising “The Haig – Dinners – Cocktails.” The building permit noted that the location functioned as a dining hall and cocktail bar. The original “living room” of the bungalow, 10 x 22 feet, was not large enough to accommodate the growing popularity of this new watering hole. Mrs. James secured a building permit in May of 1938 to build a 22 x 18 foot addition to the “living room” bringing the front of The Haig to the legal setback from the street.
Newspaper coverage of musicians who appeared at The Haig during the 1940s is fragmentary. In lieu of solo ads presenting a featured performer, The Haig relied on Ted Yerxa’s “Lamplighter” columns in The Daily News for a mention of who was appearing at the club. In February and March of 1943 The Haig featured Virginia Maison and Annabelle Lee as seen in the notices above. Virginia Maison was a popular pianist/vocalist who made the rounds of most of the piano bars in Los Angeles. Her forte tended to be slightly risqué songs that frequently drew the attention of the LAPD Vice Squad. The Billboard noted that Ken Berry was performing at The Haig on December 25, 1943.
Yerxa’s columns in the fall of 1944 mention the appearance of two piano duos. In September and October Bill Rogers and Don Auble are noted. The bandstand at The Haig was very small and it is difficult to imagine two pianos in the small space. Later in October and through December the featured act was again a piano duo, The Black & White Duo. In late December the Yerxa column noted that “Bossman Bernstein” had hired Jerry Teuber to perform at The Haig. The “Lamplighter” columns in January, February, and March of 1945 continued to announce that the Jerry Teuber Trio was performing at The Haig.
A new name appeared in Yerxa’s column in April 1945, Bobby Short was appearing at The Haig.
Short related in his biography that his agent, Phil Shelly urged him to perform at The Haig on the off night that was Monday at the time.
“There must have been plenty of sand to shake out of my shoes when I got back to Los Angeles after Phoenix. I was out of work, and I wasn’t even liking the likes of me very much until the morning Phil Shelley came up with the idea that I might go into a place called The Haig on Monday nights when the regular pianist was off.
I had passed the ramshackle cabin on the bus going in and out of Hollywood. The Haig was smack in the center of the sleek Miracle Mile, but it could have been blown clear across the plains, Oz style, from Nantucket or someplace on Cape Cod.
The first Monday was meant to be nothing more than a way to earn pocket money, though getting inside the tumbledown and picturesque saloon did satisfy my curiosity. And it was a challenge to be working for a complete evening without singing a song. The owner’s name was John Bennett. I think he bought The Haig in the first place just to have somewhere he could treat his friends to the music he most enjoyed.
I played it safe that first Monday, sticking to renditions of the songs I liked. For a long time I had been aware of the cool, laid-back style known as New York piano, best exemplified by the master of the trend, Cy Walter. I had seriously tried imitating the way he played the standards from “Star Dust” to “Body and Soul.” Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” was now one of my songs, and I was also doing “I Can’t Get Started” and “The Blue Room.” John Bennett had been most attentive right up to the end of my first set—when he picked up his cigar from the ashtray and marched by the piano beckoning me to follow him to his office, where along one wall were row after row of shelves holding 78 RPM singles and stacks of albums. In a minute the room was filled with the music of the real Cy Walter, then some popular two-piano team, followed by Bud Freeman’s saxophone interpretations of obscure Porter. Bennett took two minutes to find a match and relight his cigar, while I waited for the compliments I knew were coming my way for the perfect just-obscure-enough set of songs I’d just finished.
“What was that last number you did just now?” Bennett asked.
“You mean “My Future Just Passed”?” I replied.
“Yeah, isn’t that a Richard Whiting song?”
I got the idea. John Bennett was not to be put down; he was letting me know that he knew his music.
In truth, the place was nothing more than a neighborhood bar—but above all it was John Bennett’s saloon. After closing, he bought me a nightcap and asked if I would like to come back the following week. Nothing else was going on for me—besides, I’d had a good time.
