This documentary film will look back at the illustrious history of The Club DeLisa through interviews with the people who were there, through the music and musicians of the time, archival photos, club card photos, file footage and articles from the black press.
Owned by the four DeLisa brothers, who immigrated from Sassano, Italy in the early 1900s, the club opened on the Southside of Chicago during prohibition as a “speakeasy,” an establishment that illegally sells alcoholic beverages. After the end of Prohibition, the club opened legitimately in 1934. In 1941, the original building burned down but was soon replaced with the New Club DeLisa. Nightly entertainment at the club was in a variety-show format. The show featured singers, comedians, dancers, and the DeLisa chorines, accompanied by a house band that ranged in size from 7 to 12 pieces, depending on the club’s revenues. The club never closed, it was said there was no lock on the front door and there was music for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Another less heralded source of revenue was gambling, in the club’s basement.
Among the musicians and performers associated with the venue over the years were undoubtedly Red Saunders, whose band was in residence from 1937–45 and 1947–58, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Sun Ra,Johnny Pate, Joe Williams, LaVaughn Robinson, George Kirby, Sonny Cohn, Earl Washington, Leon Washington, Albert Ammons and LaVern Baker.
The Club DeLisa closed its doors in February 1958, after the deaths of two of the DeLisa brothers. The closing was commemorated in Jet magazine.
The film will feature the stories of Sonny Blunt aka Sun Ra, who had recently arrived from Birmingham “The Magic City”, Alabama; strange cases of arson; Nat Cole; Frank Sinatra; Anthropologist/Dance Choreographer Katherine Dunham; and bootlegging, gambling and cop murders across 24 years of per-civil rights history on Chicago’s black South Side.
The Club and its performers are the subject of this documentary.