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.