The Music They Played on 7th Street Oakland Walk of Fame
By all accounts, Mr. Saunders Samuel King was the first blues artist to score a number 1 hit from the City of Oakland in 1942. When you say Oakland Blues, the buck starts with Saunders “Blues” King. This number one hit brought him instant fame and put the City of Oakland on the hit parade for blues and R&B forever. Oakland and Los Angeles, California are considered the biggest contributors to what is called West Coast Blues. Oakland has its own sound and it has been said that Oakland Blues can be described as slow and mournful with simple 1-4-5 blues changes. That was partially true until the influx of Texas musicians who played a very fast and straight forward shuffle which gave Oakland Blues a much livelier beat.
7th Street was the entertainment center for the black community and the social center for black people on the go any night of the week.
7th Street had the world famous Slim Jenkins Supper Club which included a restaurant, bar and show room. Slim Jenkins Supper Club was known as Oakland’s high class blues & jazz club.
Although Slim Jenkins was a top flight club, there was something for everyone on 7th Street. There were hole in the wall clubs lined up and down the street that were packed every Friday & Saturday night. There was no dog eat dog competition for these club owners in their heyday.
7th Street was the first home of Wolf Records. Paul Reed and his family opened Reed Record Shop where music lovers could pick up the latest blues, jazz or gospel hits. Recording studio, Big Town Records, which was located on the corner of 7th & Center Streets, put 7th Street on the world map. Bob Geddins was the owner and is credited with being the Godfather of Oakland Blues. He began recording local gospel acts, pressing records at his plant. During the war era, Big Town Records had moderate success recording gospel artists. In 1946, Bob Geddins met singer and guitarist Lowell Folsom at which time Big Town Records made the switch to blues and Oakland made its mark on the musical map forever. 7th Street in west Oakland is where “X” marks the spot.
Bob Geddins was the first African-American in the bay area to own a record plant and recording studio. He was the first African-American to have numerous record labels. He set up his own distribution network by loading them in the trunk of his car and taking his records all over the United States from Los Angeles to Texas and any other city where hot blues was played.
7th Street was the foundation of all of Oakland and West Coast music history. The music played and recorded on 7th Street produced some of today’s most popular artists including greats as B.B. King, Little Milton, Lowell Folsom, James Brown, Jimmy McCracklin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones, Prince, M.C. Hammer and even country star Allen Jackson. Allen Jackson recorded a song written by K.C. Douglas and Bob Geddins called Mercury Blues that went platinum for Jackson.
There are so many music stories like this that you begin to understand why 7th Street in West Oakland is called the Home of Oakland Blues!