Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part Two

In my previous post Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part One Italian born singer Viviana remembers working and partying in Johannesburg and around the clubs, restaurants in East London in the mid 1960’s.

This is part two of an exclusive Q&A I had with Viviana. Thanks so much for the memories.

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part Two

Viviana + Rene Moya
Viviana + Rene Moya

Q-did any black artists performed in Jo’burg nightlife around 1965? Was jazz music popular in the circuit you worked in?

A- a few black artists performed, but not many. I didn’t know most of their names and frankly personally I only saw a few, one of them was Hugh Masekela. As musicians we didn’t differentiate with races, and accepted talent and technique only. It was different with the laws of the country, but to all of us it never made any difference. I know they were required to enter the premises from the back door, but the clients liked them very much. As for jazz venues, I don’t recall any specific one, but I do remember a combo with Hennie Bekker (piano), Johnny Fourie (guitar), Johnny Boshoff (bass), Tony Moore (drums) they played excellent fusion and being good musicians they eventually played and produced at SABC. I worked with all of them on one nighters, shows and functions later on after they disbanded

 Q-were there any specific discotheques/places for dancing or only restaurants with dancing facilities. How safe was it to go out at night?

A- I don’t remember many discotheques except Bella Napoli in Hillbrow. Every restaurant had a band and everywhere you could dance till very late. Nobody had any problems walking around at any time at night. It was extremely safe. In fact until 1983/84 Johannesburg was still safe enough, as I remember walking in Hillbrow to go to Fontana’s to get a roast chicken at 3am, in my jammies. At that time the guys from club 58 (gay club) used to come to my flat and wake me up when they finished working, so we would make coffee and go and get food.

Johannesburg night scene around Market Street -Albie Louw ‘In Tune With South Africa vol. 6’

Q-what neighbourhoods of Jo’burg were frequented for the nightlife? Around Market Street, around the theatres?

A-Mainly the scene was in Hillbrow , Market Street, Joubert Park and Downtown. Now all these places are impossible to go to, very dangerous, and have deteriorated dreadfully.

Q-I understand that lots of the music that was featured in the restaurants/nightlife was called ‘Continental’. French, Italian, etc. Why do you think that was? Was there a certain taste for European music? Was any typical South African music performed?

A- Continental music was extremely popular and I guess I was lucky to arrive at that time as I did not have to make many changes to my repertoire. I don’t know why, or who started the trend. I guess also the Latin-american trend in movies was to blame. Typical South african music, and by that I mean afrikaans was not considered trendy enough for clubs. But there were a lot records in Afrikaans. The one modern band that was upcoming was Rabbit, they were young and rock, but they were sort of “squashed” by the media, Trevor Rabin was in that group. Eventually they left the country and I see that Trevor writes a lot of huge movie soundtracks in the USA.

 Q-you mentioned Bez Martin, a saxophone player. I do own a record by him “Shuffle With Bez, Cha Cha with Martin” on which he plays cha cha and shuffle styles of music. Were these styles played a the nightclubs/restaurants mainly or were there more styles of dancing that were popular at the time?

Bez Martin 1965
Bez Martin 1965

A-Bez was a friend for many years and I did many functions with him at the Superbowl in Sun City many years later as well. Continental music was played everywhere, but also we played a lot of swing and American classics. Whatever came from the States and we heard on the Radio, we rehearsed in the afternoon and played the same night.

A-were your bookings for a longer period or for just one night?

Q- I was always booked with a minimum 3 months contract or longer. Although we did one nighters on our night off (Sunday). Weddings etc. We worked very hard, I still can’t believe I had all that energy and still had time to party some nights after work.

A-were you touring the country and working the circuit?

Q- After Johannesburg I went on the circuit, and that means you can never take a holiday, as the bands change every 3 or 6 months (I did stay in some Hotels for a year and longer) we had an agent Maurice Fresco (after Keleti) and he kept on booking us from place to place for many years. Only top 5 stars Hotels.

Rene Moya & His Band feat Viviana LP  cover

Q-what about Lourenco Marques in Mozambique. What sort of nightlife entertainment was on offer? Were the records released by the bands/singers manufactured as a souvenir or commercially released by the record companies?

A- I know Rene’ worked at the Polana Hotel, that was very famous and came to South Africa after working in Mozambique and Angola, that was also a swinging place. I am not aware of records released commercially, but I really don’t know.

