History

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Jazz historians have long considered the 400 block of South Rampart Street the birthplace of jazz. The Little Gem Saloon was first opened in 1903, taking its place among other jazz clubs that have long been lost to the past including The Eagle Saloon and the Iroquois Theater.  No other single location is more significant to the founding and evolution of jazz than this one.  During its time the Little Gem Saloon served as a popular watering hole for early jazz legends like Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard and Jelly Roll Morton until closing its doors in 1909.

Little Gem Saloon is a historic restaurant and live music venue that dates back to 1904 when the early progenitors of Jazz like Jelly Roll Morton and Buddy Bolden performed at Frank Douroux’s Little Gem Saloon in the historic “Back O’ Town” neighborhood that borders the infamous Storyville red-light district.   As Jazz became one of New Orleans greatest exports, the 400 block of S. Rampart, also known as “The Ramp”, was a teeming commercial district that included the Karnofsky Tailor Shopwhere Louis Armstrong reportedly worked in his youth, and numerous Jazz clubs including the legendary Eagle Saloon, and The Iroquois Theatre. Between 1926 and 1949, the building was home to David Pailet’s Loan Office, a combination pawn shop and hang out for musicians and in the 1950’s, it became Pete’s Blue Heaven Lounge, an R&B club where members of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club began and ended members funerals.  In the late 50’s and early 60’s, in the name of progress, the once thriving district was demolished in order to build a new City Hall, office towers and parking lots. The Little Gem Saloon was boarded up for close to 40 years until its rebirth in December 2012.

In 2012, Dr. Nicholas Bazan, his daughter Maria Bazan, son Nick Bazan, son-in-law Charles and brother Tim Clark set out to restore The Little Gem with an eye for historic preservation and a passion for Jazz.  The group transformed The Little Gem Saloon into a multi-level restaurant and live music venue that harkens back to the days when venue was truly the jazz corner of New Orleans. More than a century since it first opened its doors, the restoration of the Little Gem Saloon marks the resurrection of this historic area as the new epicenter of New Orleans’ jazz.

The Little Gem is anchored by a first floor dining room where patrons experience some of the best live music, cuisine and cocktails that New Orleans has to offer. Chef Miles Prescott creates locally sourced Southern Soul cuisine, bartenders serve up handcrafted cocktails and small ensembles perform on an art-deco stage. The upstairs is home to The Ramp Room, an intimate 2nd floor live music club that boasts pristine acoustics, plush seating and a wrap around balcony.

For a complete music schedule and ticket prices, visit http://www.littlegemsaloon.com or call 504 267-4863. The Little Gem Saloon is open for Lunch Monday-Friday from 11am- 2pm, Dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 4:30pm-10pm and a traditional Jazz Brunch featuring New Orleans Jazz masters Richard Knox and the Little Gem Jazz Men  every Sunday from 10am-2pm.

Historic Gems

1876
Businessmen Bernard Maylié and Hypolite Esparbé move their coffee stall in the historic Poydras Market to a Billiard Room and Saloon on the corner of Poydras and Dryades Streets and soon begin serving market workers a family style lunch.
1877
Charles “Buddy” Bolden is born
1894-1986

“La Maison Maylié et Esparbé” expands into a second building built on an adjacent lot – with an iconic wisteria vine growing between the two buildings – and the restaurant’s trademark Table d’Hôte tradition begins. For 110 years Maylie’s served as a living link between the Gilded Age Creole Cuisine of New Orleans’ wealthy and its Progressive Age transformation into the food of a city.

1895-1907
Buddy Bolden’s band serves as a top draw for local music lovers and forges a link between the local brass band tradition and the contemporary rhythms of ragtime ushering in the birth of New Orleans Jazz.
1903-1909
Frank Doroux’s Little Gem  Saloon indelibly links a series of three late 1880s Italianate Terrace Houses at 445-449 South Rampart Street with the birth of our Nation’s greatest indigenous art form, becoming a watering hole for Jazz legends such as Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, and other early performers of the neighboring “Back of Town”,  “Black Storyville”, or ”Battlefeild” District.
1906
Buddy “King” Bolden, the enigmatic “Father of Jazz” collapses during a performance, suffering from acute alcoholic psychosis; after being diagnosed with dementia in 1907, he is admitted to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at Jackson, where he spends the next 24 years of his life.
1908
Frank Doroux, owner of the notorious Little Gem Saloon, purchases the Eagle Loan Office at 401-403 South Rampart, rechristening it the Eagle Saloon and employing Buddy Bolden’s former bandmates as the house band of the venue’s second floor Oddfellows/Masonic Ballroom.

John L. Metoyer and members of a New Orleans society called “The Tramps”, attend a vaudevillian comedy show at the Pythian Temple Theater, on Gravier and Saratoga Streets, which includes a skit with performers in grass skirts and black face; by 1909 they have renamed themselves “The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club”. By mid-century Zulu members adopt the site of Frank Doroux’s Little Gem Saloon, now known Pete’s Blue Heaven Lounge, as the rallying and disbanding point for their Jazz Funeral Processions.

1911-1920
The Iroquois Theater flourishes as the City’s premier black vaudeville theater and showcase for local talent, later becoming a venue for early motion pictures – and the historic site of a fabled talent contest won by a promising young cornetist named Louis Armstrong.
1913
A twelve year old Louis Armstrong is arrested on New Year’s Eve for firing his stepfather’s pistol into the air in the 400 Block of South Rampart Street. He spends the next two years as a ward of the state, honing his skills as an aspiring musician playing cornet in the colored waifs home band.
2012
The Little Gem Saloon marks the resurrection of an historic gathering place at the apex of one of our city’s most important entertainment corridors and showcases the roots of our indigenous culinary traditions under the stewardship of Executive Chef Miles Prescott.

 

The Little Gem Saloon is a New Orleans live music venue that puts a new century twist on a historic space that first introduced New Orleans’ jazz to the world.