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Thanksgiving Breakfast Dance Tradition Continues

Monday, November 13, 2017

 

Kansas City has a long and unique tradition of a blues breakfast dance on Thanksgiving morning. This years, as in many past years, Kansas Citians will have to make a choice between two dances.  Both are dress-up events, traditionally.

 

The Southeast Bar and Restaurant Association (SEBRA) hosts a Thanksgiving Morning Blues and Breakfast Dance at Club KC Mingles (formerly Southtown Pavilion) located at 8625 Troost. Headlining is soul singer Latimore, famous for his hit Let's Straighten It Out, but he is so much more! Also performing is Skeet" Rodgers and the Inner City Blues Band, a blues band from St. Louis. The event is a fundraiser for SEBRA Scholarships. Tickets are being sold at multiple locations including the Juke House at 18th and Vine and Niecie's at 59th and Prospect. Call 816/444-0888, for info, tickets and reservations. It is BYOB with breakfast provided. Setups are available as well as ice; you can bring coolers. It begins at 10am and ends at 2pm. Doors open at 9am.

 

The National Guard Armory at 100 S. 20th St ( north from I-70 near 18th St.) is once again the site to host the even on the Kansas side. Muddy Waters Jr. headlines, with Levee Town, TJ Hooker Taylor and Memphis Mike. Tickets are available at Niece's, Mad Jack's, Knuckleheads, and more. Call 816.982.9238 for more information. It too is BYOB with breakfast; setups and ice are available. You can bring coolers. It begins at 10am and ends at 2pm. Doors open at 9am.

 

The November 1996 issue of KCBS' Blues News features an article written by the late KCBS member George Geelan detailing the history of this event, and we repeat excerpts of it here:

 

"Thanksgiving, for most people, means turkey and the trimmings, the Macy's parade, football, and an afternoon of trying to dodge weird old Uncle Buck.  If the thought of all that leaves you feeling a big blue...there is help on the horizon.

 

"Many white people have never heard of the Breakfast Dance or if they have, don't know a whole lot about it.  in the black community, however, it has long been considered as THE social event of the year.

The current promoters [in1996] Diana Clemens, James Middlebrook and Roger Naber believes this will be the 29th dance, but neither can remember just exactly when it began. It was originated by the late great Albert King...THAT, everybody agrees on. Dances were first held on Labor Day, but eventually the date was moved to Thanksgiving. Somewhere along the line, Willy Cyrus wrestled it away from Albert and, in 1982, Roger became partners with Willy. They promoted ZZ Hill, Bobby Bland, Tyrone Davis, and LIttle mIlton before parting ways in 1988.

 

"For a number of years the dance was held at the Missouri National Guard Armory. Three years ago MNGA decided that it would no longer allow alcohol to be consumed at the Armory. That looked like the end of the dances. Diana Clemens, who had attended the Thanksgiving Breakfast Dances for a number of years, was very disappointed ot learn about this. She felt that the dance was a very important social event and, although she was not a big-time promoter, decided to step forward and do what she could to continue the holiday tradition. She contacted Roger, who also did not want to see the dances die. The two of them formed a partnership and moved the dance to the Kansas National Guard Armory.

 

"The Breakfast Dance is a stop on the Chitlin' Circuit and is the big blues show of the year in Kansas City. This is an opportunity to see blues stars who very rarely play white venues. A little factoid I picked up while preparing this article is the basic difference between black and white blues audiences. White folks like the old-fashioned guitar-driven style of blues, while black folks tend to prefer a broader spectrum of blues-base music which is influenced by jazz, soul, funk, gospel,and rap. Diana states that the Breakfast Dance presents an opportunity to reach out to every culture through music.

 

"One of the things you might be wondering is why hold a dance on Thanksgiving? It seems like kind of a s trange time, but when you consider that the Macy's parade hasn't changed in years, football makes many people yawn (or worse), and then there is the issue of Uncle Buck...it starts to make sense. Going dancing is a fine alternative to being parked in front of the TV and it's over in time to either host or attend the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Diana adds that the dance puts people in the mood and sets the pace fo the coming holiday season.

 

"Grace Harris of H&M Barbeque will be on hand with her fine cooking. Okay, so Barbeque isn't' your idea of breakfast. Bring your own food, then!

 

"You may have heard that this is a dress-up occasion and are thinking it would be fun to wear your tuxedo T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Better go back to your closet and rethink the situation. Ladies, break out your furs. If you've been looking for an occasion to wear that slinky sequined number, this is it! Gents, it's time to send your most dashing outfit to the cleaners and spit shine your shows. If you have jewelry, flaunt it. Better be steppin' out in style if you're going to the Breakfast Dance!"

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