The Polana Hotel -1965
The Polana Hotel -1965

Q-have you ever performed in Afrikaans speaking places of interest. Like Loch Vaal Hotel?

A- I have never performed in Afrikaans speaking places. I only did a concert once on a sunday with an Afrikaans band, it was in a huge tent and in a little dorp (village, place) outside Johannesburg. Frankly I should have kept on doing those concerts as everyone that sang there became extremely famous in the country. Lol.

Q-does any of these places ring a bell?? The Beachcomber in Durban. The Caravelle in Johannesburg. The Balalaika Hotel – a popular country type of hotel/restaurant-. Franco Italian restaurant in Johannesburg. Tiffany’s Restaurant in Commissioner Street, Jo’burg.

A- Yes all of them, very famous. I ate at Franco’s often and got special treats (being Italian and speaking the lingo) I did sing at the Balalaika on occasions, and then much later we did a contract there for 6 months, but not in the 60s, in the 70s.

a night at Franco's


Q-have you ever heard of a singer called Eduardo Jaime? He was Portuguese and very famous in South Africa if I’m well informed.

A-Yes I met Eduardo, he was working with Rene’ at the Mikado before me, I believe I got the job because Dan called Rene’ when him and Eduardo were having a lot of differences and Eduardo just got fired. Rene’ and Eduardo were both very fiery. They were partners in crime though when it came to parties and girls. Yes he was Portuguese. I have no idea how long he worked at the Mikado.

The Mikado restaurant logo

Last night at the Carlton, Johannesburg with Renatino di Napoli

Carlton Hotel Johannesburg luggage label

updated January 3rd 2013

my search for the history of the  sophisticated nightlife  in South Africa and in the 50’s and 60’s continues with this post about the Carlton hotel, Johannesburg SA.

 The social and cultural history of a city is reflected in its nocturnal entertainment. More than that, nightlife represents the beating heart of a society in progress.

Today, many of the places and buildings mentioned here on these pages are lost or were demolished for new buildings. So only distant memories remain and then this collection of obscure records. Music by local bands that played the lounges and restaurants of grand hotels in South Africa, Mozambique and its neighboring countries Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

See also Celebration at Ciro’s and more posts in the category ‘music for restaurants, nightclubs and lounges’

view from the 50th floor of the Carlton Centre -2012

The Carlton hotel, part of the Carlton Centre in downtown Johannesburg -now a 50 stories high skyscraper – was once the hub of entertainment in Johannesburg , a place where the rich and famous stayed and the locals came to dine and dance.

The history of the Carlton, which opened its doors in 1906, is the history of Johannesburg.

Towards the end of the last century the lure of gold drew thousands of people to the Witwatersrand; people who were content to live in tents and shacks whilst they sought the precious metal. Soon the great mining houses began to rise and the mining camp began to shape into a town and the inhabitants craved for comfort.

Among the many brilliant and enterprising men who came to win wealth from the Reef were three men from the Kimberley Diamond Fields. They were Barney Barnato and his two nephews, Solly and Woolf Joel. Barney, already a diamond millionaire conceived the idea of building a luxury hotel in Johannesburg. The Hotel was to be called the Carlton and the site on which it was to rise was in the center of the minining town where it stands still today. At the time of Barney’s decision there was a boom, but before the plans for the hotel were completed there came the Great Crash. Owing to Barney’s untimely death the building of the Carlton was temporarily delayed.

Hotel Carlton Johannesburg in 1906

Following the end of the war at the turn of the century, a revived spirit of optimism led people’s thoughts once more to the Carlton, which the Barnadot-Joel Mining Company was determined to build. Excavation of the site was begun and the public became aware of the luxurious and ambitious plans for the hotel. This was not going to be a Victorian affair with red velvet, lace, antimaccasars and oil lamps. It was to have air conditioning, elevators and electric lights from the hotel’s own power plant -all these luxuries being advanced features in those days. Elegant furnishings and furniture from one of
London’s most famous establishments, and napery, crockery and cutlery were ordered from world-renowned houses.

At this period there was virtually no manufacturing industry in South Africa. Every item for the hotel had to be imported. To co-ordinate and expedite the delivery in South Africa of the valuable and varied articles, the hotel company chartered a recently launched Union Castle Liner, the Cluney Castle. With the furnishings came the chefs, the waiters and service staff.

