Kansas City Missouri 18th & Vine Eblon Theater

Cherry Blossom Club

Homer Eblon constructed the Eblon Theater as a vaudeville and motion picture theater in 1923. It had a seating capacity of one thousand and included restrooms, uniformed ushers, and an overhead cooling system. It was home to the Eblon Orchestra, which had weekly broadcasts over local radio stations and provided music for motion pictures. The Kansas City Call described the Eblon theater as "the best theater owned by Negroes catering to Negros." The theater was one of the most popular venues in the black community.

In 1927 Bill "Count" Basie was part of the vaudeville circuit from New York and became stranded at the Eblon Theater when his act disbanded. He took a job playing the organ for the silent movies in the theater. In the spring of 1933 the Eblon Theater was remodeled and converted to a nightclub and renamed the Cherry Blossom. Count Basie described the new look of the Cherry Blossom as a Japanese-style club. There was a buddha on stage and the waitresses wore costumes that made them look Japanese. Basie was part of Bennie Moten's band and, after a falling out, Basie led his own band called County Basie and His Cherry Blossom Orchestra.

The Cherry Blossom Club was the site of an infamous battle of the saxes with the king of the tenor sax, Coleman Hawkins. While visiting Kansas City, Hawkins visited the club and saw saxophonists Herschel Evans, Ben Webster, and Lester Young jamming on stage. Hawkins joined the others on stage to try and outplay the other three. The battle lasted until 4 a. m. when Hawkins realized he was not going to win and just gave up. He left and hurried to St. Louis to get to his next gig. Hawkins was king until he met the three players from Kansas City, cementing the legend of Kansas City Jazz.

On August 2, 1984, at 2:54 p.m., a two-alarm fire was reported at 1822 Vine. The fire lasted thirty minutes and was classified as arson. Efforts were made to stabilize the walls and salvage the structure but only the facade remained.



1822 Vine Street, Kansas City, MO 64108