‘You’re supporting Black history.’ The Hampton House returns to roots with new concert series
The Hampton House once attracted some of the most influential Black musicians of the 20th century. More than half a century later, that legacy will be leveraged to lure a new generation of entertainers and visitors alike.
Beginning March 27, the Historic Hampton House will host “From Bebop to Hip-Hop,” a six-part outdoor concert series that opens with Grammy-nominated neo-soul singer Eric Benét. The series will run through November with a range of up-and-coming artists on the jazz-to-hip-hop spectrum, to be announced soon.
“In honor of its history, we are once again making this a place where icons from all over the world are going to come back,” said Curb Gardner, a consultant brought into handle event production.
A Hampton House concert used to be the hottest ticket in town during the 1950s and 60s. While its primary purpose was housing Black patrons, the Brownsville motel also featured a nightclub where popular acts like Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington and James Brown drew mixed race crowds. “The Jewel of the South,” as the Hampton House was formerly known, also offered a swimming pool, air conditioning and other amenities not commonly found in lodges approved by the Green Book, a travel guide designed to keep African Americans safe during the Jim Crow era.
“We had a place here in this community that was a first class place,” said Enid Pinkney, 89, who used to frequent the Hampton House as a young adult. Pinkney later saved the motel from demolition in order to open the Historic Hampton House Cultural Center in 2015.
“There was pride in this building because of its elegance,” she added.
The Hampton House’s reputation created a magical allure among locals like Jacqui Colyer. Growing up, she was always fascinated at the flashy cars parked outside, well-dressed Black guests — many of them celebrities who weren’t allowed to stay on the beach — and captivating architecture. So when a 14-year-old Colyer heard her favorite Jackie Wilson had a show, she just had to see him.
“I figured out a way to sneak in and I heard him sing ‘Lonely Teardrops,’” recalled Colyer, who’s now the Historic Hampton House board chair. “And that was the most exciting thing.”
Colyer’s first unconventional experience at the Hampton House touches on something that Gardner hopes to accomplish with these concerts: appeal to a younger audience. He sees the motel’s storied history, which most notably includes Martin Luther King Jr.’s initial delivery of his “I Have a Dream” speech, as just the entry way for programming.
“They had already done the restoration of the building,” Gardner said. “Now, piggybacking off of ‘One Night in Miami,’ our goal was to restore the energy and the vitality back into the space.”
The concert series’ launch follows the January release of “One Night in Miami,” a fictionalized interpretation of the evening when Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown gathered at the Hampton House. Directed by Regina King, the film picked up three Golden Globes nominations and, in turn, provided the cultural center with the visibility that made “From Bebop to Hip-Hop” viable – and potentially lucrative. If a success, the series could be the catalyst for the former motel’s transformation into the community hub Pinkney has long imagined.
“It’s more than a concert,” said Wayne Anderson, the Historic Hampton House’s director of public relations. “You’re supporting Black history.”
That shared vision between Gardner and Anderson laid the groundwork for “From Bebop to Hip-Hop.” In addition to being treated to an intimate performance, visitors will be served a dinner during the artists’ sets in a similar fashion to the supper clubs popularized in the early to mid 1900s.
We wanted “to mirror and parallel that experience [with] a more modernized version of the artists that we’re bringing,” Anderson explained. They intend to create “a feel and a look that most people aren’t familiar with or associate with the Hampton House.”
Getting artists of Benét’s caliber, however, is never cheap. That made the Hampton House’s history a major selling point, Anderson said, something that the four-time Grammy nominee really identified with.
“The Historic Hampton House showcased the best artists of their era during a time that left African Americans excluded from typical social settings,” Benét said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “It’s an honor to be a part of such rich history and to have the chance to perform where so many greats played regularly.”
IF YOU GO
▪ Saturday, March 27, 2021 at 6:30 p.m. (first seating) and 9 p.m. (second seating) at 4240 NW 27th Ave., Miami, Fla., 33142
▪ Tickets available at frombebop2hiphop.com for groups of two, four or six only.
▪ Balcony and rear seating available for $85 per person. Orchestra seating available for $125.