On February 20 1906, the Carlton, South Africa’s first luxury hotel was opened. The people were ready for it. Beautifully gowned women and well-tailored men filled the restaurants and lounges. From the moment of its opening, the Carlton became the rendezvous of people of good taste and discrimination. It became not only the social center of Johannesburg, but the meeting place of financiers, diplomats and business executives visiting Johannesburg. Built, as it was, in the heart of the town which was just shedding the mining camp atmosphere, where roads were still dusty tracks in winter and muddy paths in summer, the Carlton, with its new look, glittered like a palace. Within it was the magic of luxurious comfort, superb cuisine and unrivaled service such as Johannesburg and South Africa had never experienced before.

The most memorable day in the history of the Carlton came in 1947 with the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. The Carlton served as headquarters for the Royal Family during their sojourn as guests of the city.

This BBC television film on the royal tour of South Africa in 1947 shows King George VI and Queen Elizabeth with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on their journey across the South African Union and the first state visit since 1939.

The Carlton closed down at the end of 1963 only to re-open in 1972 as a 600-room hotel, but sadly closed in 1997 due to the high crime rate in the downtown area of Johannesburg. Today it stands empty, the outside entrance barricaded off to try and stop squatters from occupying the building.

outside entrance Hotel Carlton, Johannesburg 1997

An outstanding feature of the Carlton has been the exotic ‘Mediterranean Room’. This mecca of pleasure seeking diners and dancers has for several years been the highlight of Johannesburg night life. Since its inception the ‘Mediterranean Room’ has featured top Continental bands who have, to a large extent, set the fashions for Johannesburg’s musical taste. The present group ‘Renatino di Napoli’ are a fitting climax to sad departure from the Johannesburg scene of a superb night spot.


Today’s record is the LP “Last Night At The Carlton” with Renatino de Napoli from The Mediterranean Room, released in 1963.

Renatino di Napoli was born in Naples in 1938. Whilst still a boy his artistic feeling and musical qualities were very apparant. His group’s first dates were in the beautiful Neapolitan towns and environs of Capri, Ischia and Sorrento. The group then progressed rapidly to Rome, Turin, Milan and San Remo, always playing and interpreting the best that the Neapolitan songs have to offer the world.

“Last Night At The Carlton” with Renatino de Napoli

from The Mediterranean Room.

Side A

Renatino di Napoli -O Mandulin

Renatino di Napoli -Frida

Renatino di Napoli -Caterina

Renatino di Napoli -Come Te Non C’e Nessuno

Renatino di Napoli -Dicintencello Vuie

Renatino di Napoli -La Ragazza Col Maglione

Side B

Renatino di Napoli -Cuando Caliente, El Sol

Renatino di Napoli -Ca Tua Eta

 Renatino di Napoli -Paperon Di Paperoni

Renatino di Napoli -Et Maintenant

Renatino di Napoli -Il Toro Non Sbaglio

Renatino di Napoli -La Novia

Renatino di Napoli group comprises;

Antonio Favilli -piano
Nino Fenderico -drums
Mario Molitano -vibraphone
Givoanni Zangrandi -electric guitar, bass
Renatino de Napoli -electric guitar, vocals

excerpts from the original liner notes of “Last Night At The Carlton” with Renatino de Napoli from The Mediterranean Room.
RCA 31728 South Africa. Released in 1963

See also

‘An Evening at the Colony’ Sam Sklair And His Music

 The Colony was located in the luxurious Hyde Park Hotel, downtown Johannesburg. The nightclub was a famous hangout for the city’s well-heeled crowd who came to dine and dance. Musical entertainment consisted mainly of evergreens from around the world, sometimes local songs were included in the repertoire. A mixed bag really, something you can dance to or just listen to.

On this album ‘An Evening at the Colony’ from 1963, a live recording, Sam Sklair is being presented as a versatile musician, as he plays the clarinet, piano, saxophone, bass, flute and vibraphone. Furthermore, Sam is a proficient vocalist and almost as versatile in languages; he sings in Spanish, French, Italian, Greek and English.

Sam Sklair -An Evening at the Colony -Introduction

Sam Sklair -An Evening at the Colony -the Colony Cha Cha

Sam Sklair was born and educated in England and came to South Africa where his career took off as bandleader and composer for TV and the silver screen. See also POP goes the gumboot and Gumboot Dance vol 1 & 2 

Sam Sklair -An Evening at the Colony -Torrero

Musicians on ‘An Evening at the Colony’

Leon Cohen -piano

Vic Hanson -drums

Steve Zachary/Nat Berg -vocal

Les Kelly -bass

Chris Du Toit/Jannie Fourie -Guitar

 ‘An Evening at the Colony’  Sam Sklair And His Music- Renown NLP 115 South Africa 1963

‘Dan Hill At The Grove’ featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli

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.

