Charlie Graves Legacy Day Parade and Dance Saturday

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The list of musicians who belted out their electrifying gospel-backbeat R & B songs across the Chestertown rooftops reads like music royalty: Ray Charles, Little Richard, Hank Ballard, BB King, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Fats Domino, Patti Labelle, Smokey Robinson and even Louis Armstrong in the late 1940s before Charlie Graves’ made the corner of Calvert Street and College Avenue the final location of the popular Uptown Club

But it’s one thing to learn that for three decades, upcoming R & B musicians made Chestertown’s Uptown Club a stop on the “chitlin’ circuit” in a turbulant era of segregated arts and entertainment, and quite another to know about the man behind it, Charlie Graves.

The Upton Club on the corner of Calvert Street and College Avenue. The Club closed in 1988 after almost three decades at this location.

The Upton Club on the corner of Calvert Street and College Avenue. The Club closed in 1988 after almost three decades at this location.

This Saturday there will be a well-deserved Legacy Day tribute to Charlie Graves sponsored by the Graves family, the Historical Society of Kent County, Music in the Park, Kent County Council for the Arts, Garfield Center for the Arts, The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and Yerkes Construction.

Graves, always decked out in a suit and hat to announce his vocation as a serious (and classy) businessman, was also an inspiration to the black community. During the 50s and 60s—the frontline decades of the fight against racial inequality—Charlie Graves took on a prominent role in the black community’s political activities. He launched voter registration drives in his neighborhood, drove residents to polls and offered the Uptown Club as a meeting place for local workers unions, inspiring his family and friends with a passionate sense of ‘fair play.”

Charlie Graves' Upton Club by Jimmy Reynolds, folk artist of the Eastern Shore. Reynolds will present a new image to commemorate the Legacy Day celebration.

Charlie Graves’ Upton Club by Jimmy Reynolds, folk artist of the Eastern Shore. Reynolds will present a new image to commemorate the Legacy Day celebration.

This Saturday much of the legendary music once heard rolling out the doors of the Uptown Club will be heard again, this time played by Quiet Fire (Jasper Hackett)  and DJ Stansbury. Quiet Fire will be playing in the Park after the dedication ceremony. Bring your chairs for a great evening of some of the best music ever to hit the American airwaves.

Legacy Day will begin at 6 pm with a juried parade down High Street and will continue with dedication speeches by Charlie Graves’ daughter, Monica, Mayor Chris Cerino, Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver and others. A dance contest, complete with cash prizes, will follow and food vendors will be available.

Everyone is invited to this First Annual Legacy Day to celebrate community, history, and culture. And it’s free!

Letters to Editor

  1. Barbara in den Bosch says:

    Great article. Clear about the events and the reason for the celebration. Kudos!

  2. I love Doo Woop and the music of that time. When a student at Washington College during the late 50’s I regrettably never knew of the Up Town Club and the performers who “rocked the house”! What history. My question now is are there any videos or audio recordings memorializing the performers at this venue?

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