When I walked in the next Monday night I knew John had been spreading the news. He had made a “discovery,” and he was going to run with his own optimism and excitement. The Haig was packed, and he knew every customer in the place. At the end of the evening once again he called me over to the bar. After a little preliminary hem and haw, he said he would have to give his regular pianist notice, but . . . well, would I be interested in a regular job? I had played in many oddball places since I was twelve years old, but never one like The Haig. How much was the job worth? John wanted to know. He had never hired someone like me—was it worth taking the chance? I thought it sure was and suggested that he talk to Phil Shelley first thing in the morning.”
Bobby Short was not new to Los Angeles. His first engagement in Hollywood was in 1943 at the Radio Room on Vine Street. Short’s engagement was short. He was underage at the time, a fact that the owner of the Radio Room did not discover until Short had been performing there for several weeks. Bobby managed to continue performing in Hollywood in venues where alcohol was not served.
The “Lamplighter” columns for June through December of 1945 regularly noted that the Eric Henry Trio was the featured act at The Haig. The columns from January through April continued to announce that the Eric Henry Trio was holding the stage at The Haig.
Bobby Short returned to The Haig as the featured artist from May to September in 1946. His previous intermittent engagements on the off night had established a loyal following with The Haig’s regular crowd. Short was being courted by Café Gala, an upscale competitor among the piano-bar restaurants in Hollywood. Bobby Short’s run was interrupted in September and October when Ronnie Kemper was the featured artist. Short returned to The Haig at the end of October and finished out 1946 as the featured artist at The Haig.
Yerxa’s columns in The Daily News placed Bobby Short at The Haig in January and February of 1947. Other artists mentioned in the columns in 1947 included: Erroll Garner in June, Ken Clarke in July, and Matt Dennis in November.
The photos of Erroll Garner shown at left and above with the guard rail surrounding the bandstand are credited to Ray Whitten. Clues that indicate this is The Haig include the framed art works seen on the rear wall. These same framed works can be seen in other photos taken at The Haig in the photo below of Dave Brubeck and His Trio, taken at The Haig in 1950, and in photos by Ross Burdick and William Claxton from 1952 that can be seen at the end of this post.
The carpet on the floor of the bandstand also resembles the carpet seen in other photos taken at The Haig. The mirror behind Erroll Garner is another indication that this is The Haig.
Photos taken in the 1950s by other photographers do not show the guard rail that must have been removed by John Bennett. The Garner photos also reveal seating that is not as cramped and the audience is not directed toward the bandstand.
Ray Whitten and his partner, Charlie Mihn, were active photographers in Los Angeles during the 1940s and documented the jazz scene, most notably sessions for Ross Russell’s Dial Records.
Whitten was also active as a photographer for Capitol Records capturing session photos of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Billy May, Gene Krupa, Herb Jeffries, and others.
The Erroll Garner and Matt Dennis engagements at The Haig gave patrons a taste of jazz piano, a departure from the cocktail lounge/piano bar fare that could be heard in nightclubs all over town. Patrons received a double dose of jazz piano in December of 1949 when Carl Perkins was booked for several weeks going into January of 1950.
The Ted Kovach Trio was most likely a piano trio that was the kind of act frequently booked into cocktail lounges and piano bars. Carl Perkin’s jazz piano might have been more than the typical patron could handle or appreciate. The first ad in the Mirror/News for the Kovach trio announced their opening on January 27, 1950. No evidence exists regarding the group other than a mention in Billboard regarding Kovach’s marriage in 1948. The ad below announcing the hold over is from February 3, 1950.
Red Norvo’s Trio enjoyed several extended engagements at The Haig. His first trio with Tal Farlow and Red Kelly played The Haig in early 1950. The ad below is from March 17, 1950.
Red Kelly left the trio and was replaced by Charles Mingus. The new trio was featured on the cover of the August 11,1950 issue of Down Beat, and recorded by Dick Bock for Discovery earlier in May.
Dave Brubeck followed Red Norvo into The Haig in October of 1950 as reported in Down Beat in their October 20 and November 3, 1950 issues. When the Brubeck combo was booked into The Surf Club in 1951 an article in Down Beat quoted Brubeck: “At The Haig last year, where I played with the trio, they just looked curiously at us now and then and didn’t even stop talking while we played. Here, (The Surf Club), they not only listen, but they actually applaud after every number. We even get requests. It’s amazing!”