Today’s  post is another addition to that ever expanding collection.  See also  Celebration at Ciro’s and Johannesburg Night Club Festival 1964

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…

Dan Hill with Dana Valery -From Russia With Love

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.

Dan Hill with Una Valli -Really Gone Shake

Dan Hill with Una Valli -Just So Bobby Can See

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

Out of this world -Archie Silansky and his High Flyers with Vocalists; Bobby Angel, Vasco Cordoni, Maureen Rayson

“Out of this world” was the theme of the successful charity festival held in Johannesburg, where each night at the glittering ‘Bien Donne’ Restaurant at Milner Park honoured a different planet.

out of this world cover

Archie Silansky was a South African piano player in the “lounge/ light jazz” genre. He worked mainly in the late 1950s, early 1960s around Johannesburg and recorded several albums.

Having gone right around the globe with his popular Club International records, Archie Silansky now blasts off into outer space to continue his musical travels “Out of this world”.

Twisting into orbit with the High Flyers and vocally assisted by Bobby Angel, Vasco Cordoni and  Maureen Rayson, Archie presents rocket age arrangements of tunes dedicated to the various planets that have become his new ports of call, and to the gods who created them.

out of this world detail

Archie Silansky and his High Flyers

His travel schedule is as follows;

‘Twistin’ is out of this world’, a brand new tune, complete with countdown and actual blast-off sounds

Archie Silansky -Earth

MOON; ‘Shine on Harvest Moon’, ‘Lunar Baby’, sung by Bobby Angel

Archie Silansky -Moon

JUPITER; The King of the Gods: ‘Al di La’ which appropriately enough means ‘Out of this world’, sung by Vasco Cordoni

Archie Silanskyi -Jupiter

NEPTUNE; The God of the Sea: ‘Beyond the Sea’ sung by Bobby Angel

Archie Silansky -Neptune

VENUS; as Venus is the Goddess of Love, and love is the most popular theme of all time, we pay a return visit to hear Vasco Cordoni, an Itailian who looks very much like a Greek God himself, sings in Spanish, the song ‘Venus’

Archie Silansky -Return to Venus

HERMES; the Greek God of speed: ‘Speedy Gonzales’ –not really a Greek God but still very speedy, sung by Maureen Rayson

Archie Silansky -Hermes

MERCURY; the Roman God of speed: ‘Quicksilver’, sung by Maureen Rayson and ‘Alabama Bound’ with a real Southern Sound.

Archie Silansky -Mercury

RETURN TO EARTH: Maureen Rayson sings ‘Won’t you please come home, Bill Bailey’, and she is answered by Bobby Angel who sings ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’

Archie Silansky -Return to Earth

original liner notes from “Out of this world” by Archie Silansky and his High Flyers with Vocalists; Bobby Angel, Vasco Cordoni, Maureen Rayson -Gallotone 1244 probably released in South Africa in the mid-60’s

Mediterranean Cocktail at Franco Restaurant with Vasco Cordoni

Now here’s a disc that features singer Vasco Cordoni at the cocktail bar of the famous ‘Franco Restaurant’ in Johannesburg,  specializing in Mediterranean food and spirits

singer Vasco Cordoni must be of Italian origin and born in South Africa. He worked mainly in the restaurant/lounge–circuit in Johannesburg in the 60’s,  singing a well groomed repertoire of Mediterranean origins while specializing in Italian songs.

Vasco Cordoni -La Notte

Vasco Cordoni -Tasseparo na fioume

The album ‘Mediterranean Cocktail’ was released in 1966 while Vasco worked at the ‘Franco Restaurant & Cocktail Bar’. He can be seen on the cover posing happily at the bar, probably with the band that accompanied him, or maybe the guys may have been working at the bar, shaking cocktails.  No credits nor any liner notes to verify that…But the repertoire on this album is pretty and comfortable to listen to, the usual cocktail bar/lounge fare but only more ‘poppy’ at times and with a few unexpected turns in mood and style, like ‘Sha-La-la’ and ‘O Barquinho’, that beautiful Brazilian Bossa Nova….

