Richmond, once a mecca for the Blues

In this video, former Richmond Mayor George Livingston and others give a tour of the Blues clubs that once served as the pulse of the city.

In the post-WWII era the city was host to a vibrant music scene, punctuated by the Blues clubs and restaurants that dotted its working class communities.

Soul icon James Brown and Blues guitar legend B.B. King were among the towering talents that swung through Richmond to play gigs.

B.B. King

Photo courtesy George Livingston Jr.

But, by the 1970s, joblessness, crime and de-industrialization had sapped energy from the city’s nightlife.

It was only a matter of time before the economic slump dimmed the bright signs that once drew patrons to hotspots on Cutting Boulevard, MacDonald Avenue and in North Richmond.

Few of the structures remain, and those that do bear little resemblance to how they looked in those glory days.

To get a sense of the city’s musical history, it may be best to talk with those who lived it.

“You couldn’t find any better entertainment, not just in Richmond, but in the entire Bay Area,” said Joe Fisher, a local businessman who frequented the clubs in the 1960s.

Fisher reminisced while strolling down a now-dormant North Richmond block that was once studded with night spots. “You could come here, to Minnie Lou’s, and just feel very important, a part of something great.”


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