Prior to assuming the moniker “The Dave Brubeck Quartet” Brubeck called the group that included alto sax, bass, and drums, “Dave Brubeck and His Trio,” not to be confused with his first combo that was billed as the “Dave Brubeck Trio” with piano, bass, and drums (bongos, vibes). It was the trio that played The Haig.
Red Norvo was slated to return to The Haig for an extended stay as announced in Down Beat in December of 1950. A later edition noted the J. C. Heard group was listed as appearing.
Ads for The Haig in 1951 have proved to be elusive, but the search continues. Bobby Short enjoyed an extended stay as this format seemed to be a favorites of The Haig regulars. The items below are from the Los Angeles Times edition of February and May of 1951.
In addition to newspaper ads, notices in Down Beat and Metronome magazines, the music played in nightclubs like The Haig, the Surf Club, the Lighthouse, and The Tiffany club was documented by jazz enthusiasts like Bob Andrews who recorded the music using his portable tape recorder.
Andrews moved to Los Angeles from Wisconsin in the late 1940s. He became a jazz fan while in his teens and began to build his jazz collection of mainly 78 rpm records while still in high school. Andrews was also an amateur drummer and attended jam sessions around Los Angeles where he could sit in and participate. He opened his first jazz record shop in the early 1950s in the south bay area of Los Angeles, fairly close to The Lighthouse Cafe that had a growing reputation for a straight ahead jazz policy. Andrews’ shop, RECORD VILLE, also carried phonographs and the newest audio sensation, portable tape recorders. Andrews bought one of the top Pentron models for his own use and took it to clubs all over Los Angeles where owners allowed him to tape the jazz entertainment. Over a period of years Andrews amassed a tape library that captured the evolution of jazz as it was played in clubs ranging from The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach to the Tradewinds in Inglewood and the Surf Club and The Haig in Los Angeles. Andrews also established a record label, Vantage Records, and released the first commercial recordings of Hampton Hawes and Pinky Winters among others. The Bob Andrews Collection is part of the archive at the Los Angeles Jazz Institute. The LAJI has provided some updates regarding recordings made at The Haig.
Andrews taped the Hampton Hawes Trio at The Haig on September 22, 1951. The trio included Harper Crosby on bass and Larance (Lawrence) Marable on drums. Andrews released the session on his Vantage Records label as VLP-1.
The Haig’s owner, John Bennett, hired Dick Bock to handle publicity and booking for the club in the early part of 1952. Bock was a frequent presence at The Haig and other LA clubs and besides writing a few columns for Down Beat was at loose ends having been out of a job since his dismissal from Discovery Records when it was sold to a New York group of investors. Business was down and Bennett hoped that Bock could turn that situation around.
Lila Leeds was the featured act in March of 1952. Leeds reached Los Angeles headlines in 1949 when she was busted along with Robert Mitchum for marijuana possession. Mitchum spent six months at the Sheriff’s Honor Farm and Leeds received a parole after serving a short sentence.
Lila Leeds returned to Los Angeles from Chicago where she had been performing in nightclubs. The feature with photo below was published in the September 22, 1950, issue of Down Beat.
The ads below from March 10 and 17, 1952.
On April 1, 1952, Martha Davis was booked for two weeks followed by Valaida Snow on April 15, 1952.
Georgie Auld was booked to open in late April of 1952, and Beryl Booker followed Auld opening in the second week of May 1952. The booking of Auld and Booker can be attributed to Bock as both artists were represented on Discovery Records, Bock’s old firm.
The off night at The Haig was not a fixed day of the week. In some years it was Tuesday night, other years it was Monday night. Many clubs, including The Haig, featured jam sessions on Sundays. The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach was known for its Sunday jam sessions that would last until the early hours of Monday morning.
Paul Nero relocated to the west coast from New York in the 1940s. Paul Nero and Andre Previn were featured soloists in a concert program produced by Gene Norman and presented at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on July 28, 1948.
