Atlanta Blues History: The Royal Peacock

Published a few years ago at examiner.com

By Rhetta Akamatsu

Today, everyone recognizes Atlanta as a hub of urban music, including rap, hiphop and R ‘n B. But Atlanta also has a deep and rich history as a center of the blues. I want to take a look in this column from time to time at some of the famous blues clubs in Atlanta history, beginning with the Royal Peacock.

The Royal Peacock is still active today, featuring live and recorded music, mostly reggae and world music. But in its heyday, it was a mecca for black musicians from all over the country, many of them blues artists.
The Royal Peacock was opened in 1937 as the Top Hat club, in the famous Sweet Auburn district, heart of black life in Atlanta in those days. Most of the black clubs were on Auburn and Decatur Streets in the 30’s and 40’s.
In 1948, Carrie Cunningham bought the Top Hat and renamed it The Royal Peacock. She was a former circus performer, obsessed with peacocks, and often wore peacock fathers, pins, and fabrics herself.
Cunningham created an elegant interior for her club, with peacock feathers streaming from the windows, carpeted floor, and tables and booths to accommodate up to 350 patrons. Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, and Gladys Knight all made their first Atlanta appearances at the Royal Peacock. Otis Redding and Ray Charles appeared there, as well as Cab

Calloway and Louis Armstrong.

As for blues legends, the club hosted B. B. King,  Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, and a host of others appeared here.The Royal Peacock  was a jewel of black Atlanta entertainment. and holds a very important place in Atlanta blues and music history.

The Irish and The History of the Blues

This article was first published in a slightly different form at examiner.com in 2011. I am posting some of my older articles here, because I think they are interesting and I want them to find new readers!

I am part Irish by heritage, and I recently wrote a book called The Irish Slaves, in which I document the slavery of the Irish from the time of King James, followed by the usually less permanent slavery of indentured servitude and contract labor.

Erin Go Bragh!

Wikimedia Commons

Here in Atlanta and in the South, many people have Celtic blood in their veins. Thinking about the column this week, I reflected on the connection between the Irish and blues music. When researching the book, I found an excellent article, Irish Blue, by Miachaelin Daugherty. I have used that article as source material here.

In my book, I tell in detail of the enslavement of Irish political prisoners, as well as other men, women, and children, on the sugar plantations in the West Indies and Barbados in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Some Irish slaves were shipped to the Colonies as well, but most of the Irish in North America came in the 1700’s and 1800’s as indentured servants, agreeing to be sold to any employer who chose to buy them for a period of time (often 7 years, but sometimes more) in return for passage to America. These indentured servants were often treated exactly as slaves were. After the abolishment of slavery, Irish immigrants often worked at the most dangerous and least desirable jobs along with African Americans and Asian immigrants.

Ms. Daugherty points out that while many people claim that the blues originated in the Mississippi Delta in the early 1900’s, others acknowledge that the music actually had its roots in the blend of African and Celtic music produced by Irish and African slaves in the West Indies.

Certainly, Irish folk music and African folk music have common traits, using music to express deep emotion and often using minor keys to evoke a sense of melancholy. As Ms. Daugherty points out, both African and Celtic folklore was oral and not written, told with strong inflections and sometimes accompanied by music. One can see this reflected most directly in the “talking blues.” The “field holler” of the slaves and servants working in the sugar cane fields of the West Indies and the cotton fields of the South evolved into the work songs of the 1900’s labor camps, on the levees, as Ms. Daugherty says, and on the railroads and in the fields, and this led directly to the early Delta blues. Some of the early bluesmen were Irishmen, such as Black Hat McCoy and others like him who used their music to express the feelings they otherwise had to repress.

In more recent times, blues has strongly influenced Irish musicians such as Van Morrison, Dexie’s Midnight Runners, Flogging Molly’s Dave King, and Rory Gallagher. Irish punk music, in particular, owes a debt to the blues, in my opinion.

So the blues is a music not only of black or white, but of the soul of all men and women who have known deep emotion, both sorrow and joy, life and death. It is the gift of those slaves and virtual slaves, Irish and African, who worked the plantations of the West Indies and the South, and of the later virtual slaves who built the infrastructure of America, its roads and railroads, bridges and levees, and expressed their emotions through their music.

