Great Musicians and Salem, Ma












Woo Who! Did you know that Salem was once the summer home for Duke Ellington. From 1926 to 1927 he toured New England and lived in the New Brunswick Hotel in Salem. Charlie and Sy Shribman were promoters for Duke.  Charlie owned the Charleshurst Ballroom down at the Willows. While in town Duke got along so well with people that Lieutenant Bates of the Salem Police Force (later mayor and a congressman) helped  him play a joke on a band mate. The player ended up at a house to meet a woman after he received a note while playing. When he got to the door a police officer was in disguise as a jealous husband who started to shoot at him. That member of the band quit the next day…. Every Tuesday during the summer Duke would play the Charleshurst and the rest of the time he played a circuit form Old Orchard Beach in Maine to Connecticut.  On those Tuesdays the Duke would compete against other orchestras in a Battle of the Bands. I bet the Duke won more often than not! When they were not playing they rested at the New Brunswick Hotel ( I hope it was not the current location of the Lafayette Hotel…).


Here is a partial list of the Battle of the Bands at the Charleshurst every Tuesday during the 1926 New England Tour from May to August:

  • August 02- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Mal Hallett.
  • August 10- Battle of the Bands: DEO vs Felix Ferdinando.

Here is the list of the bands he battled in the summer of 1927 New England Tour at  the Charleshurst:

  • June 20- DEO begins New England tour. There was a battle of bands with Mel Hallett who had Gene Krupa on drums.
  • July 16- Battle of the Bands DEO vs McMullin’s Orchestra.
  • July 19- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Phil Napoleon’s Victor Record Band.
  • July26- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Dick Voynaw’s Wolverines
  • August 02- Battle of the Bands DEO vs a group from Argentina called “The Gauchos”.
  • August 09- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Roane’s Sensational Pennsylvanians.
  • August 11- This was a “colored” dance night that 800 people attended.
  • August 30- Battle of the Bands DEO vs Phil Napoleon.


He also played:

  • April 21st 1924 plays for the YMCA in Salem.
  • Easter Monday April 25th 1924 at the Salem Massachusetts Young Men’s Christian Temperance Society at the College Inn.
  • August 18th 1939 plays in Salem.
  • Friday July 4th and 5th 1958 in the Castle Hill neighborhood.
  • Thursday October 31 1968 at Sale State College Student Union on Halloween.

Now that is just a short list of Duke’s visits to Salem. Other famous musicians also played down at the Willows during that time like Cab Calloway and Glen Miller. Then those stories are best left for another time….

~Mr. Zac

This post was brought to you by the Salem Trilogy! Read them today and enter the magical whimsical side of Salem MA.



Chris will be signing books and drawing doodles inside the front cover of every book he sells as you are welcome to light refreshments while your enjoying some live music from Salem’s best musicians.