Paul Villepigue and Paul Nero met in New York where they became friends and business partners. Villepigue had also settled in Los Angeles and resumed his association with Paul Nero. Jack End was on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music and had worked with Nero on several occasions in concerts that combined elements of jazz and classical music.
The Tuesday night session at The Haig on May 20, 1952, was advertised as the Chamber Music Society of Lower Wilshire Boulevard presents Paul Nero – Violin, Paul Smith – Piano, Tony Rizzi – Guitar, Bob Cooper – Tenor Sax, Maynard Ferguson – Trumpet, Irv Cottle (sic) – Drums, and Stan Fletcher – Bass. The first ad for the event listed Conrad Gozzo and Red Callender in the lineup.
Robert Scherman recorded the session and issued two tunes, “Cool Canary Blues” and “Sweet Georgia Brown,” on his fledgling Skylark label as Jam Session, Skylark 11 LP (recently issued on CD as VSOP 132 CD), under the leadership of Paul Nero. The scant liner notes confirm that it was recorded “on the spot” without naming The Haig and the session has never entered the discography canon as being recorded on May 20, 1952. Scherman and Bock knew each other. Bock approached Scherman in March of 1952 to request that Scherman use his Skylark Records recording license to tape Art Pepper’s first session as leader for Discovery Records of New York. Bock probably returned the favor, allowing Scherman to record at The Haig.
The following Tuesday, May 27, 1952, presented another jam session billed as the Chamber Music Society of Lower Wilshire Boulevard presents JAZZ CONCERT with Herbie Steward, Irv Cottler, Jimmy Rowles, and Joe Mondragon named in the ad.
Bob Andrews recorded another jam session on June 3, 1952. This session was issued on Jam Session Records 102, with the wrong date. Side one of the LP featured Paul Smith, piano; Gerry Mulligan & Dave Pell, tenor saxes; Joe Mondragon, bass; Ted Ottison, trumpet; and Billy Wilson, drums. Side two featured Jimmy Rowles, piano; Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax; Howard Roberts, guitar; Joe Mondragon, bass; and Tommy Rundell, drums.
Andrews recorded other combinations of artists who performed that night (June 3, 1952) including Gerry Mulligan (ts), Dave Pell (ts), Paul Smith (p), Joe Mondragon (b), Irv Cottler (d), and June Ford (vcl); and a trio with Willie Hawkins (p), Joe Mondragon (b), Earl Hyde (d).
The following Tuesday, June 10, 1952, Andrews was present in the club again and recorded the following group: Gerry Mulligan (bs), Jimmy Rowles (p), Howard Roberts (g), Joe Mondragon (b), Tommy Rundell (d), and Gloria Joy (vcl).
The Nero experiment did not survive beyond a couple of weeks. Paul Nero will be the subject of a future post to this blog that examines his career from the concert halls of New York to the jazz scene in Los Angeles.
When Gerry Mulligan began attending the off night sessions the musician in charge was Paul Smith. Gerry assumed this role later in the spring of 1952 and some of the musicians playing with Gerry were documented by Ross Burdick. The Haig had two mirrors behind the bandstand, one mounted on the back wall, and other mounted at an angle above that mirror. The mirrors gave patrons a variety of choices to view groups and gave a false sense of the size of the room.
The Burdick photos are not dated, but the presence of the piano is a good indication that the primary acts booked at The Haig during this period made use of the piano. When Red Norvo returned to The Haig in mid-July of 1952 the piano was put into storage.
The first newspaper ad to formally recognize the existence of the Gerry Mulligan Quartette appeared in the Mirror/News edition of August 19, 1952, a Tuesday.
The Mulligan quartet continued to perform on Tuesday nights. Prior to the ad above, the quartet with Chet Baker, Bob Whitlock, and Chico Hamilton had recorded several tunes at Philip Turetsky’s bungalow under the supervision of Dick Bock. Two of the tunes were rushed into production as a 78 rpm single and released as Pacific Jazz 601 in mid September of 1952.
Dick Bock accompanied the Mulligan quartet north to San Francisco where a week long engagement opposite Dave Brubeck and His Trio was booked for the first week of September at the Blackhawk. The ad below is from the Oakland Tribune edition of September 4, 1952.
