The Acquisition of Julia Dorn’s The Legend of the Dew Drop Inn Documentary

Last year, filmmaker Julia Dorn donated 43 mini DV tapes of video interviews she conducted for her unfinished documentary, The Legend of The Dew Drop Inn, to the Hogan Archive of New Orleans Music and New Orleans Jazz. The unfinished film intended to incorporate oral histories to detail the historical, social, and cultural impact of the Dew Drop Inn, one of the foremost Black entertainment venues of pre-integration New Orleans during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. This collection contains interviews from 2004 and 2005 with musicians Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Mike Carruba, Deacon John, Reggie Hall, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, Walter Payton, Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, and Walter "Wolfman" Washington.

The Dew Drop Inn was a Black-owned music club that also included a hotel, restaurant, barbershop and beauty salon and operated in New Orleans in its 1940s-1960s heyday under original owner Frank Painia. The venue catered to African American customers and entertainers during segregation and would become renowned for early performances of legendary rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll musicians, such as iconic New Orleans artists like Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint. In fact, the Dew Drop Inn was so popular that Ray Charles moved into its hotel, and Little Richard wrote the song “(Meet All Your Fine Friends at) The Dew Drop Inn” about it. Currently, a local developer is working to revitalize the building at 2836 LaSalle Street, envisioning the space as a hotel and music venue with a separate commercial space.

Laura Jackson, daughter of Frank Painia, and her son Kenneth Jackson are also among those interviewed. Additional interview subjects include James O'Neil, cousin of Drew Drop Inn's mistress of ceremonies, female impersonator Patsy Vidalia; Jim Russell, who booked acts at the club and later ran Jim Russell Rare Records; Tee Eva, who lived in the Magnolia Housing Projects across from the Dew Drop Inn and operated Tee Eva's Creole Food at the time of filming; original Dew Drop Inn patrons Herman LaRoche, Joe Schneider, and Edward (last name unidentified), who operated a shoe-repair store on Magazine Street in New Orleans at the time of filming; jazz historian and former Hogan archivist Bruce Boyd Raeburn; and Lionel (unidentified last name), a trumpeter who lived above the former Dew Drop Inn location at the time of filming.

Though much has been documented about the Dew Drop Inn over the years, the recorded conversations represent first-hand accounts from participants who may not have been interviewed by others and are no longer alive. Once digitized, the interviews will be helpful to those interested in New Orleans music, culture, history, neighborhoods, business, race relations, and critical race theory.

For research inquiries and comments, email specialcollections@tulane.edu. For more information, visit the TUSC website at library.tulane.edu/tusc and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. To contact Hogan Archive curator Melissa A. Weber, email mweber3@tulane.edu.

 

Photo Caption: Dew Drop Inn patrons watch a performance by Lollypop Jones, 1952, Ralston Crawford Collection of Jazz Photography, Hogan Archive, Tulane University Special Collections.

Dew Drop Inn audience reacting to Lollypop Jones' performance