Legendary Wally's jazz hotspot honored with historical marker
The jazz legends jammed there - Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Art Blakey. Fledgling musicians honed their skills there. And locals still flock there to hear their favorite jazz bands.
For more than 60 years, Wally's Cafe Jazz Club has livened up the nights along Massachusetts Avenue and Columbus Avenue, once the heart of Boston's black community. On Friday, the Bostonian Society will honor Wally's with a historical marker, citing the establishment as "the last surviving reminder of Boston's jazz heyday."
"It is a living landmark, especially because so many of the sites that we see are no longer in existence," said Samantha Nelson of the Bostonian Society.
The society's historic markers program recognizes the contributions to the city of individuals, groups, and historic buildings, as well as places and events. So far, it has placed 150 such markers in Boston's neighborhoods, Nelson said.
The club got its start in 1947, when Joseph L. Walcott, a native of Barbados, opened its doors on Mass. Ave. At the time, other nightclubs dotted the scene. But while places like the High Hat and Savoy Ballroom faded away, Wally's survived.
Its secret: hard work and family commitment, said Elynor L. Walcott, the daughter of the founder, who now runs Wally's with her three sons.
"First of all, I'm grateful to God for it," Walcott said of the historical marker. "It's recognition of my father's hard work and his creation of Wally's Cafe. It's a testimony to his hard work."
Today, Wally's - now located across the street, at 427 Mass. Ave. - hosts nightly jazz bands, and students still see it as a training ground.
The green plaque is made of porcelain enamel and has cream lettering spelling out the name of the club. Though it was installed Jan. 14, the formal presentation will occur at 4 p.m. Friday. A reception will follow.