Another Tuesday night jam session at The Haig was recorded by Bob Andrews and released on Jam Session 101 featuring Wardell Gray, Art Farmer, Howard Roberts, Shelly Manne, Joe Mondragon, Hampton Hawes, and Amos Trice.
The September 9, 1952, session was also issued by Spain’s Fresh Sound Records.
Earlier in 1952 Bob Whitlock was with the Vido Musso band that backed June Christy at an engagement at the Tiffany Club. Whitlock, the original bassist with the Mulligan quartet, opted not to accompany the quartet to San Francisco and rejoined Vido Musso. Carson Smith replaced him in the group. Dave Brubeck at the time was under the impression that he was part owner of the Fantasy label and encouraged the Weiss brothers to record the group for the label. The four sides recorded at the Blackhawk were also rushed into production as 78 rpm singles.
The quartet’s recording of “My Funny Valentine” received greater airplay than the Pacific Jazz single during the fall of 1952 on Los Angeles air waves.
After the Mulligan quartet returned to Los Angeles the Red Norvo Trio was booked into the Blackhawk. The ad below from September 6, 1952, announces that the Norvo group will open on Tuesday, September 9, 1952.
The Norvo trio alternated sets with the Vernon Alley Quartet as noted in this ad from the San Francisco Chronicle edition of September 13, 1952.
The Red Norvo Trio closed at the Blackhawk on Sunday night, September 21, 1952, and returned to Los Angeles to play at The Haig on September 24, 1952.
The Stan Getz Quartet replaced Red Norvo’s Trio playing opposite the Vernon Alley Quartet for two weeks. Getz’s group was then replaced by Eddie Heywood and his trio who alternated sets with the Vernon Alley group (note the spelling of Al Haig).
The Gerry Mulligan Quartet returned to San Francisco where they played opposite the Eddie Heywood Trio on Monday, October 20, 1952. Bob Whitlock accompanied the quartet, returning to his bass position with the group.
Ads for the engagement that lasted until Sunday night, November 8, 1952, made no mention of Chet Baker, instead highlighting the drummer with the group, Bobby White, who replaced Chico Hamilton who did not wish to leave Los Angeles for the engagement.
This “slight” by Gerry Mulligan (not naming Chet Baker in the group) was most likely one of the factors that motivated Chet to form his own quartet and record for Dick Bock in December of 1952 after the quartet returned to Los Angeles, and The Haig where they received headline billing at last. The ad below is from the Mirror/News edition of December 5, 1952.
Bob Andrews recorded another off night session on December 23, 1952. The group included Warne Marsh, Hampton Hawes, Joe Mondragon, and Shelly Manne. Andrews leased the tape to Don Schlitten where the session was issued on LP as Xanadu 151. Many of Andrews other taped sessions were leased to Schlitten.
Ross Burdick photographed the Gerry Mulligan Quartet numerous times at The Haig after they became the headline attraction, but the photos of William Claxton became the defining images of the quartet at The Haig.
This photo taken from the right side of the bandstand captured Chico Hamilton’s brushes in motion along with his make shift bass drum (a tom-tom laid on its side – no bombs allowed). These photos show that tables were located on both sides of the bandstand as well as the very front. It was a cramped performance space. Covers slicks for the quartet’s first Pacific Jazz 10″ LP can be seen in both photos, pasted to the mirror behind the quartet.
This concludes our first part of the history of The Haig. Additional posts will examine the remaining years of The Haig from 1953 through 1956.
The photos that greatly enhance this presentation have been provided courtesy of Cynthia Sesso and the Ross Burdick Collection. The author would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to Cynthia Sesso, Licensing Administrator of the Ross Burdick Collection. Please note that these photos remain the property of the Ross Burdick Collection and are used here with permission. Any inquiries regarding their use, commercial or otherwise, should be directed to: Cynthia Sesso at CTSIMAGES.
I would also like to extend my thanks to Ken Poston, Director of the Los Angeles Jazz Institute and Desne Villepigue Ahlers for their assistance and research.