Friday, January 25, 2013

Music Shall Fill the Air

440 Clark Drive, built in 1930.

I am continuing with my series on the striptease industry in Vancouver and consulting the book Burlesque West by Becki L. Ross.

Although today, dancers perform to recorded music but that wasn't so in the beginning. Up until the late 1970s, dancers were accompanied by live musicians. All male musicians.

These musicians were paid union scale - they did belong to the union after all - and playing at the strip clubs was steady work. In addition, the guys got to see some very beautiful women nightly and maybe even share a dressing room with them.

These musicians weren't second rate either. Some of Vancouver's hottest jazz musicians played for dancers. Names such as Fraser McPherson, Cuddles Johnson, Chris Gage, Stu Barnett, Dave Davies, Doug Cuthbert, Gerry Palken, Sean Gunn, Mike Kalanj, Gord Walkinshaw, Ernie King, Harry Harvey, Peter Batt and David Lee could list providing music for striptease dancers on their resume.

Although supper clubs such as Isy's Supper Club, The Cave Supper Club, State Burlesque Theatre and the Palomar Supper Club had a fairly large orchestras, most clubs had a typical trio combo - a saxophone or bass, piano or organ and drums. Musicians' union Local 145 supplied the musical artists that worked the clubs six days a week. Once the hotel bars opened, many musicians raked in the profits by working double shifts.

The funny is that, even with a union - something that many dancers complained they were missing - the musicians still made less than most of the dancers!
Many musicians were fine with that. After all, the draw was the dancers and those ladies worked really hard to earn every dollar they did.

As with the dancers, there was a stigma attached to the musicians that played in those clubs. And even though these were not really the gigs a musician could invite his Mom and Dad too, it was still a good assignment. Steady work in an industry such as music or acting or any of the arts, should not be sneered at! Yet, some of the older musicians did look down on their counterparts that played the strip clubs.

However, look at the legendary names that practised their art at these clubs and you can rest assured that the musicians that backed up the dancers were talented.

That's it for now. I hope you are enjoying this segment on the striptease industry in Vancouver. It is part of our history and has helped form the city.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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