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Gospel & Jazz in
OLD FIREMANS HALL
Old Firemans Hall was built around the years 1918-1919, and sits in the district of Westwego just outside of Algiers on the West side of the Mississippi.
For almost a quarter of a centuary the band that was the mainstay of the hall was "Kid Thomas Valentine" Dixieland Band, leter to become known as his "Algiers Stompers", this came about due to recording,s the band were making, and it was thought at the time, by the record companies, that people associated Dieland with "White" Bands, and a different style of music, so it was at about that time that the Kid Thomas Dixieland Band became known as "Kid Thomas Algiers Stompers".
Thomas worked Firemans hall up until about the early 1970''s, and was a working band for working folk out for a good night seeing friends and drinking and dancing and enjoying good music by a Great band.
In the so called Jazz Era, that hall hosted "Dime a Dance" dances, where lady''s waited to be asked to dance, they were congregated at the right hand side of the band stand, and when a Gentleman wanted to dance with a lady he had to wait in a line, then pay a dime for one dance. If the man wanted more than one dance he would have to go to the back of the line, and wait once agin until a lady was available for a dance, then again he paid a dime for the privilage of having a dance, One "Old timer" told me it was fun to watch the Men in the queue shoving and moving in and out of the line, in an effort to get the lady of their choice to dance with.
The area where "Old Firemans Hall" resides, is a typical working class nairbourhood area, where folks gathered to socialise, drink, play pool and spend time having fun. The band of Kid Thomas was a typical band of the period, in saying that "Thomas Valentine''s Band" was never typical, it was a hard working, hard driving band, and played whatever tunes the customers called for, as well as what people these day''s call jazz standards.
The Hall eventually closed in the mid 1970''s and remained closed until it was bought by "Mr Joe", "Joe Passage", who decided it should come back to life, and provide entertainment and be Thee social meeting place as well as a drinking establishment once again for the nairborhood folks.
The building is typical of the old wooden halls build around the 1920''s, and has a wonderful old stucco frontage with a metal fire escape leading to the 1st floor.
The Dance Hall is large room, with a bar running the full length of the room, and has every type of liquer that you could ask for, the dance floor is a hexacon shape, made out of maple wood, and is the original flooring from the period, it has been faithfully restored as has the rest of the building, but kept in the period with its decor of the 1920''s.
The ceiling fans provide a nice movement of air, and their are seventeen fans revolving, which gives a very pleasent breeze and circulation. With seating for over two hundred folks, it is sure to once again become a mecca for the Westwego folks.
In October 2004, Mike Dine of 504 records together with Brian Carrick and Andrew Hall, put together a band of Mainly local New Orleans Born and Bred Musicians, they were Wendell Eugene (trombone), Gerald Adams (bass) Kid Howards old bass man, Rickey Mooney (Piano and Music Director), Andrew Hall (drums) and Gospel Singer "Shirley Alexander", together with two English musicians Peter Wright (trumpet) and Brian Carrick (clarinet).
The recording session was a mixture of Old time Baptist Gospel tunes and Jazz, together with some quartet Hymns, It was an electrifying day in Old Firemans Hall, with the wonderful singing and voice of Shirley Alexander, she is real old style in the mould of the Great Gospel Singer "Mahalia Jackson" also from New Orleans.
Once the recording session got underway, all day a succession of people would walk into the hall and listen to the music, with one old timer coming in, because as he said "I heard this sound of old Jazz and a Voice that sounded as though all the emotion and hurt of a people came from inside the hall", and he said that he just had to come in and see, it was so many years since he had been in Firemans Hall when "Old Man Thomas" and his band used to play their.
In those days befor Rock n roll and the Dukebox took over, he said every saturday night was dance night with live Bands including that of Kid Thomas and his boys.
Their were two more days of recording, after the "Shirley Alexander and Wendell Eugene" Session, this consisted of an international band recording for "Blue Dixie" records, the label owned by Brian Carrick, this band consisted of Taff Lloyd (drums) Denmark, Peter Wright trumpet) UK, Bernie Attridge (bass) New Orleans, Hans Jorgensen (banjo) Sweden, John Crisp (trombone) UK and Brian Carrick (clarinet & Tenor Sax) UK, with the final day adding local based Musician Jamie Wight (piano)