Rhythm Night Club Memorial

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Sometime around eleven o'clock in the evening of April 23, 1940, many people in Natchez, Mississippi were awakened by loud cries of anguish.  On that night, a special event ended in the death of approximately two hundred and fifty people.  It is believed that every black family in Natchez lost someone in that fire.  The fire not only left  orphaned children, but the black community lost quite a lot of the educators, which impacted the Natchez educational system for several years to follow.  The Rhythm Night Club Memorial is dedicated to the victims of the April 23, 1940 fire. 




The Rhythm Club After The 1940 Fire

The author, Deborah Young is the first and only writer to honor Victims of the Rhythm Night Club fire with a screenplay Rhythm, The Rhythm Night Club Story and a riveting poem No' Mo' Rhythm's Beat, The Rhythm Night Club.  The author effectively utilized the jive lingo used during that time period.  Consequently, the poem allows the reader to experience the atmosphere of that fateful day.  Now, Cop a squat and let me boot you to the play - translation:  Take a seat and I'll tell you about the situation, poetic style. 




Visual Poetry



No' Mo' Rhythm's Beat, The Rhythm Night Club  Visual Poem





                                    ...jis' a whole lotta, lotta Lindy hoppin'

                                             jis' a whole lotta, lotta swingin'

                                             jis' a whole lotta, lotta Susie-Qin'

                                             jis' a whole lotta, lotta stompin'...

                                     Copyright 2004 by Deborah Young

                                                 An Excerpt from No' Mo' Rhythm's Beat, The Rhythm Night Club


...They belted out tune after tune

And, oh, yass, yass, how the chicks, did blush and swoon

They were solid, solid senders

Killin' them with the hot groovy tappin' of the spinnin' skins

Killin' them with the growlin' Armstrongs of the trumpet clutch

In jis' a few ticks, a snapped lung-duster knocked the fiery steam

Within the chime, flames fueled agony's belly

Creatin' floods of shriekin', shriekin', screams, screams, extreme

It was sadder, sadder than a map, I do, declare

Now, they embrace peace and joy, somewhere upstairs

No' mo' rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, rhythm's heat

Jis' despair's emptiness, loved ones, will forever, greet...

Copyright 2004 by Deborah Young

An Excerpt from No' Mo' Rhythm's Beat, The Rhythm Night Club


The Rhythm Club


The Rhythm Night Club sometimes referred to as the Rhythm Club, was an iron corrugated building with a tin roof on rafters, transformed into a nightclub, dance hall, around 1937.  The Rhythm Night Club was located in Natchez, Mississippi, on the corner of St. Catherine street


The Rhythm Night Club was destroyed by a fire on April 23, 1940


The 1940 Rhythm Night Club fire wiped out a large number of black Natchez educators as well as school children, sixth graders and up.  Approximately two hundred-fifty people died as a result of the fire


The Rhythm Night Club was the last gig for Walter Barnes and the Sophisticated Swing Orchestra.   Walter Barnes and all but two of his band members died in the 1940 fire.  In 1924 Walter Barnes became the bandleader of the Detroit Shannon band and changed the name to Walter Barnes and his Royal Creolians  By 1939 Walter Barnes changed the bands' name to the Sophisticated Swing Orchestra.  


The Rhythm Night Club fire has been categorized as one of the five deadliest nightclub fires in United States history


The 1940 Rhythm Night Club fire is among the ten deadliest public assembly fires in the history of the United States 




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