Vasco Cordoni -Sha-la-la

Vasco Cordoni -O barquinho

Vasco Cordoni -Se to vieni con mico

Vasco Cordoni -Volare


Have a go, order a Limoncello Martini and sip away those blues


  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 lemon twist
  • Directions

Shake with ice and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Cabaret at The Moçambique

Maputo, formerly Lourenço Marques, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique

Cabaret at The Moçambique

with Elsa Vilar, Moniz Trindade, Maria Adalgis, David Pantoja with Benny Baker’s Orchestra

One fine October morning in 1955 Antonio Amral arrived in Johannesburg from Lourenço Marques, unable to understand one single word he heard around him. Despite language difficulties he bought a restaurant that very day, and soon discerning Johannesburg diners were finding their way to an unostentatious little place in Simmonds Street that served the finest piri-piri dishes in town.


Towards the end of 1958 he moved to this present premises in Noord Street, and it is to celebrate the first anniversary of this new restaurant, “The Moçambique” that he presents this gala cabaret of artists imported from Portugal, specially for the occasion.

Cabaret at the Moçambique

Elsa Vilar is one of the most popular vocalists in Portugal. After only two  years in showbusiness, she is now a top star with the enviable reputation of  making a ‘hit’ out of everything she features




Maria Adalgisa trained under the great Portuguese   singer Tomas Alcaide. A soprano who excels in the   colourful folks music of Portugal, she is equally proficient in classical   compositions


Cabaret at the Moçambique -Kanimambo

Cabaret at the Moçambique -Brincos Vermelhos

Moniz Trindade is one of the world’s foremost interpreters of ‘fado’ songs. Born in Lisbon, the home of the ‘fado’, he is in equal demand in Spain and Portugal for appearances on stage, televison and radio. A well-known composer, he writes all of his own material.

David Pantoja is the instrumentalist of the group. It is his brilliant accordion accompaniments that give the songs their authentic Porguese flavour.

Cabaret at The Moçambique -Fadista Gringa

Cabaret at the Moçambique -Polana A Noite/Cançăo Do Mar/ Uma Casa Portuguesa

The musical director at “The Moçambique” is Benny Baker, British born pianist and band leader. Although better known in South Africa for his recordings of the ‘pop’ type, Benny is a brilliant exponent of Latin American and Continental dance music. He had  his own combination in some of the smartest nightclubs in Europe, and just before coming to South Africa was for two seasons leading the Orchestra of the famous Palm Beach Casinos in Cannes, France.

from the original liner notes of the album “Cabaret at The Moçambique” Gallotone GALP 1067



celebration at Ciro’s Johannesburg

Celebration at Ciro’s

with Dan Hill and his Band

tekening ciro's

…to anyone who’s ever been in Johannesburg, Ciro’s is a magic name which spells the best in Nightclub entertainment.

The magnificent chandelier, the sophisticated atmosphere…and fine food…all make an evening to be remembered. Ciro’s too is noted for the quality of its bands and vocalists. Now here is gathered together for the enjoyment of those who know Ciro’s (and those who don’t), an entertainment of rhythm and song to set the toes itching and make the heart beat faster.

Your entertainment starts with The Joe Kentridge Trio and Joao Tudella. Joe Kentridge is a well-known jazz pianist –and owner of Ciro’s –Tudella has proved himself in several recordings to be a gifted young singer. Born in Lourenco Marques, he studied at the Coimbra University in Portugal. He first won renown as a Fado singer, but has shown himself to be equally adept at dance band music. His rich Latin voice with its thrilling timbre, provides an admirable foil to Peter Lotis who follows with Dan Hill and his Band.

Joe Kentridge Trio -nunca, e spinita

Joao Tudella with Joe Kentridge Trio -quizas, quizas, quizas

Joao Tudella with Joe Kentridge Trio -conceicao, caminhemos, risque

see also João Tudella canta musica de Artur Fonseca-Uma Casa Portuguesa w/ the Dan Hill Quintet

Bill Walker –the likeable Australian who plays with Dan Hill and his band for the Rumba, is another regular Ciro figure. His immediately recognizable brand of magic is also well-known from his recordings, Walker Around the World (Columbia ALD 6249) and Walker Round the Shows (Columbia ALD 6341)

Dan Hill and his band -never on sunday

Bill Walker with Dan Hill and his band -Rumba

tekening ciro's

Of Dan Hill it is enough to say that he is one of the most wanted and popular musical celebrities in South Africa. He has arranged all the numbers on his record –and is a professional to his fingertips. Since 1948, Dan has made recordings that have received plaudits from such authorities as Metronome (USA). He has also arranged movie scores and introduced the public to a number of South African hits including Fanagalo, Hamba Khale, Thabazimbi and Doemela.

