70-Year-Old Buck's Oakland Laundromat Remains Direct Link to City's Rich Musical Past, But For How Much Longer?

Posted by Billyjam, March 14, 2016 10:57pm | Post a Comment

"In 1959, 1960 James Brown dropped off the original Flames in Oakland and he left them." "Louis Jordan was here all the time."  "Slim Jenkins was the premiere club in Oakland in the '50s." These nuggets of Bay Area music history are among the many sprinkled throughout a typical conversation with lifelong music loving 70-year-old Oakland native Charles Presley, who everyone knows as Buck. This particular conversation (hear the full 10 minutes in the clip below) is one of countless engaging ones that I've had over the past two plus decades of stopping by the North Oakland coin-op laundromat this music fan owns and operates. But it could be any conversation with Buck who loves music and loves to talk music. And his conversations are always from the historical perspective of his beloved hometown of Oakland, CA.  Buck loves all good music from soul and jazz to gospel, but blues and rhythm and blues, the music he grew up on, remain his favorite sounds. Most new laundromat customers' conversations are inspired by the the overhead soundtrack of RnB and soul grooves Buck plays from CD collections or the music-themed DVDs he might play on the overhead TV screens. Doing laundry at Buck's is never a dreaded chore, so long as he's there.
As heard in the audio interview clip below, once Buck starts reminiscing he goes off on detailed lists of artists and shows at long gone Oakland clubs back in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, most notably Slim Jenkins Cafe at 1748 7th Street that operated from the '30s through the '60s. It was just one of several businesses owned and operated in West Oakland by the Louisiana born Harold "Slim" Jenkins who was such a successful businessman that he earned the title of "Mayor" of West Oakland. Buck fondly remembers those times like he clearly remembers the very first records he ever bought and heard. One of the first records he remembers hearing was the 1951 single "Sixty Minute Man" by The Dominoes.  He caught most acts in Oakland clubs, but for some he'd travel across the Bay Bridge. Most often those would be jazz shows. In 1961, he got to see Miles Davis playing San Francisco's Black Hawk. The famed jazz club, located in the Tenderloin on the corner of Turk and Hyde, operated from 1949 through 1963. 

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"It's the MOST... Blackhistorymonthy tiiime of the yeeear...!"

Posted by Job O Brother, January 31, 2010 10:45am | Post a Comment
bessie smithbeyonce

I know what you’re thinking: How can it be that it’s Black History Month again, already? It seems to come up faster with each passing year. No sooner do I finish cleaning up all the gift wrap and decorations from 2009’s BHM festivities when – BAM! – time to break ‘em out again for 2010.

But I am excited! I love draping my house in the traditional BHM crushed-velvet flour sacks, heated bear skins, and twinkling, sapphire, mailboxes. We gather together around the hot oil printing press and sing BHM carols, get tipsy on Pancake-Sausage Nog, and remind each other, with love in our hearts, not to forget to turn off the air conditioner before leaving the house. Oh, joy! Oh sweet, unmitigated joy!

Of all these rituals, my favorite is the singing of the carols. I thought I’d share some of them with you, and invite you to sing along with me! Just click on a song below and belt one out. If you’re at work, or reading this on your iPhone while standing in the check-out line at Trader Joe’s, or simultaneously looking at Internet porn (way to multi-task!) – no matter! Sing all the louder! Let everyone know: You’re Black and You’re Proud!