I have long been vaguely aware that there once was a 'Luthjens Dance Hall' somewhere in New Orleans and that our mid-Twentieth Century traditional jazz heroes played there. But it was not until The Shotgun Jazz Band announced that they had recorded their 2014 CD entitled 'Yearning' at Luthjens that my curiosity was further aroused. (The CD, by the way, presents the music with a wonderfully clear 'empty hall' acoustic.)
I have set out to discover what I can about Luthjens and I learned, for example, that there had been an earlier Luthjens Dance Hall at a different location.
But I have not been able to discover any more than I am about to tell you; so if any reader can put me right on a point or two or send me more information, I would be glad to hear from you.
Here's the story.
There has always been a great fondness for dancing in New Orleans, so it is not surprising that many dance halls sprang up. Obviously they gave plentiful employment to musicians.
Having a good night out was not too expensive. The halls themselves would be sparsely furnished. There were bare wooden tables and simple chairs or benches.
Luthjens Dance Hall was situated in the 1200 block of Franklin Avenue (I think at the junction with Marais Street).
Jerome Luthjens ran this dance hall until his death in 1975. It continued in business under the management of his widow Louise until 1981, when it finally closed. With the help of Google Maps, I have located the building as it appears today:
In more recent times, bands have not been giving public performances at Luthjens. The reasons may be partly that the area has been re-classified as a 'residential zone' and partly that Luthjens no longer has a liquor licence and mainly that about one-third of the building is now occupied by a recording studio. Here's how it looks inside:
This was where, in 2014, The Shotgun Jazz Band made their CD. They chose not to use the main studio's facilities or equipment. They just set up on the stage as if at a regular gig and used a combination of room microphones and and close microphones.
The resulting product was excellent and nostalgic. Amy Johnson filmed them in the Hall while they were recording one of the tunes. You can watch the video by clicking here. Although there is no audience present, it gives us an idea of what it was like to play there, especially as this band has so much in common with the De De Pierce Band of half a century earlier.
By the way, the name is sometimes given as Luthjen's Dance Hall; but this is the result of a punctuation error. Mrs. Luthjens' name definitely ended with the 's'. It should be written Luthjens' Dance Hall or Luthjens Dance Hall.
[with thanks to several readers, including John Dixon, who have already sent me helpful information]