Regular visitors may have noticed that I have a weak spot for music that was popular in restaurants, lounges and ballrooms of the hotels in Johannesburg in the 1960’s. Creating a map of the musical nightlife in Johannesburg from that period has fascinated me ever since I found the first records within the theme. By now, there is enough material for a compilation.
As the 60’s blew a wind of change into the country and South Africa’s main capital ruled the cultural landscape, many national and international artists flocked to the City of Gold in search of fame and fortune. But the gold of Johannesburg was not for everyone, not in 1964…
Apartheid laws forced the black and colored population out of the city centre after work during daytime so people had to find inventive ways to come out to play after dark. Entertainment became more than ever The Big Escape out of the slums and townships.
Since racial separation was not so strict at some restaurants and hotels in the city, guests from all over of the world could be found mingling with the locals.
The Orange Grove Hotel had separate entrances reserved for Restaurant Parisien and the Cocoanut Grove nightclub where jockeys of Jo’burg mingled with Sowetan she-been Queens who were serving napkins, French food and sunshine smiles to a sophisticated crowd. Local food specialties served in luscious surroundings accompanied by the house band starring featured singers and dancers; Showtime!
Ladies and gentlemen,the Orange Grove Hotel proudly presents…
Discothèque entertainment in 60’s Jo’burg was found mainly in the bigger hotels with restaurants, like the Orange Grove or the Carlton where international stars stayed for the night or played long-term contracts. Local stars were discovered here. Una Valli was introduced to Jo’burg’s well-heeled clientèle of the Orange Grove Hotel at the tender age of 14! Bandleader Sam Sklair started out as a crooner accompanying himself with a small dinner combo at the famous restaurant “The Colony”.
Dan Hill, South Africa’s top bandleader, got a residency at The Orange Grove where he provided the entertainment. His music was described at the time as ‘instant night club’ and consisted of his own material and new arrangements of popular hits of the day. Mostly Bossa Nova, Cha Cha, Fox Trot, Baion and of course the Twist.
Shortly before taking residency Dan Hill had made an extensive trip to Britain, Europe and the United States to study the latest recording techniques and observe the current trends. He worked with artists as Louis Armstrong, Stan Kenton, Andy Williams, Eydie Gorme, Steve Lawrence and Barbara Streisand, to mention a few.
On this record from 1965 you will hear Dan’s new vocalist –Una Valli. Una was only 14 years old when she recorded this material and performing with a man who knew the routine of the entertainment business, must have helped her career tremendously. Una Valli later recorded with the Durban group The Flames and The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and gained a crowd with her strong performance in the soul and pop universe.
excerpts from the liner notes of ‘Dan Hill At The Grove’ featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli.
CBS ALD 6721 South Africa 1965