From the original liner notes of  “celebration at Ciro’s with Dan Hill and his Band” Columbia ALD 6357

although the club was inspired by Ciro’s Los Angeles, Ciro’s Johannesburg had no direct links with that American Nightclub landmark

celebration at Ciro's

In the 1940’s and 1950’s  Ciro’s nightclub was one of the hottest nightspots in the world.From the early 1940’s until it closed on the eve of the 1960’s, Ciro’s launched countless entertainment icons along the path to superstardom. It was one of the first major venues to host Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin before they took over the comedy world in 1950. A year later, an unheralded opening act called the Will Mastin Trio stole the show from the headliner. This was due in large part to a young entertainer that would before long outgrow his membership in the group–arguably the most talented entertainer in show biz history, Sammy Davis, Jr. After the car accident that cost Sammy his right eye, it was the site of his return to live performing. Countless other top entertainers performed there, from Sinatra sidekick comic Joe E. Louis to Nat King Cole.

The names that frequented Ciro’s were a who’s who of the American entertainment pantheon, starting at the very top with Frank Sinatra and including other A-list stars like Anita Ekberg, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Ava Gardner, George Burns, Jack Benny, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford just to mention a few…they came to drink, to see and be seen among a collection of other Hollywood illuminati, served by leggy cigarette girls in short skirts and heels

ciros los angeles 1

…in a more civilized time, there was a circuit of    world renowned nightclubs that featured the best entertainment in the country in an  atmosphere of indulgent luxury

Peter Lotis with Dan Hill and his band -autumn leaves, petite fleur, c’est si bon

Peter Lotis with Dan Hill and his band-ciao ciao bambino, luna rossa, non dimenticar

In Las Vegas, the Copa Room at the Sands became the place to be in the 1960’s but before that there was The Cocoanut Grove in Miami, the 900 Club in Atlantic City, the Sam Giancanna owned Villa Venice in Chicago.  Even during the early 1940s, Ciro’s was part of this top tier of clubs. What would later become the Holmby Hills Rat Pack was already holding court nightly at Ciro’s, then owned and operated by Billy Wilkenson. From Bogie and Bacall to George Raft and Betty Grable, it was L.A.’s hottest spot. Like most clubs, however, it began to cool off a couple of years later and by 1942 owner Wilkenson was hard pressed to provide worthy entertainment for the celebrities that patronized his club. Customers were defecting in droves to the jungle themed Mocambo across the street. For a time, Ciro’s closed its doors. It wasn’t dark for long when Herman Hoover put together a plan to reopen the club…

Ciro’s LA mid 40’s dance floor

Ciro’s reopened on December 26, 1942 with longtime Sinatra pal Joe E. Lewis on stage and such stars as Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Joan Crawford and Cary Grant in the audience. Xavier Cugat (who would later marry a Latin dancer named Charo) became a regular headliner at the club, preceding the arrival of Martin, Lewis and Sammy Davis, Jr.

ciro's LA bar

Ciro’s LA bar circa 1941

Eventually Ciro’s closed its doors in 1957 and was sold at a public auction two years later.

The end of Ciro’s also represented an end of the glamor that characterized Los Angeles in the early to middle 20th century. Sunset Boulevard remained a busy main street, but before long became populated with as many strip clubs and tattoo parlors as upscale restaurants and nightclubs. The tradition of launching new stars, however, continues to this day at the Comedy Store which has operated on the Ciro’s site for almost 30 years. A ‘who’s who’ of comedy have gotten a start at the club from Jay Leno, David Letterman and Andy Kaufman to modern comics like David Chappelle and UFC commentator Joe Rogan

about the Author: Ross Everett has written extensively on the history of Las Vegas and the city’s gambling industry

ciro's LA 3

see  ‘Hollywood steps out’, a 1941 short Merrie Melodies cartoon by Warner Brothers, directed by Tex Avery

previously shown on Youtube but withdrawn due to copyright infringement

Derek Gunning at The Caravelle Johannesburg

Derek Cunning at The Caravelle cover

Derek Gunning at The Caravelle Johannesburg

with accompaniment directed by George Hayden

Derek Gunning -autumn leaves

The Caravelle is one of the leading restaurants/night spots in Johannesburg, and its discreet intimate atmosphere provides an admirable setting for the polished entertainment of singer Derek Gunning and pianist George Hayden.