Help me go to England to write a book with as little as $5

Originally posted on Rhetta's Books:

I am trying to raise funds to go to England to write a book. You can help with as little as $5 and there are perks for you at different levels! $5 will get your name in the book as a supporter, for instance. Here is my link:

gofund.me/grsokg

Please also let me know if you see ways I could improve the campaign. Constructive criticism is VERY welcome!

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Broken windows, open windows, abandoned houses

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I love houses that have been abandoned, that are in some state of decay, whether it is minor or extreme. I love open windows and broken windows in abandoned places. I am thinking about why.

I love history. I like to imagine what and who the houses once held. I like to imagine that life went out of those open windows when people died there, if they did, and that their spirits can return through there if they choose to. I like that trees and plants, cats and birds and small creatures can all come in and live in the houses as well.  I suppose I like the fact that they are dead and yet they aren’t dead; damaged but still providing shelter. 

I think perhaps too they symbolize the body directly, after death, returning to the earth from which it came, minus the spirit that fled through the window.

"No matter what, once in your life, someone will hurt you. That someone will take all that you are, and rip it into pieces and they wont even watch where the pieces land. But through the breakdown, you'll learn that you're strong, and no matter how hard they destroy you, that you can conquer anything. " - unknown

Tattoos and society

It’s amazing how the image of tattoos have changed over recent years. I remember an uncle of mine who had been in the navy had a hula girl on his arm and when I was small I was fascinated because she would appear to dance when he flexed his arm. I did not know any women who had tattoos and that was not something that happened in “civilized society” much outside of the circus at that time.

Now it is common for people of all ages and both genders to have ink on their bodies. I have one tattoo on my leg. My daughter has many. She works as a professional makeup artist now and even in the upscale salon where she works they are accepted by her clients. But for years she worked in a law office and it never raised eyebrows there either.

Discrimination against people with tattoos does exist in the workplace still. But with most people under 35 having tattoos now it is not only something people have become used to seeing it but something that employers  may have to accept if they want the best and the brightest young employees for their businesses.

Personally I have grown to love my daughter’s tattoos as part of her. And I find myself reacting much more positively toward anybody with a lot of tattoos than I would have even 15 years ago.

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Halloween Riddles for Kids of All Ages

I love wordplay.. Riddles tickle the kid on me. Here are sme of my favorite Halloween riddles

Why do witches use brooms to fly on?

Because vacuum cleaners are too heavy

How do witches keep their hair in place while flying?

With scare spray

Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?

No, they eat the fingers separately

Why do mummies have trouble keeping friends?

They’re so wrapped up in themselves

What kind of streets do zombies like the best?

Dead ends

What is a vampire’s favorite mode of transportation?

A blood vessel

What is a ghoul’s favorite flavor?

Lemon-slime

What does a vampire never order at a restaurant?

A stake sandwich

What do birds give out on Halloween night?

Tweets

Why did the Vampire subscribe to the Wall Street Journal?

He heard it had great circulation

 

Why don’t skeletons ever go out on the town?

Because they don’t have any body to go out with.

I posted most of these originally on my page at http://www.maxandstar.info/halloween_riddles.htm

please share them freely with anyone with a kids’ sense of humor like me1

The #1 thing I’ve learned about writing for a living

I use Grammarly for proofreading because no matter how carefully I go over my text, gremlins come along and cause typos.

The one thing I have learned about writing for a living that is most crucial is that it does not matter how fascinating your subject matter may be, one typo can cause you to lose all credibility. It does not seem fair but it is so.

It is almost impossible to proofread your own material. Your brain will see what you think you wrote and not what is actually on the page. You have to read it more than once and scrutinize each word. Then read it out loud to see how it sounds. Then go over it again.

A better method is to have someone else read it and look for errors, preferably someone trained to do so.

Software like Grammarly that looks for errors for you can be a huge help in finding things that you may have overlooked.

The important lesson is not to get in such a hurry to share all the fascinating facts you’ve learned or the great plot you’ve created and skip the boring and meticulous work of making sure everything is correct. I’ve done that in the past and it is always a mistake. Take the time. Use the software. Get some more human help. Do whatever it takes to make sure your writing is correct before you post it.

Do you see any errors in this post? Let me know if you do!

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