There were many clubs called the Flame, including the one on Nicollet in Minneapolis, and the Flame Room at the Radisson Hotel, also in Minneapolis.
19 E 5th STREET
This one was the Flame Jazz Club, and it was first located at 19 E Fifth (near Wabasha) in the Jewell Hotel in St Paul. The building went back to about 1895, with the hotel occupying the top four floors of the five story building
The club hosted many big name jazz acts in the early 1950s. See a collage of ads on Robb Henry’s blog. A search of the Minneapolis papers shows the following – the dates given are the opening dates as best that can be determined.
- Henry “Red” Allen, February 4, 1950
- Anita O’Day, February 2, 1950
- George Shearing, May 15, 1950
- Dizzy Gillespie, June 27, 1950
- Art Lund and Jimmy McPartland, July 24, 1950 (newly redecorated)
- Georgie Auld and His Auld Stars, August 11, 1950
At about 3:00 pm on Sunday, August 13, a six-alarm fire destroyed the Jewell Hotel, including the Flame Club.
Due to the hotel’s downtown location in Victory Square, hundreds of people came to watch 27 fire companies (including six from Minneapolis) fight the blaze.
The fire forced the club to relocate, and it moved to 457 Wabasha Street.
- Herbie Fields, February 28, 1951
- Charlie Parker, April 26, 1951
- Terry Gibbs, April 17, 1951
- Stan Getz, May 7, 1951
- Billie Holiday, August 24, 1951
- Art Tatum, August 31, 1951
- Savannah Churchill, September 14, 1951
- The Four Knights, October 12, 1951
- Red Nichols, October 22, 1951
- Charlie Barnett, October 1951
- Nellie Lutcher, November 10, 1951
- Johnny Hodges, November 29, 1951
- Viola Jefferson
In a January 17, 1952, Minnesota Daily article, jazz columnist Tom Snell notes, “The flame that once kindled jazz in St. Paul is out…. With the arrival of Frankie Yankovic and a young woman who will take off her clothes in time to music at the St. Paul Flame, the Twin Cities lost another of their traditional jazz spots. What exactly happened to the once-bright Flame is not known, but the results are self-evident – no more name talent from the outer reaches of jazz.”
The act cited may have been “Zorine, Queen of the Nudists,” which was reported to have been banned in January 1952.
In February and March 1952, Harry Greene, variously listed as proprietor, operator, and owner of the bar, and two of his bartenders were put on trial for serving drinks to members of a teenage gang that specialized in robberies. A 17-year-old testified that he had been served drinks at the establishment before shooting the proprietor of the Twin Light Tavern. Greene and one of the bartenders were convicted on March 14, 1952, of selling liquor to minors. Judge James C. Otis
said he found the evidence “overwhelming.” Instead of discouraging minors from entering his establishment, Greene “welcomed them with open arms,” the judge said. The place apparently “teemed with teenagers,” the court added. (Minneapolis Star, March 14, 1952)
Sentencing was scheduled for March 19, but Greene appealed his conviction, and no action was taken on his liquor license pending the decision of his appeal.
In November 1952 a new Mayor, John Daubney, was elected, and one of his issues was shutting down the Flame. On November 6, 1952, the City Council voted to revoke the Flame’s liquor license, even though Greene’s appeal had not been heard.
THE FLAME SPUTTERS OUT
It appears that there was an attempt to revive the Flame as a jazz venue later in 1952.
- Young Moderns All-Star Jazz Group Featuring Lou Levy, July 18, 1952
- Lou Levy and His All-Star Jazz Band, September 5, 1952
- Herbie Fields, October 16, 1952
The photo below was found on Lyfmap and dated April 15, 1953. I suspect it came from the Minnesota Historical Society, but there’s no source information, or else I’m not so smart at Lyfmap. Thanks to Bill Conlan for the tip.
Although there are no ads to be found, the Flame was apparently still burning on July 20, 1953, when a 20-year-old woman asked to try on a man’s $500 diamond ring and then took a powder to the powder room. She was caught and hopefully he was a little wiser.
A legal note in the paper dated December 16, 1955, indicated that the bar had closed in bankruptcy, but it didn’t say when.
The site became one of many locations of Alary’s.