Presided over by charming hostess Olive Lawrence and genial host Freddie Pezold, The Caravelle has become synonymous of good cuisine and is famous for its special dish ‘Rock Lobster Ala Turque’, a tempting concoction that draws gourmets from far and wide.

Truly the ideal combination…a warm, friendly atmosphere…excellent cuisine…and discreet, intimate entertainment.

Derek Gunning -hello young lovers

Derek Cunning foto copy

Derek Gunning -it happened in Monterey

Derek Gunning; 30 years old Derek Gunning has been a leading vocalist in the main night spots of Johannesburg, Durban and Margate. In 1955 he migrated to England where he joined the famous Eric Winstone Orchestra at Butlins Holiday Camp and at the well known Millroy Club in London, and later toured the South of France sharing top of the bill honours with The Trio Los Paraguaro.

Derek Gunning -just in time

He also appeared in several leading TV shows in London, amongst them ‘The 6.5 Special’, ‘Follow the Stars’ (a radio show) and ‘The Late London Show’. On his return to Johannesburg, Derek featured as resident vocalist on a popular Radio Show and was featured with such prominent guest artists as Alma Cogan, Anne Shelton, Eve Boswell, Roy Castle and many others. Derek is now resident vocalist at The Caravelle (Johannesburg) where, with pianist George Hayden, he blends admirably into the intimate atmosphere of this leading restaurant/night spot.

Derek Gunning -the lady is a tramp

from the original liner notes of the album Derek Gunning at The Caravelle (Johannesburg) Rave Records RMG 1161

The Don Albert Combo -Dinner (not breakfast) at Tiffany’s

The Don Albert Combo -Dinner (not breakfast) at Tiffany’s

Restaurant Tiffany’s is represented on the album ‘Johannesburg Night Club Festival’  by a few musical selections,  although not credited, by The Don Albert Combo. Here is a rare album by that group recorded on their turf.  One can hear the usual standards done Don Albert’s style with some unexpected choices like ‘ Soul Bossa Nova’,  ‘The House of Bamboo’ and a twistin’ version of  ‘All my lovin’

The Don Albert Combo -Soul Bossa Nova

In Commissioner Street, known as the ‘Gay, White Way’ of Johannesburg, Tiffany’s -a hop, skip and a jump away from the heart of Theatreland- stands out like a diadem in a crown of jewels. Lush in its comfort, exciting in its atmosphere, under the genial direction of Rene Wildi, that man of international cuisine fame, the most delectable of foods are served and the wine list has available at your command the most selective vintages.

Fully air-conditioned so that diners are comfortably at ease regardless of summer heat or wintry blasts outside, Tiffany’s has the ideal climate at all times. Because of its convivial air, pleasing lightning, carpeted flooring and personal attention service, it has become the favourite nightspot for celebrities and others who have fastidious taste in wining and dining. Music provided by Don Albert and his Combo is a soothing background while you dine, and as the evening draws on becomes exhilarating for those who want to dance or an adventurous, musical experience for those who prefer to listen.

The Don Albert Combo -The House of Bamboo

The Don Albert Combo -Hello Dolly

The Don Albert Combo -All my lovin’

The Don Albert Combo -dancing in the dark

South African-born Don Albert is a musician filled with the spirit of adventure. An accomplished master of the reed instruments, it was not enough to follow the arrangements and style of other leaders in the field of modern, popular music. For Don Albert wanted to create a new sound, a new style and at the same time include much of the traditional of old and new Jazz. By trial and error, after spending hundreds of hours in searching for the right combination, he at last succeeded. Veteran, knowledgeable musicians and critics have described his Combo as the ‘mightiest little band’ ever to come to town. Not only is Don Albert adept at all the reed instruments, but much of the vocals on this LP are provided by him. It was only fitting that Don Albert and his new creative style, his outstanding accomplishments in modern musical performance should be part of Tiffany’s -South Africa’s unusually outstanding restaurant for dining, wining and dancing.

from the original liner notes from the LP

The Don Albert Combo -dinner (not breakfast) at Tiffany’s