The Savoy Ballroom, 1926-1958
"The Savoy could have anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 people walk through in a night with about 15% of the people being white. Depending on who the band was, the ballroom would more than double its capacity. When Benny Goodman brought his big band to play at the Savoy (it was reported that there was approximately 25,000 people waiting to get into the ballroom when Goodman came to town). The ground floor of the building housed the entrance to the ballroom at the center of the block signified by the marquee-extending out over the sidewalk and various stores. The spacious basement checkrooms could serve up to 5,000 patrons with swift and efficient ease. Billed as the 'World’s finest ballroom,' the Savoy was complete with large luxurious carpeted lounges and mirrored walls."
The Ambassador and
Master of Lindy Hop
"Excelling in what quickly became first America’s and then the world’s most popular participatory form of jazz dancing in the 1930s and ’40s, Mr. Manning led the way in giving the Lindy Hop professional expression."
Queen of Swing
"Ms. Miller was the youngest recruit and last survivor of the original Lindy Hoppers, the Herbert White troupe that broke in at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom and popularized the Lindy Hop in Broadway shows, on tours of Europe and Latin America, and in Hollywood films."
Whitey's Lindy Hoppers
"Whitey's group was formed from the creme de la creme of the Savoy; they were the top dancers in the top ballroom of the Swing Era. With Whitey's entrepreneurial skills, these Harlem youngsters were catapulted into world recognition thru both live performance and film."
This is an incomplete list intended to highlight some of the influential dancers from the Savoy Ballroom era and not intended to exclude innumerable bands and individual instrumentalists not mentioned here.
Photo by Bill Cunningham
Chick Webb & His Orchestra
During the 1930s, Chick Webb was the bandleader of the Savoy's most popular house band. Ella Fitzgerald, fresh from a talent show victory at the Apollo Theater in 1934, became its teenage vocalist. Webb also recorded the 1934 big band song and jazz standard "Stompin' at the Savoy", which is named for the Savoy. The Savoy was the site of many Battle of the Bands or Cutting Contests, which started when the Benny Goodman Orchestra challenged Webb in 1937. Webb and his band were declared the winners of that contest. In 1938, Webb was challenged by the Count Basie Band. While Webb was declared the winner again, there was a lack of consensus on who won. Earle Warren, alto saxophonist for Basie, reported that they had worked on the song "Swingin' the Blues" for competing and says, "When we unloaded our cannons, that was the end."